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the cost of getting your child to Uni!

(233 Posts)
Ineedsharesintravelodge Mon 05-Feb-18 12:40:32

Not so much an AIBU, just looking for some advice really. I have name changed for this, as I have a few friends & relatives who are on Mumsnet also. Sorry that this is long!!

My 18 year old has been looking at specific degree courses (don't want to say what, as quite outing) and she has applied for a few through UCAS and one independently, but I am finding the cost of getting her to the interviews extortionate. Most of the Universities she has applied for are 4-6 hours travelling distance away, and without gong into details about her course, she would be expected to stay at the Uni for 5-6 hrs on the day of the interview as there are several parts to the interview. As a non-driver this entails mostly two overnight stays per interview - one on the way there and one on the way back as there aren't any trains to get us there in time on the same day, or to get us back to our small northern town afterwards on the same day. Most of the Unis that she has applied to are down south, so even budget hotel lines can be fairly expensive, depending on the day and area. None of the interviews can be changed as these are mostly the last dates available, and none are consecutive so we can't take advantage of attending one the day after another.

I have priced it up for her to travel alone (daunting for a just 18 yr old from a small rural northern town - journeys are up to / 5 train changes mostly via London) and by the time we have used our railcard it doesn't make much of a price difference, and the hotels seem to charge around the same for 1 or 2 people in a room so it makes more sense for us both to go so she has the reassurance about the travel. We don't have anyone to ask who could drive her there instead, (her dad wont take time off work for this, nor will he contribute anything towards the cost. He feels he has done his part as he contributed 25% of the cost of attending a Uni open day, of which she has only been to one ).

After working it out, I have estimated that each trip will cost in the region of £250 - £350, and that is staying at cheapest hotels, travelling at cheapest time of the day whenever possible to fit in around the timing of the interview. All of the interview dates are within a 3 week window in March - how the heck am I supposed to afford it, I am a single parent on a low income, and although I have been putting some money away towards this (as and when I could afford it) it won't even cover one of the trips.

I just don't know what to do.
Do I tell her that I can't afford it, and that she can't go? Do I near bankrupt myself, by borrowing money from my household bills to take her? The amount that I am needing to find by March (or preferably before then, to get the cheapest hotel & train rates) could take me years to pay off / re juggle household bills up to date.
Do we risk it and only attend one or two? (what then, if she is offered a place at neither, and she has missed the other interviews?)
Or just go to her first couple of choice interviews but these have more demand for places?
We have discussed the possibility of not attending later interviews if she is offered a place at an earlier one, but these are not her first choice Unis within the first few interviews, and ideally we would have travel booked asap for the best prices, as leaving it until the week before to book is so expensive.
It's a dilemma. Please don't say, I should have saved for this - I have done my best, but money in our house is very tight and we only have a little disposable income each month. Just want some ideas, suggestions on the best thing to do in this situation!

TalkinPeace Mon 05-Feb-18 12:47:11

Speak to the school and see if there is a fund to cover such costs
DS's college has one
speak to the Universities - see if they have funds for widening access

and check out airbnb for MUCH cheaper accommodation than a hotel
or see if she knows anybody already at the Unis that she could stay with for the interview

Unihorn Mon 05-Feb-18 12:47:46

I attended open days by myself or with friends mostly, and I funded them by working 16 hours a week. Could she not fund them herself?

If this is not an option for her then I would suggest she prioritise her one or two favourites. There is so much more information available online now anyway, including virtual tours of many than there was ten or fifteen years ago. Websites like The Student Room are good for information from current students.

LaLaLanded Mon 05-Feb-18 12:49:31

Hi OP,

Have you looked at whether these universities will reimburse interview travel costs? It may be worth you/your DD asking the question as there may be some provision for this but you'd have to specifically ask and be clear that you are a low-income family and your DD cannot attend without some kind of assistance.

Also, would your DD's school have some sort of provision, or even your local authority? Again based on single parent/low income family.

In short: write some very nice letters and fingers crossed there will be some help.

TooOldForThisNow Mon 05-Feb-18 12:49:52

Some unis offer a travel allowance for applicant and a guest if you're on a low income and are entitled to free school dinners.

