Article written for TNS: link
University is a massive step, and whilst you can never fully prepare yourself for the wonders that are constant dirty dishes and mountains of laundry, there are a few skills which will stand you in good stead.
When it comes to basic skills such as cooking and washing, it seems that boys have a distinct advantage. Parents of boys are much more likely to teach their sons how to wash and iron – 55% compared to 43% of girls’ parents, according to a survey of 2000 parents by private student accommodation provider Pure Student Living.
The same applies to cooking, with 43% of parents with sons giving culinary lessons, and only 35% of parents with daughters. Interestingly, it is parents up north who are less likely to teach their children cookery skills and time management.
While ironing some clothes is an essential (crisp white shirts fall into a different type of ‘crisp’ when they look like a crinkled McCoys), never underestimate the power of a steamy bathroom and a coat hanger to get rid of those creases. You will probably have little reason to stand for hours ironing baskets full of clothes, as clothing like t-shirts, jeans and leggings etc. do tend to stay fairly crease-free if folded or hung up carefully. Although the dreaded laundrette’s washing machines will undoubtedly work very differently to yours at home, it is also a good idea to have a quick run through with Mum before you go – unfortunately, bright pinks and white don’t mix wherever you are.
In the kitchen, it’s a very good idea to have some idea how to cook a few basic dishes. Within the first few weeks I’d taught two of my male flatmates to slice an onion – both of whom claimed they were in the 43% of guys receiving cooking advice from their parents. It is invaluable having just a few recipes explaining carefully how to make ‘that thing Mum makes’ – a little home comfort goes a long way, and things like basic tomato sauces can be transformed into spaghetti bolognaise, chilli, lasagne, etc.
Changing a light bulb may or may not be a necessity in the first year at university, as a lot of university halls offer this service for free, but it is certainly something that most students will use when they move into private accommodation in their second year. Nearly half of female students do not know how to change a light bulb, and after a lot of swinging about on a computer chair, in a way that can only be described as health and safety hell, I can confirm I’m a part of that statistic. If you didn’t know that there were different types of fittings which are quite different to change, it might be worth having a quick chat with your parents.
As for basic clothing repair, 42% of young men do not know how to sew a button on, compared to 21% of young women. Unfortunately, whilst university halls might change a light bulb or a fuse, they don’t currently offer a live-in seamstress (I know, the recession is the pits!), and therefore keeping a sewing kit and a little bit of sewing knowledge to hand could be a real advantage.
Something which students and parents alike worry about is bills. It is worth knowing that in the first year, most university halls charge rent with bills included, however sometimes things like internet are excluded and need to be done separately. Statistically though, only 11% of students have paid or managed a household bill when they leave home, so it is certainly worth doing some legwork before second year. Even in first year, check your tenancy documents carefully to see what’s included, and if you are choosing to live in private accommodation, the onus on paying and organising will probably be on you.
If you need to split bills, make sure that you are all clear when the money needs to be paid by so that people are not confused or mislead. Also – though it sounds silly – make sure everyone is happy with the price they are paying for things like internet, because contracts are often difficult and pricey to back out of early.
If you’re from London, living in the business capital of the country has done you well – parents of Londoners are the most likely to teach their children budgeting skills.
With skills, a little goes a long way – you will probably never need complicated sewing skills or wiring techniques, but buttons and bulbs are a part of everyday life. Be realistic: if you think that you might remember how to wire a plug from sometime back in year eight, go over it again. Most of all, remember that these things will see you through your entire , not just student, life, and so it’s worth getting them right.