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Living in another world – more help for university transitions

There are more and more courses supporting the transition into university life. Paul Greatrix rounds up some of the latest to catch his eye.
This article is more than 2 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

The challenge of making the transition from school to university for the group of new higher ed students who aren’t already worldly wise adults has long been recognised by institutions.

However, in practice there has not been a significant investment in supporting transition until more recent years. A long time ago I was rather snarky about the efforts by an independent school to prepare its pupils for the practicalities of university life.

More recently we looked at a rather interesting course at East Carolina University which focused on “resilience, stress management, and mindfulness” for students and included a wide range of tasks to be completed including waking up to an alarm, paying your bills on time and changing a car tyre.


Whilst I might once have been a bit cynical about all of this I have to say this kind of provision for students now seems like a good development. The LA Times recently reported on an ‘adulting’ class at Berkeley which was being eagerly embraced by many students, particularly those in the later years of their studies, and quotes Connor Wright, an English finalist who signed up for the class

where he is learning to create and stick to a personal budget, build a resume and apply for jobs and navigate romantic relationships in a time when online interactions are eclipsing face-to-face encounters.
“I need to learn how to get this adult thing down and manage life,” Wright said.
The class, which has 30 students enrolled in each section, is led by two Berkeley undergrads who plan discussion topics and schedule guest speakers to fill 90 minutes each week. The “adults in training” are among thousands of people across the country who have signed up for courses that focus on things such as cooking or budgeting or time management.

Meanwhile in the UK, accommodation provider, Unite, has developed a programme called Leapskills which is intended to help pupils prepare for the transition to higher education, the ‘leap’ and includes an online element as well as classes.

The programme has government support and offers a range of advice on practical, social and emotional issues for prospective students:

Schools, colleges and sixth forms will be able to put on the optional Leapskills sessions from September, using specialist resources developed by Unite, which cover areas including:

  • Independent living
  • Managing personal finances
  • Developing and maintaining relationships
  • How and where to access support

The sessions act as an innovative digital interactive masterclass to enhance how schools and colleges teach young people about what to expect and how to prepare for the leap of living away from home for the first time.

Some of the media reports have adopted a similar tone to that I originally used such as this line from the Mail:



I do think though that this is as good an idea as anything I’ve seen to help prepare students for university life. It will be interesting to see how successful it turns out to be. And it is worth noting that the report which accompanies the programme does rather suggest that students might be much more prepared than their parents think. At least when it comes to washing bed sheets.


Finally, just a reminder of this list of Wonkhe Wonk Skills for Full Wonkhood we produce a couple of years ago. Still very much on point I would suggest:

  1. Pronounce a random list of sector agencies correctly.
  2. Get blocked on Twitter by Andrew Adonis.
  3. Being twitchy when the Wonkhe Monday Morning Briefing is slightly late.
  4. Have visited at least 75 UK universities.
  5. Understanding the “commencement” section of legislation.
  6. Use of VLOOKUP in MS Excel.
  7. Explaining the RAB charge in under thirty seconds.
  8. Able to list the last ten HE ministers.
  9. Saying “and ninthly” in a presentation.
  10. Watching out for universities when on holiday abroad.

Although my score remains lower than ideal.

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