Do students starting University need a TV Licence? How much does a load of washing in a launderette cost? And when is the right time to start looking for next year’s accommodation?

These are all important questions if you’ve got a child thinking about University – and ones I’m ashamed to admit I’m not quite sure I know the answer to.

starting University

With students up and down the country starting University this year, we were invited to take part in TV Licensing’s (TVL) family quiz, which is all about helping students (and their parents!) understand their responsibilities when away from home.

TVL has created a handy Uni checklist setting out everything students need to know about getting and paying for a TV licence. There’s also a downloadable guide of things to pack, buy and set up available in both English and Welsh.

starting University

Did you know that students in halls of residence need to be covered by a TV Licence if they plan on watching live TV in their room? But the biggest benefit for students who buy a licence for the year is that when they go home at the end of the academic year, they can claim a refund on any months they didn’t use their TV Licence, if they lived in their student accommodation for less than 12 months.

We pay our TV licence by monthly direct debit. The money automatically leaves our bank account at the beginning of the month and it’s not something I ever really think about, but a direct debit isn’t the only payment option available. As a mum of four I know it’s something I will have to think about in the future though, as Bluebell (11), Max (8), Marigold (6), and Violet (3) grow up and fly the nest too.

starting University

So, what do we need to know? TVL challenged us to test our University preparedness with a quiz on starting University – and it turns out it was a bit of a revelation!

10 things students (& parents) should know when starting University

I sat down with Bluebell to play TVL’s family quiz. There were two rounds: a question-and-answer round to test her knowledge of living independently and about University in general, and a round in which we were asked a series of questions to see how aligned we are (or aren’t!) on things like how many times she’ll call home a week.

Here’s what we discovered!

1. Washing costs more than you might expect

Did you know that a standard load of washing costs an average of £4 in a launderette? This was news to both Bluebell and I and given our washing machine is always on I think I should start charging because if someone paid me £4 per load, I’d be very rich indeed! It’s also a sobering figure which I can quickly see adding up, so it’s something worth bearing in mind if you’re considering accommodation with and without a washing machine.

2. Make sure they know how to store food safely

Bluebell is vegetarian so it didn’t surprise me that she didn’t know on which shelf in the fridge meat is typically stored. She thought it was the middle, and I explained the bottom shelf is best to prevent contamination. Given she’s likely to share a fridge with meat eaters if and when she does go off to University, it’s important advice to know and made me realise how important knowing how to store food safely is.

3. Ensure they have a TV Licence

Before taking part in TVL’s quiz I wasn’t sure whether students need a TV Licence or not. The short answer is yes, students need to be covered by a TV licence to watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or streamed live on an online TV service. And that’s not just the BBC; it’s all channels on any platform and on any device. Students also need to be covered to watch BBC iPlayer.

starting University

4. Find out when bin day is

Like how to store food safely, knowing things like what day the bins are emptied is also important as they learn to live independently and away from home for the first time. When I asked Bluebell how she’d find out when bin day is, in true Generation Alpha style she told me she’d ask Alexa. I rolled my eyes at first, but it turns out technically she’s right! When we did ask Alexa, she gave us the correct information from the local council website, which is indeed how to find out when bin day is. You learn something new every day!

5. Manage their expectations

Round two of TVL’s campaign started by asking Bluebell what item from home she was most likely to take with her to University. I would never have guessed her answer: our cat Daisy! She genuinely thought she’d be able to take Daisy with her and keep her in her room, and I had to gently explain that most student halls and rentals probably won’t allow pets.

6. Chat about their new-found freedom

Going off to University brings with it new-found freedom so I was interested to find out what Bluebell would do with hers. We were quizzed on how much TV Bluebell thinks she watches in a week and I was surprised to find we are quite aligned. We both said around four hours, but agreed this will probably rise when she heads off to Uni (as long as she is properly covered with a TV Licence of course!)

7. Establish a food budget

Like the cost of laundry, it’s definitely worth talking to them about the cost of food and establishing a food budget before they go. When I asked Bluebell how much she thought she’d budget for food each month she had no idea. Admittedly she’s only 11, but by the time she heads off to University I’d like her to have a realistic idea of how much things like food cost.

8. Talk to them about cleaning

The quiz asked us how to navigate cleaning halls with housemates, which is a jolly good question and probably depends a lot on the housemates! It sparked an interesting conversation about my time at University when not much cleaning went on at all, and again made me realise it’s worth having these conversations before they go so they’ve thought about things like money and cleaning in advance.

9. Don’t leave it too late to start thinking about next year’s accommodation

Students are advised to start looking into the following year’s accommodation as early as November, so don’t leave it too late to start thinking about yours. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm!

10. They might not be as prepared as you think!

Taking part in TVL’s family quiz campaign was an eye opener for me because it made me realise I’ve never spoken to the children about things like TV Licences or bin days before. Yet this is important information they need to know about. I will make sure I sit down with Bluebell, Max, Marigold, and Violet to make sure they understand responsibilities like needing a TV Licence, and also how not to get food poisoning!

starting University

Are you waving a (not so) little one off to University in the not-too-distant future? How prepared do you think you all are? I’d love to hear about your experience!

This post is written in collaboration with TV Licensing. As always, all thoughts are our own and based on our own honest experience.

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