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Needless to say, contemplating farewelling your child to an overseas university can be a daunting prospect for many parents, particularly in countries where the overseas option is not commonplace. You might be wondering about how you can best protect your child, how you can make sure they are getting the support they need to thrive, and how to stay in the loop with what they are doing.
If you missed part one of our parent blog series then click here.
In the UK, and even more so in the US, moving out of home to study, grow and enjoy the residential college experience is not just the norm but viewed as an important part of a child’s maturity and development. This is why, unlike domestic universities, UK and US universities have diverse programs and mechanisms to ensure their international students are supported during their studies. For example, they have strong parent contact policies and programs in place. They also understand and address common parent concerns such as student health, safety and individual living preferences.
In short, they understand that while a university student is at an age where a certain level of independence is expected and encouraged, that in the absence of parents, the university is responsible for the student’s health and well-being – issues they take very seriously. They are also aware that parents need reassurance, visiting access to their children and organised information as to when such access – including holidays and study breaks are scheduled.
Ultimately, the upshot of these considerations is that, as a supportive parent, you can rely on universities to take care of students and have confidence that overseas study is the best option for your child.
Here is some more specific information as to how US and UK universities care for, protect, assist and communicate with both students and their parents:
The great majority of top US and UK universities have centres and support bodies dedicated to international student and family support. These centers also act as bases for international student family communication.
In the case of Princeton for example, the Davis International Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive advice, assistance and support to Princeton’s international students and their families. At Yale there is the IOSS or Office of International Students and Scholars.
Imperial College London runs a separate orientation for international students and offers continual support from their International Student Support team, while Oxford and Cambridge universities have International Student Offices dedicated to providing specialist support to non-UK and EU students and their families.
US/UK summer, fall break, spring break, winter recess ... Most universities provide students and their families with extremely detailed calendars as to what the student – and in turn, their families, can expect – not just in the first year of study but the entirety of their degree. Having a 3 or 4 year calendar enables families to plan their child’s trips home, family vacations and also ‘keeps parents in the loop’ when it comes to their child’s overseas schedule.
Even during the uncertainties brought by COVID-19, for the most part, UK and US universities have been rather organised, providing reasonable notice and updates to families trying to plan for the academic year.
While this may seem a rather moot point given the distance from home, knowing when your child has midterm or final exams helps parents support their child when necessary. It also means they can plan ahead for the exciting milestones – including graduation celebration events.
Universities who accept domestic and international students onto their campuses do not take their safety and well-being lightly. On the contrary, the entire residential college system is based around inclusion, checks and balances and a comprehensive system of police monitoring and safety measures. In other words, distance does not have to mean a compromise on safety, in fact it can often mean an increase on the protection mechanisms constructed around your child and their student peers.
In regards to police forces, most universities have their own forces on campus and these forces are both substantial and proactive. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Police Force is the largest private police force in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Harvard’s Police Department offers free self-defence classes for students. Police Departments also offer walking escorts for students returning to their dorms late at night, while a walk around campus further reveals streets and pathways lined with emergency telephones located under permanently lit blue lights. There are also constant campus alerts sent to students – and often their parents – regarding any possible compromise on safety, be it a fallen tree or a report of vagrancy on campus.
From the outset, US and UK universities invite new students to engage with their on-campus health centres – be it inviting parents to send health records from home, asking for reports on immunization history or setting up appointments with medical professionals immediately following arrival. Student athletes also undertake a rigorous pre-training physical – in fact no student is allowed to train or compete without passing certain health criteria.
UK and US universities’ commitment to student health is demonstrated by their cautious response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many universities, accepting that it would be difficult to keep students safe holding in-person classes have implemented a fully remote learning model, as well as invited only a limited number of students back to live on-campus. Further, to keep those students who have returned to live safe, universities have measures such as weekly COVID-19 testing, socially-distanced housing and strict zero-tolerance policies for gatherings.
In regards to health insurance, most universities offer comprehensive insurance policies – including policies with optional extras such as optical or dental – depending on the needs of the student. In short, these universities make it clear that the physical and mental wellbeing of all students is a major focus of their campus ideology.
In both the US and the UK, students are housed in colleges or dormitories constructed on a system of camaraderie and support. These ‘colleges’ or ‘houses’ become the base, not just for your child’s living, eating, washing, socialising routine, but also for the people they can access easily for advice, support and companionship.
Most colleges and houses engage senior students as advisors and mentors who guide your child during their first year of study providing academic and emotional/social support. Heads or ‘Deans’ of these colleges also act as advisors and supporters for your child, and communication access points for parents.
Needless to say, residential college or house pride plays a big part in your child’s college experience with many inter-house competitions and social activities being highlights of the school year. Most importantly, your child also gains the experience of living in a dorm room with one or more students (or alternatively some colleges have individual rooms for students who prefer them). It is here that lifelong friendships are made.
While having a child leave home for university can be an adjustment, there is no doubt parents and siblings grow with the experience too – with international destinations moving to the top of planned vacation lists. At international orientation weeks, there are often events held especially for parents and families - and as such, opportunities for you to mingle and exchange details with other parents from all over the world – including your home country!
Crimson Education also sees their students’ parents and siblings as part of their own extended ‘family’, often putting applicant’s families in touch with one another so that they might share their experiences and offer words of advice.
We hope the above points show that as a parent of a child studying overseas, there is very little to worry about. Still not completely convinced? Check out Oliver’s story, including how he got into Rice University, how his parents reacted to the news and their advice for other parents of students looking to follow suit.
You can download Oliver’s case study here.
Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company helping students navigate the US and UK university application process. We assist you to find your best-fit university, create a personalised roadmap, ace your standardised tests, craft the perfect essay, build candidacy through extracurriculars, and more. Check out our student success page to find more Q&As and case studies about our successful Crimson students.