Parents and Guardians

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A group of staff members, who are going through the university application process with their own children, discuss frequently asked questions and concerns we hear from parents.

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  • Parents discussion panel
    Marc [00:00:03] Hi, everyone, and welcome to our parents Q&A session. I'm Marc from Birmingham City University. Today, we're going to be covering a variety of topics that our applicants' parents frequently ask us about. So, all the panel members that are here today work at BCU but do also have their own children who are currently in the process of applying to university. So we're going to start by just going around the room for some introductions. So, Katherine do you want to start us off?

    Katherine [00:00:28] Yes, of course. I'm Katherine. I work in the Pre-entry Enquiries team for BCU and I have one child that's been through university and another child that's applied to start university this year.

    Charlotte [00:00:43] Okay. My name is Dr Charlotte Kerry. I'm a senior lecturer in Creative Industries Marketing. I work in the Business School. And I have two children; a stepdaughter and a daughter who are both applying this year for university. And they've both just had gap years.

    Aziza [00:01:08] Good afternoon. My name is Aziza and I work for Accommodation Services. I have a son who is already at university going on to second year. I have a daughter who should start in September. And my third one is looking to apply so currently she's in the throes of her UCAS application and personal statement. So I've got three children at different stages.

    Marc [00:01:32] That's wonderful. Thanks very much, guys. As you can see, the three parents that we've got here all work at BCU in different capacities and have all got different areas of expertise, if you like and have also got children at a variety of stages in the application process, so should hopefully be able to offer their opinions and perspectives on the different points of applying to higher education. So just going to kick us off with the first question to do with kind of applying to university on the whole. So how did you as parents find the UCAS process as a whole? Maybe also the student finance process in applying for those. So I don't know if Katherine do you want to start?

    Katherine [00:02:09] Certainly. I think the first thing to say is the UCAS process is probably very different to things you've ever done previously. So applying for sixth form, applying for secondary school. Those are the last things you probably would have had a family decision to make about education. But as the UCAS system is a little bit different, where you choose five universities and then you narrow it down, once offers have come in, it's probably worth going onto the UCAS site and there is a parents' guide on how the application process works. If you read up about that it will make it a lot easier when you're talking to your child about the application process and also to say that on UCAS you can register the application, but then you can go in and out of it throughout different stages. So it's not something you have to do in one sitting, which I definitely found useful. As far as student finance goes, my advice would be to get your application in early. You can change the university that you put down as the one that you're going to at any point, I understand, up until you start. So don't worry about that if you're saying you're going somewhere and then you might go somewhere different. It's getting the form in and having the process early. So you get your money basically.

    Marc [00:03:22] That's wonderful. Great answer. Thanks, Katherine. Aziza or Charlotte do you have anything you'd like to add to that?

    Aziza [00:03:25] Right now with the UCAS application, the sixth form college that my children attended had a session for parents. So I think as a parent, it's good to just...If a session is available for you to go, attend with your child because they'll answer questions or they'll inform you about something that you might not have thought of or something that you can think about. And then it gives you and your child something to talk about. And then you're on the same sort of pathway, you know, what needs to be done. And then obviously, the college is a great support. They support the student throughout the application process in terms of personal statement. And also, I mean, as a parent, I read through the personal statements as well. But there's a lot of support from the college and sixth form. So I think take as much support as you can from the college. Students have coaches, they have tutors, they have a career service in the college that will help students through this process so don't think you're on your own. And as a parent, don't panic. Students have support. And if you contact the college, they will support you as well and give you advice and information. In terms of student finance, again, I agree. Apply as soon as you know where you're going and the earlier you put in that application, the better, the sooner you'll get a response.

