UAE: 7 tips to prepare your children for university

Career expert shares insight with parents on how to guide high school graduates


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Wed 27 Jul 2022, 2:00 PM

A UAE education and career expert has provided guidance to the parents of grade 12 graduates on how the students can prepare for the university or college studies.

Results for the grade 12 students in public and private schools have mostly been released this month. High school graduates are now gearing up to take on the next level of education.

Amanda Jewell, Head of Careers and Transition, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail says if your teens are flying the nest and going away to university, they are about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of their lives.

She says if parents haven’t already, it’s time to make sure their children are able to thrive independently, equipped with the right mindset to make the most of their next big step.

Here are some of the tips Jewell has for parents:

1. Encourage students to get into good habits.

The first semester at university can be challenging and disorientating as well as exciting, which means getting into a positive routine will help freshers settle in and succeed. Key things to do daily include:

- Go to lectures: It may seem obvious, but with so many activities and potential distractions, it’s vital that they do not lose sight of why they’re there.

- Get organised with your notes: The methods of teaching and learning may be very different to what they were used to at Sixth Form, so if they can stay organised and write up notes on the same day, they can quickly identify where they may need support.

- Start coursework early: Degree-level coursework can require more research, so get a head start and avoid unnecessary pressure.

- Do more than just your degree – Engage in extra- and super-curricular activities.

- Check your emails – For most young people, email is not the preferred mode of communication, but as they enter into young adulthood, they need to be reminded that important details such as campus updates and deadlines, information from accommodation providers and the bank, etc. will all come via email.

2. Make an effort to make friends

- Connect with alumni: Students leaving high school can connect with thousands of alumni, enabling them to get the inside track on university life from a friendly face who knows exactly what you’re going through – so, make the most of this invaluable resource.

3. Help them to budget

Encourage your child to budget and even save money for later in the year. They are at university to study, make new friends and experience university life and, if they’re in the UK, up to 10 hours of part-time work should still allow them enough time to complete their studies.

Help them to plan a budget for food shopping and other essentials instead of simply ordering takeaway or delivery. This will allow them to learn for themselves how to shop sensibly. Get them to choose and set up a bank account, shop around to find the best deals, think about insurance for their belongings, use student discounts and consider ways of making money online. Sites such as have plenty of guidance and ideas on this, too. And for fun tips on how to save money on everything from food to beauty, check out

4. Teach them how to cook

Cooking is a great way to stay healthy and save money. Plus, if you can whip up an amazing veggie lasagne, you might just become the most popular person in your dorm. Talk to your teen about fresh, homemade meals that can be made from scratch (not microwave meals!). There are lots of tasty, cheap meals that you can teach them to cook and freeze for later – perfect for when it’s been a long day at university or they have deadlines on the horizon. Cooking is also a great way for your child to socialise and get to know their flatmates; you can suggest they do communal cooking with their flatmates to save even more money.

- The students can start by making a shopping list. Planning their meals for the week will help them to write their list, so they buy exactly what they need. This will help them avoid wondering what meals they can make with a jar of Nutella, a box of cereal, some chicken breasts and a loaf of bread! Also, remind them not to shop when they are hungry, as they will quickly rack up their food bill and end up with a basket of snacks in an attempt to quell their hunger pangs. They don’t need to buy branded goods, as in many cases the supermarket’s own brands are the same if not better, but at a fraction of the cost.

5. Encourage your child to exercise

They don’t need a gym membership to stay healthy at university. There are many other things they can get involved in to burn calories while making friends. If they love playing sport, for example, they can get involved with one of the many sports teams or societies. It’s great for physical health, as well as mental health, as they will form close bonds with like-minded students. All universities offer a range of cheap, flexible, just-turn-up sports activities for those just looking to have a bit of fun and meet new people.

6. Advise them on healthcare and security

Make sure they know where to get over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions, how to register and book an appointment with a GP, and how to navigate local health services if they are unwell. Teach them basic first aid and provide them with a small kit containing essentials like plasters, bandages, dressings, paper stitches and painkillers (and make sure they know how to take them).

Let them know that it is okay to ask for help if they are feeling stressed, anxious, lonely or unable to cope with their academic workload. All universities have student support services that will help students at any time of day or night, so ensure they know how to contact them if needed. Explain basic security measures, such as avoiding using cashpoints at night, locking the doors to their dorm or apartment, and how to keep their personal belongings safe.

“Once you have given your advice – remind them that you’ll be there for them and then sit back and enjoy your newfound peace and quiet at home, your full fridge, your car in the garage and only having to do the laundry once a week,” says Jewell.

High school graduates speak about their university offers

Shreyas Sharma, from GEMS Modern Academy, got an offer from Stanford University, USA to study computer science and philosophy. He said, “I opened my Stanford offer while Zooming with friends at 3am and was fortunate enough to be accepted. In my excitement, I promptly proceeded to celebrate by waking up my parents and my little sister and taking them out to get paneer burgers."

“I felt incredibly grateful for being accepted into Stanford as well as three Ivy League universities. After deliberating, I chose to attend Stanford. I feel that it’s a great fit for me due to its excellent faculty in both the humanities and sciences, the resources and opportunities it offers for undergraduate research, and of course California’s perfect weather.

Sharma added: “I’m excited to pursue a liberal arts education, especially because I’m still unsure of what my future plans are. I aim to explore the wide variety of courses offered there and am currently leaning towards studying a combination of computer science and philosophy.”

Ibrahim Khan, Jumeirah College, who received an offer from University of Cambridge, UK to study medicine says: “I will be pursuing medicine at University of Cambridge. At GCSE, I really enjoyed studying chemistry, so I knew I wanted to pursue something related to that subject. I decided on medicine last year, as I realised it will give me the opportunity to utilise my scientific knowledge for the wellbeing of others. I hope to specialise in internal medicine, as this field is rooted in chemistry, and the physiology of the human body is what drew me to medicine in the first place.

“I had always hoped to study at a top university, and when applying to the UK, Cambridge was a natural choice. I am really looking forward to studying at Cambridge alongside top academics in my field. Some of my friends will also be pursuing medicine in the UK and we hope to stay in touch.”

Omar Malik, Jumeirah College, was offered a place at University of Cambridge, UK to study mathematics with physics.

“I have already accepted the offer, and now it’s all on me to meet the conditions, which are identical to those of someone who would go on to get a degree in mathematics. My particular course, however, is called mathematics with physics, and I will be going on to get a physics degree if I do end up there,” said Malik.

“I’ve known that I wanted to study physics since I was about 11 or 12. I enjoyed watching shows and reading books about the physical sciences and took a liking to astronomy and cosmology. As I engaged more with physics, I realised that I would require a fluency in mathematics to further my understanding of the universe, which prompted me to apply for a course that would give me a sounder mathematical foundation.”

He added: “At the moment I am planning to go into academia and become a physicist. I was never aiming for a particular university, and the motivation for applying to Cambridge was really just to have a short-term goal to aspire towards. As long as I end up doing physics, I’ll be satisfied.”

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