Weedsnseeds1 Mon 05-Feb-18 12:50:54

Are you near an airport? Internal flights are usually MUCH cheaper ( and quicker) than trains. Then train the other end if required.

CheapSausagesAndSpam Mon 05-Feb-18 12:51:35

I also funded my own interviews and audtitions when I was applying for London based drama schools. I worked part time and there was never any question my parents would pay!

I got coaches as they're cheaper.

troodiedoo Mon 05-Feb-18 12:51:53

Told dd that we can't go to all five open days. Reluctantly going to her first choice in a couple of weeks for offer holder open day. Dd will be mostly funding uni herself and she's happy with that.

SunnyL Mon 05-Feb-18 12:52:35

It's going back a long way but I only visited 2 universities. Are the interviews essential for entry to the course? Or are their way of selling the university to prospective students.

Asking your daughter to help plan the trios financially and logistically is a good intro to uni. It's a big brave world for them soon so good time to start.

FluffyWuffy100 Mon 05-Feb-18 12:53:07

Speak to the school, speak to the universities re assistance with travel costs.

If there is no help, TBH if this is for something amazing like medicine then I would suck it up and borrow the money to get your child to the interviews. Life changing moment not to be squandered for the sake for £250.

lalalalyra Mon 05-Feb-18 12:54:57

Look at National Express and megabus. It's long and boring on the bus, but it can be much cheaper.

glitterbiscuits Mon 05-Feb-18 12:55:02

I would encourage her to get a part time job.

Also, our parish has a charity that gives a small grant to those staying on in higher education. My son got £250grant.

It may be worth looking into local help like this of the Lions or Roundtable?

I wish her lots of luck!

Littledrummergirl Mon 05-Feb-18 12:58:27

Ds1 is going to interviews - I have borrowed from bills to pay for this. He is very unlikely to attend offer holders days as well. Fortunately his interviews have been spread over a few months so its not been as bad as it could have been.
Try the option of coach plus airb&b, it might be cheaper or a hotel stop half way.

LoniceraJaponica Mon 05-Feb-18 12:58:31

"nor will he contribute anything towards the cost."

He is her father and he won't support her? shock Why not?

That is outrageous. I must admit that we did spend £££ doing university visits and the ones that took a lot of getting to and from were discounted, especially when I was told at Bristol that Cross Country trains often cancel at the last minute.

Fortunately most of the universities that DD has applied to are a 2 train journey or less than 2 hour drive away.

Have you looked at getting a Two Together railcard? That might be cheaper than you paying full fare and your daughter getting a student discount. The bursary suggestions from other posters might be worth looking into as well.

Another thing to look at is the rail route. Are there cheaper options by going via somewhere else?

bruffin Mon 05-Feb-18 12:59:56

We just been through thi, 5 interviews in 3 weeks, we are on M25.
1st Oxford megabus and a night in hotel . Hotel was £120 but magabus £20 for both of us.
2nd Northampton, dh drove so no stay

3rd Cardiff , dd went by megabus there and back in a day about £25
4 york, dd got a cheap train fare and stayed with friend
5. Norwich , megabus under £15 and managed to book room in uni for £45 for a night.
So i would look to see if uni pays fares , i think Exeter.
If uni has rooms that you can book
And if possible use Magabus

Ineedsharesintravelodge Mon 05-Feb-18 13:01:24

Thanks for your replies everyone. I know this sounds silly, but I was reluctant to approach the Unis about travel funding to what is a quite in-demand course. I was worried that it may affect her chances of getting a place? (why would they take someone who would struggle to afford the course extras/equipment needed when there are loads of other applicants for that same place many of whom can easily afford it).
School have said, no budget for travel costs at the moment but to keep all travel tickets in case any funding becomes available at a later stage. These are interviews, not just open days, and as she suffers from depression I would rather be there with her if possible, as I know she would find the journey incredibly stressful alone as a first time. If she got into a Uni, and was making a regular journey between there and home, she would get used to the journey route and doing it alone would be less of an issue. It's fear of the unknown!
Will look at air b&bs, thanks for the suggestion. She definitely doesn't know anybody already at these Unis, so staying with a friend not an option. She does work 10 hrs a week and will be contributing financially to the trip, but with the few weeks that we have to prepare and book it's not going to be huge.