    Charlotte [00:04:55] I don't know that I've really got anything more to add really! Certainly the sixth form colleges have both been really helpful. I think I was probably as a parent a little bit hands off with the whole UCAS thing? My daughter absolutely drove that I didn't and the student finance kid of thing we went through it together. But in a way, I suppose, because I'm a lecturer I kind of see that age group as needing to take responsibility for their own act. So you know I've been quite hands off in terms of these processes. And I should say, just as she was taking a gap year, the sixth form college that she went to still helped with her application. And I think that's kind of a useful thing to know. You know, that if you're in that situation, then, you know, your colleges will still help you even if you haven't been there.

    Marc [00:05:54] Yes, absolutely. That's really helpful. So obviously, you can see that at the sixth form colleges and further education institutions, that students are at are a really great source for getting help and support for applying to university. But it's also really interesting to hear how your approaches to the applications contrasted, you know, more hands off and also getting quite involved, and that's something that we see when out and about speaking to students quite a lot is there's a variety of ways that parents and students themselves like to approach and tackle the application process. So there's definitely no one size fits all I think it's what we can all agree on there. And, you know, everyone's approach will be very different. That's wonderful. I think what we'll talk about is now, because as we say, Aziza you have children at different stages of university, you said one's already at university. What sort of things can you do, maybe now or well in advance to prepare your children for going to university, is there anything you can think in your opinion might be really helpful in getting them ready?

    Aziza [00:06:57] I think the first thing we need to do is if it's a girl and if it's boys, if it's a son or daughter, to prepare them for uni life, especially if they're living away. So, I mean, a lot of kids nowadays probably do know how to load a washing machine or how to load a dishwasher or even how to use an iron. And I'm not doubting that. But for some who don't, I would say as a parent, it'd be good to maybe start getting them to do things like that. Maybe cook a meal once a week. Show them how to load the dishwasher, where to put the tablet in, how to load the washing machine to separate the lights from the darks, little things like that really help because once they come to live in the accommodation, they don't realise they're on their own really. There isn't a mom or a dad or there isn't a family member who is going to be picking up the dirty clothes or cleaning up after their meal, cooking for them. They need to do it themselves. Obviously, they're in the flat with students who are in the same situation as them and they get that support. But really they need to know how to how to do things for themselves. Obviously, again shopping. What to buy and what not to buy. So things like that. It's really important maybe just to show them what to do. So when they do start, when they do come in, they're not sort of completely oblivious to what they need to do and they are prepared, I would say somewhat, and they get more confident to live on their own for the first, probably for a lot of them for the first time away from family.

    Marc [00:08:32] Yeah, absolutely. I think what's really interesting is you touched on the university life and I think actually budgeting and monetary things are really important. I think a lot of students don't really understand how much a lot of things cost. You know, perhaps if they have to go to a public laundrette or they do the first food shop and it can come as quite a shock. I mean, if you have you spoken to your kids about kind of money and sources of income and how they're going to be saving and allocating this, when they go to university, or are they are they doing anything at the moment before going to university to get themselves a step ahead?

    Charlotte [00:09:14] I can just jump in, certainly I've got these two kids at the same time and they both have you know, I think a lot of this is driven by the individual child, how they are as individuals. So both of them are pretty self-sufficient. They both know how to cook quite a lot. They can do that kind of stuff. I do worry a little about the budgeting thing. Both are talking about potentially - this is a really important aspect actually, for young people going to university at the moment is whether or not they have part time work while they're studying and how and how much part time work they should take on. And so I see with students, it can sometimes be a bit of a balancing act, trying to not let part time work dominate that, you know, when when they need to kind of devote time to their studies. So, yeah, with our kids we have talked about that. And the kind of need to have summer jobs that they can kind of work and save up some money so that if they do need additional income when they're studying beyond their loans and the finance that we'll provide, that they can balance that with devoting time to their studies. And the other thing I was thinking about this kind of independence, if I was to talk to young people about what sort of attempts preparing them for university, it's not just the learning to live independently, it's learning to study independently. And I think that's a major change from a lecturer's perspective. That's a major change, I think, for a lot of young people coming into university in terms of managing your time and the expectation around how much time you will devote to your studies. You know, when you're in your halls of residence in your bedroom, in the library and outside of the classroom. So I think, you know, that's one of the things I've been talking to our kids about, you know, like how how you will manage your time, money. But also what does independent learning mean and how they might manage that.

