Parents’ guide to helping your child choose the right university

Two university students talking

There is a lot for your teen to consider when choosing a university. Learn how you can help guide them and make the selection process easier here.

Choosing the right university can be a challenging experience for students and their parents. It is a significant decision that will have a big impact on your teen’s future and there are many factors to consider, including finances, practicality, admission criteria and course options.

As a parent, you can support your child in making this decision while allowing them to take ownership of the process. In this blog, we will provide a guide for how to choose the right university, with a list of key dos and don’ts.

Dos and Don’ts

Do: Start early

Encourage your teenager to start thinking about their university options early on, preferably in Y 10 or 11. This will give them plenty of time to research and explore different courses and universities and find out what prerequisites they need for their ideal course. You can set up a file with notes and prospectuses that they can add to over the years.

Do: Consider what they like

You can play a role in helping your child identify their interests and goals. This will help them narrow down their university choices to those that offer programs and courses that align with their interests and career aspirations.

Ask your child what they enjoy studying, what topics they find interesting and what they envision for their future career. Encourage them to think laterally and consider their hobbies, strengths and childhood ambitions as potential guides for how to choose a university course. You can even point them towards this Career Crush quiz to give them ideas.

Do: Encourage independent research

While it is important to guide your teen, it is equally important to encourage them to research and explore their options independently. Encourage them to read university prospectuses, visit university websites and speak to current university students. This will allow them to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the universities they are considering and help them make an informed decision that’s all their own.

Do: Consider the university’s ranking

Look into each university's reputation and ranking in the subject areas that interest your child. This will give them an idea of the quality of education they can expect to receive and the level of recognition their degree will have, both here and abroad. Rankings are not the be-all and end-all, but should play a part in the decision-making process.

Do: Attend open days

Encourage your child to visit the campus for a tour and Open Days to get a feel for study and life on the campus, and go along with them if you can. (If you’re from interstate, look for Virtual Open Days) This gives your teen a chance to check out the campus facilities, accommodation options, extracurricular opportunities and overall feel of the campus. This also lets them talk to current students and lecturers in their field.

High school students talking to student adviser

Do: Consider the location

Is your teen planning to live at home while they study? Or are they keen to try out their independence? They need to look at campuses in relation to where they live or can find accommodation. Is there dedicated student housing nearby? Is there public transport or parking? If it’s in a new city, can they afford to live there? Will they be able to find a job nearby?

Do: Weigh up the costs

University can be expensive (for you or for them), so how to choose a university can be guided by the cost and what financial support options are available. Check what government financial support and living cost loans they are eligible for, and look at scholarships offered at various universities. Look into scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial assistance that your teen may be eligible for. It will boost their sense of achievement if they are successful, and they shouldn’t rule themselves out of the opportunity by not applying in the first place. Encourage your teen to explore different funding options and consider their financial situation when making their decision.

Don't: Choose for them

While it may be tempting to steer your teen towards a particular subject or university, it is important to remember that they are the ones who will be studying and pursuing a career in that field. Encourage your child to explore all the different options available, and consider their own interests and goals when making their decision. Offer your opinions, but be sure that the end decision is their own – even if you’re not sure it’s the right one.

What to do if….

Your teen can’t decide between courses

If your child is struggling to choose between multiple courses, encourage them to make a list of the pros and cons of each option. They can also speak to their teachers, career counsellors and Future Student Advisors for advice on how to choose a university course.

Remind them that it's okay to change their mind (which is different to giving up) and switch courses within the same faculty if they discover that their initial choice isn't the right fit. Suggest starting with a diploma in their preferred field, which can be used as a pathway into a bachelor’s degree when they’re more confident.

Your teen doesn’t know what they want to study

If your child doesn't know what they want to study, encourage them to simply explore their interests. As above, take a holistic approach to finding their path, considering subjects they enjoy, hobbies and personal strengths.

While how to choose the right university is a big decision, support your teen by following the above tips, seek guidance where necessary and remind them that it’s okay to change their mind later.

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