VioletCharlotte Mon 05-Feb-18 13:02:26

I think you have to be realistic and explain to your daughter how much you can afford to spend on interviews and get her to work with you to decide on a plan. So if you have £500, she needs to either pick 2 unis @ £250 a trip. Or find cheaper alternatives - as others have said, Airbnb can work out cheaper than hotels.

My son is going to 2. I don't know anyone who's doing more than 2/3.

EduCated Mon 05-Feb-18 13:05:04

If you feel able (perhaps under a name change) you could post the specific journeys and see if helpful MNers can work out ways to make it cheaper.

I am eternally grateful to a poster who once pointed out a way to make a long train journey cheaper at a time when money was particularly tight!

EduCated Mon 05-Feb-18 13:05:24

Also look at megabus.

LemonShark Mon 05-Feb-18 13:06:45

Are you sure the price difference isn't that much between both of you going and just one? How can that be?

I think you're being unrealistic wanting to go with her to be honest, it'll drive the cost up as you both have to eat too and pay separately for buses etc. I sense you're anxious about her going alone so want to be with her (the comment about her being 18 from a rural place etc... she's a grown woman and it would have been very unusual and odd for parents to have accompanied any of my friends and I to our open days! It'd have been looked at a bit askance tbh and babyish).

Re costs: as it's down south get the mega bus. Usually the mega bus to nearest station plus train or buses to whichever uni she needs to get to works out cheaper than a train ticket. Then hostels. I just got a return megabus from Yorkshire to London for £6, and a hostel room for £12. Its easily done cheap but she will have to compromise on not getting there the fastest way or having a lovely hotel room. But doesn't sound like she's in the position to be picky!

You say you can't drive but what about her? Hiring a car might be cheaper for her. Does she work? How much can she contribute?

I'd really encourage you to try find a balance here, yes be supportive of her but she's an adult and i think it'd be better for you to try avoid showing her your anxiety and let her do most of the planning/figuring out what she's going to do. If she can't afford to travel to every open day she will have to pick her top choices and only attend those. It's February now so she can get a part time job and start saving. Worst comes to worst she can get an overdraft as a student and use that. Not ideal but needs must and all that.

This should be her figuring things out not you beyond giving her advice if she asks for it! If she's going to be moving away then simple tasks like finding the cheapest transport and accommodation for this kind of thing are skills she's going to need to develop, and her anxious mum insisting on going with her might stress her out even further. Remember she's going to uni aged 18 not school aged 8 smile may sound harsh but hope that's helpful.

LemonShark Mon 05-Feb-18 13:09:05

"These are interviews, not just open days, and as she suffers from depression I would rather be there with her if possible, as I know she would find the journey incredibly stressful alone as a first time. If she got into a Uni, and was making a regular journey between there and home, she would get used to the journey route and doing it alone would be less of an issue. It's fear of the unknown!"

So it is you that wants to be there. I'm trying to put this kindly but you're doing her no favours babying her. If you absolutely must go to her first one with her then fair enough, but you really ought to be encouraging her to spread her wings a little and start acting like a grown up, it'll do her much more good in the long run than the short term perceived release of stress by you going with her.

Do you think she's unable to cope without you?

Spikeyball Mon 05-Feb-18 13:09:25

Have you looked at staying overnight an hour or so away from the university as this can sometimes cut the travel and accommodation cost down.

Ineedsharesintravelodge Mon 05-Feb-18 13:09:25

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. It's good to hear from others who are in the same boat, and that it's not just me who is finding it hard! We do have a two together railcard, but I will price up the bus options too. I will be very surprised if her dad chips in any more towards the cost - he didn't ask how much the open day actually cost us to attend, just handed over the amount he wanted to, but has more or less said that's her lot and not to expect any more! Unfortunately the interviews for this course are compulsory so we will weigh it all up and make some sort of a decision in the next few days.

Appuskidu Mon 05-Feb-18 13:09:35

Contact the admissions departments-they might have halls of residence that she can stay in?

bridgetreilly Mon 05-Feb-18 13:10:50

For interviews, ask the university if they can provide accommodation for her.

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