    Marc [00:11:30] Aziza, as you work in accommodation, what sort of things are provided with accommodation at university? I mean, how does it differ? I suppose you're going to know better for BCU, but it might echo around a few universities. What sort of things do you have to maybe buy in advance as well?

    Aziza [00:11:49] It's like moving into a new flat, what is provided it's sort of it's furnished. It's a furnished flat. So you have your bed, in the kitchen, you'll have your fridge freezer, your cooker, the microwave. But apart from that, everything else you need to bring yourself. So we're talking about a duvet, pillow, bedding, towels, pots, pans, crockery, cutlery. Cleaning products, food. So it's basically like moving into a brand new accommodation where you have to bring everything yourself. I would recommend go light on the shopping because you need to see what fits into the kitchen cupboards. What can fit under bed storage in the bedroom. So maybe buy essentials, but anything that you need you can always buy later on. There's plenty of shops around, supermarkets where you can even buy in the day, so I wouldn't overpack. I would buy essentials and obviously have a look at the space that you have available in the room, after you've decided what cupboard space everyone gets. And then maybe buy what you need as you need and maybe as a flat buy one item, something like a sandwich maker, or you can then decide what is it you need and don't buy six of something, buy one. So I think maybe sometimes just wait to see if you can buy something together rather than six lots of the cost of the sandwich make or six months of something else.

    Marc [00:13:22] Fantastic. Thanks, Aziza. And one thing that a lot of parents like to know is actually, can they visit their children whilst at university? What sort of things can parents do when they go and visit their children? Can they go and visit? And are they limited? Can they come in to campus and see them or do they have to meet them in town?

    Katherine [00:13:41] Yeah, absolutely. They can visit. And it's something we're looking to do in the future. We've sort of earmarked maybe I'll go and visit when it's my birthday weekend, but not within the first term. That's the sort of way we're looking at it, just to let them settle in. But then, like, husband's tied it up with his 'Aston Villa's playing that weekend we might visit...'. And so definitely visit. There's no limit on how many times you can visit. It's a good thing is to look at the usual value hotel groups. They're always good to stay in in any town, I find. And then as far as Birmingham goes, there is so much to do. It's such a student city. We've got a large student population. So there is a fantastic cricket ground. We have the T 20 matches that take place. So that's a good social thing to do. There's the canals, we have all the restaurants and the bars and then there's all the theatres. And then I'd definitely say tap into the theatres all do a 16-25 card so you can get discounts at the theatre. So if the parents want to come to, say, a show in Birmingham, we have all the major touring ones at the Hippodrome and then the RSC is literally an hour away on the train. So even if you haven't got a child at university in Birmingham, it's a great place to go over a weekend anyway. So I'd definitely recommend tapping into it. The only thing I'll say is you'll have to fit in with your child's social life and if they're not available, they're not available. So it's more a matter of if they can fit you in, I think is the answer.

    Marc [00:15:23] So working at BCU then in your different departments respectively. What would you say are the best things about Birmingham City University specifically? I mean, as a member of staff. So, you know, Charlotte, you could talk about perhaps the studying side of things as a lecturer and Aziza accommodation. And Katherine, you could talk as working with the marketing team, you might have a broader range of knowledge about BCU was a whole. So, Charlotte, would you like to begin?

    Charlotte [00:15:50] Well, for me, my favourite thing of BCU and it's kind of like I would say, is the team that I work with. So the teaching team I work with there is like a family and we all get on really well. And so the impact that has it, we call ourselves the dream team, which is a bit naff I know but everyone does it, so we're the marketing dream team and included in our team is our students. So we kind of see, you know, it's kind of like when if our teaching team is working well it has a profoundly positive impact on our students. And so for me, that's my kind of favourite thing. That's why I've worked at BCU for really quite a long time and the thing that keeps me there is the team I work with, just a really lovely supportive team to us as a staff, but to our students as well. And I think without it, it sounds a bit kind of sentimental, but I think it's just very important. And I think our students really value that as well. And because I teach marketing, we remain very well networked with our students and then our graduates. And so it kind of ripples on. So that's probably my second thing is, is that kind of link back that we have with our alumni. So our alumni come back in as kind of expert lecturers. They end up recruiting a lot of our graduates. So it's a really lovely kind of cycle.

