A recent survey carried out by Sainsbury’s Finance has found that university freshers lack basic life skills, particularly in regards to cooking, cleaning, shopping for themselves and paying bills. Whilst it is fairly understandable that most new students have never paid their own bills before, especially rent and living costs, is it as easy to forgive them for not being able to do basic every day tasks, including making a cup of tea, boiling an egg and washing their own clothes?
The statistics of the Opinion Poll survey show that one in ten freshers openly admit they do not know how to cook, with 14% having never even boiled an egg. Not just problematic cooking, but cleaning too, as one in five have never cleaned a bath or shower before leaving home, and almost one in ten have only ever used a dishwasher to clean the dishes, not knowing the basic concept of putting on rubber gloves and putting some good old elbow grease into it. Sainsbury’s also warned that more than a quarter (25 per cent) of freshers have never budgeted for themselves and 7 per cent have never set up a bank account, with 18 per cent never having opened a savings account. The research found two-thirds (69 per cent) of new students have never paid a utility bill and 68% have never paid rent before. Understanding when most freshers travel directly from the parental, family home to the single bedded life of university halls. We can’t penalise every single 18 year old in the UK for not having a bank account or previous employment because many survive purely from their parental support and incomes until this age, but what about not being able to make their own beds or cook their own pasta?
Admittedly, whilst some of these statistics are understandable and we can somewhat forgive new students for having a lack of basic knowledge in regards to the multitude of aspects that must be considered when living away from home comforts and either amongst fellow new students, or sometimes alone, some of them are also startling and shocking. The topic desperately needs targeting and resolving so that next year’s students, who will be seeing the first fee changes and vast increases, will be able to move to university with independence, confidence, and a basic knowledge of money management alongside life skills including those of simple cooking and cleaning. The problem needs tackling, but where to start? Who do we blame? Are we a nation of (s)mothering parents with “I’ll do it myself” attitudes therefore preventing our children from learning how to fend for themselves and basic every day life essentials? Are we a nation of lazy teenagers whose “can’t be bothered” attitudes drive our parents to despair because we refuse to learn how to use the washing machine and iron and don’t care how much things cost because the student loans company and our parents will pay for our needs anyway? Are we a nation of failing teachers and educators who are happy to teach teenagers how to put a condom on a banana but that’s as far as it goes?
My puzzling questions will remain because there is no one definite answer as to why freshers are unprepared for the realities of life and the university world. University is a completely new, fresh and different experience to that of school and college. You may still carve your name into the desk, write essays, take exams, walk around in Jack Wills clothing complaining about 9am lessons, but at the end of the day you can’t go home to a cooked dinner on the table, creaseless clothes that smell of ylang-ylang, free toiletries and water on tap (pardon the pun) unless you’re willing and able to do all of those things yourself. University encourages the individual to be independent, resourceful and responsible, and unfortunately there aren’t many lessons you can attend at school that will help you learn those attributes. Whilst many freshers have had jobs or been on gap years and learnt valuable life skills to be able to cope at university, many other freshers are clueless about the real world and what it has to offer.
However, personally, if I were a parent and knew my child couldn’t brew a cuppa, wash the pots or even have the initiative to “google” these things, I would be appalled. Not at them, but at myself. The Sainsbury’s report clearly shows a lack of parental responsibility and care for their children’s livelihoods. Whether you’ve spent 18 years bringing up your child and funding their lives and education or not, that still isn’t enough. Lets not just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. Lets engage with the intellectuals of the future and show them how to tackle life, the same way they tackle essays and exams. If a student accomplishes straight A* grades but has a complete lack of social understanding and basic life skills, what use are they to society? No one will employ them because they don’t present the well-rounded, all encompassing skills and requirements that prospective employers look for. Then £21,000 and a first class degree later, what do you have? An unemployed 21 year old who still thinks leaving their clothes out in the rain is equivalent to washing them and that mummy and daddy will pay for everything because they always have done.
Independence begins with the want and desire to be independent. If you don’t teach your child at a young age to be their own person and to be an individual then they will forever be attached to those apron strings. So my message to all freshers and prospective freshers out there: Be Independent. Learn How to Live. Break Away From the Parental Ties. My message to parents: Set Your Children Free