    Marc [00:17:34] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that's a really important point to touch upon, actually. Graduate employability. That's something that's definitely worth looking at as well and maybe links with industry to certain courses that universities have. So thanks, Charlotte - Katherine do you have anything to add?

    Katherine [00:17:49] Yeah, I was going to say I was going to use the word family as well. That's really weird because it's just so friendly and it is all the faculties seem to sort of merge well together. And even though the art department's next to the business school, they all seem to merge. And it does feel like one big family with all the students; the variety of courses is fantastic, the different sort of things you can do and the support network as well, and the facilities that are available on campus to everybody. And I think I've worked at the university for 17 years, and I think that I've seen it grow and become, you know, what it is today. So, yeah.

    Marc [00:18:28] Wonderful. Aziza?

    Aziza [00:18:31] Right. OK. With our team, I think we've covered this before. It's like we are like the 18th floor, the dream team sort of thing. And I think with the university, it's a lot to do with who you work with, your team, the support of your team, of your department, which is what we have. And obviously, the campus and it's such a diverse university. So you have students from all backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, religion, international students from all over the world. So I think it's that diversity at the university that makes it great.

    Marc [00:19:05] Brilliant. Great answers, guys. Thank you very much. So, as parents of current students and prospective students as well more importantly, when the time was approaching for them to almost enter the UCAS cycle as we like to call it, what sort of apprehensions did you maybe have? What sort of things did you first drift towards doing or looking into?

    Aziza [00:19:27] I've had three different experiences with three different children. At the moment my daughter's in year 12 going to 13 where she's been told by her tutor that she needs to start working on her personal statement. Now she's in the throes of not really deciding what is it she wants to do in terms of course. So she's sort of in a bit of a panic mode at the moment. So I'm just trying to say, just relax, don't panic and just look at all options. At the moment we're deciding what she wants, she's just looking at what options she can select, it's not like it set in stone where as we mentioned before they think, well, I'm selecting this, but then they tend to think, oh, no, can't do this. I want to change my mind. There is option of doing that. If the personal statement doesn't match the course you have the option to e-mail your university and your personal statements. So it's not the end of the world. You are allowed to change your mind.

    Marc [00:20:21] Wonderful. And I think that's really important, saying it's nothing to worry about it. You know, it does take a while, the whole process. It's just about knowing the deadlines and making sure you meet those, especially. When students do actually go off to university, and I think Charlotte you touched upon this quite a bit earlier to do with independent studying. You know as well as, living independently, but independent study's a big thing. You know, a lot of parents might have a few worries. You know, will their child be okay in maybe an increased workload, especially as they advance through their degree? You know, so a lot of universities do put a lot of stuff in place to help with students in terms of academic support, you know, Centre for Academic Success, you know, library support tutors. What sort of things have you found or you kids found really useful? I mean, Katherine, you might know a bit about the kind of support available at BCU. Is anything you'd like to touch upon with regards to the support services?

    Katherine [00:21:19] Yeah, I think the first bit of advice is speak up, don't leave it. Don't sit on something. If you're worried about it, speak to your lecturer, speak to the staff in the school offices. They're usually the people that are always there 9 to 5, so make that sort of a second home to pop in and, you know, get to know you, speak up from day one if you don't understand something or if you're struggling with something. So that's definitely my advice. And wall planners and, you know, planning your week on which times you will be studying even I mean, some courses have a lot of, you know, self study that you have to do independently. So I think if you can diarise it and plan it and plan it that would probably be of help to you.

    Charlotte [00:22:06] I mean, just to re-emphasise that point, that Katherine made, I had this conversation with my daughter the other day, we were having a walk. I said, now when you get to university, really important to get to know your lecturers, let them know who you are. You know, like literally our job is to look after, you know, to help our students. And one of the things that is difficult for us is if a student is struggling and they don't tell us and we just don't know. You know, if you're having any issues, at all, you know, just go and, you know...Like so what we have is we always have office hours each week. So you can just drop in. Or you can just send an email at any point. And if it's convenient, our office hours make a kind of a time to go meet and you'll have a personal tutor who, you know, who will be with you as your kind of go to for any issues. But also you have your tutors who are kind of the people who would be teaching you a particular module. And in both instances, you know, get to know all of them. And then one of the things we also say is if for whatever reason, you don't feel comfortable going to your personal tutor, but there's another lecturer that you'd kind of like and you want to talk to, go to them. We don't mind. We won't get upset if you decide you'd rather speak to one of our colleagues or whatever. You know, we we'd rather you were engaged with us than not. So, yeah, absolutely. That's a really important thing getting to know the team. And also, we have students in place who are kind of like mentors as well. So there's a kind of mentoring scheme of students who've been here a little bit longer who kind of look out for those new students.

    Marc [00:23:55] Brilliant. Yeah, absolutely, and I mean, I know at probably every university during the kind of first couple of weeks, which are well known as freshers weeks, the universities will always put on, you know, fairs for students to go find out more about the sports, the societies, ways of getting involved. That's definitely another good thing, not only for the first weeks, but maybe to ask about at open days, too. I think what we'll do for the last sort of question is we'll ask each of you, maybe, just for your top tip for parents of university applicants. So I'll let you guys decide who wants to go first, so that you don't steal each other's answers!

    Katherine [00:24:33] My top tip would definitely be keep an open mind because the process of applying to university and starting the research can take nearly up to a year. So what you may think will happen at the beginning might not happen at the end. You might have a different course or a different university. So, keep an open mind is my definite top tip.

    Marc [00:24:55] Aziza, do you want to go second?

    Aziza [00:24:59] I think the biggest tip I can say is don't panic. There is plenty of support out there. You're not alone. And as a parent, sometimes a child might say, well, I don't want to talk to mom and dad. Talk to your friends, your friends from college. They might have friends who probably doing the same or similar courses. You get connected with them. At the moment my younger daughter is looking to do something in sports where one of my older daughters who's got a friend who's applied for that since they sort of connected. Giving them tips on what to look, helping and giving them tips on personal statements as well so as not to panic. There is plenty of support out there. Don't think of you're on your own. That said, you can get support from obviously family, friends, from the university, from your college. So by all means, please, please ask for help if you need help. Don't panic. You know, you're not in this on your own.

    Marc [00:25:59] Charlotte?

    Charlotte [00:26:04] I think my advice for parents would probably be you need your children to lead this. I mean, by that, you can really encourage them and all the rest of that. They have to want to do it. And ideally, they do a course that they are really...and I know this conversation we had before about like, you know, like students struggling, Aziza you said your daughter's struggling to make her mind up what to do. I think that they have to kind of come to it themselves, it has to be a course that they really want to do because they'll get a better degree if they're doing something that they're really interested in, that they're passionate about. And I think sometimes, you know, we can I...I've certainly had students over the years where there's been a sense that they maybe would've preferred to do something different or they're pleased that they've ended up doing our course because they were being (I shouldn't say this) they were being slightly kind of pushed by their parents to do accounting. And now they're doing marketing. Well, something like that, you know. And actually, I think they will fare better if they do something that they have a real interest in and they'll get a better degree, which will lead to better long term outcomes. That's my kind of tip.

    Aziza [00:27:28] And I'd like to add to that my son started his course two years ago in business school. So the course obviously he'd made his own mind as you decide what you want to do. He decided on that. But as he sort of started with the second sort of semester, he wasn't really too happy with the course. So then he had a chat with his personal tutor, looked at all the options, maybe alternative courses. And then for next year, he changed his course. Now he's started the year one again and is a lot happier. And so I think, again, if you start a course and midway, you think, no, it's not for me, it's OK. It's not the end of the world. Talk to your personal tutor, talk to your faculty office, there is a way round this. You have got other options available. So if you decide, no, it's not for me, even though a lot of students think initially the first few weeks are hard. But then if you do decide, no, it's not for me. There's other options out there. So I wouldn't panic. I would get some assistance and support from the university and from your tutors.

    Marc [00:28:41] Amazing. Thanks so much, guys. So three really great top tips from you guys. That does actually just bring us to the end of our session. So Aziza, Catherine and Charlotte - thank you very much for all your help today. I'm sure this short kind of session will be really helpful to parents of prospective students going to university, especially if perhaps it's the first child going. So thank you very much. Thank you very much for watching. We do hope you have found it useful. So take care. And goodbye.
  • Why choose BCU
    Jamie: [00:00:03] In the heart of Birmingham, a short train ride from Birmingham International and a few minutes walk from the train station lies in BCU, Birmingham City University. A uni you should consider. But why? Why should you study here? I've put together my top reasons why me and my friends decided to become students at BCU and why we love it. [00:00:23][20.4] Jamie: [00:00:28] The first one is the facilities. We have some of the best and all of the students love them. We have a 24 hour library in the Curzon building, an on-campus shop, a renovated 19th-century pub run by the Students' Union, we actually have some of the best television studios here in the UK as well, they're used by the industry and students as well. We're actually using them today, that's where I am right now. Hi, Cameron. [00:00:52][24.1] Cameron: [00:00:59] Hiii. [00:00:59][0.0] Ellie: [00:00:59] Phone rings. Hello? [00:00:59][0.0] Jamie: [00:00:59] Ellie, yes, I'm doing a video on BCU and why I like it. I wanted to know if I could ask for your opinion. [00:01:04][4.4] Ellie: [00:01:05] Wait am I on a video? [00:01:05][0.1] Jamie: [00:01:06] Yes. Hope that's OK? [00:01:07][0.9] Ellie: [00:01:09] Oh, erm, well, I really like hires and loans. Yeah. [00:01:10][1.8] Jamie: [00:01:11] Hires and loans, yeah. [00:01:11][0.2] Ellie: [00:01:11] I like to just book out equipment, rather than buy it. [00:01:12][0.9] Jamie: [00:01:18] Secondly, Birmingham is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and this creates a bunch of opportunities that the uni uses to help us. With high speed two coming in 2026 and more and more companies moving to the second city, we have access to specialised work placements through our lecturers and we have the ability to travel anywhere in the UK thanks to Birmingham's unique position. Just as a little bit of evidence to prove that Birmingham does have a lot of opportunities, I've just finished my work placement. I'm working in a local television studio, I'm shadowing a production manager. One of my lecturers actually helped me get in there. So thank you very much. It was really good. There is such a positive vibe from everyone here that studies at BCU. The city itself is a multicultural beacon that calls everyone from around the UK and beyond. Whether from Scotland, Bristol, London, Greece or the middle of nowhere like me, we all find a reason to pick BCU. This isn't just limited to the students either, a lot of our lecturers come from various different industry backgrounds and a few of them actually have published work as well, which we get to read depending on what course we're on. So I just ask my flatmate why he came to BCU. He's studying a visual effects and technology course. And this is what he said. [00:02:30][71.9] Friend: [00:02:30] Jamie's coming here as well. So I basically came with him because I want to come here alone. And so I forced him to live with me and we're in second year now and he hasn't given up on me yet, but all's well. [00:02:41][10.7] Jamie: [00:02:42] I don't trust him... He's after something. Whatever the reason, you come to Birmingham City University for you'll love what the uni and the city has to offer. And if you still wanna learn more about BCU, then please check out our other student videos for more information. [00:02:42][0.0] [135.6]