Practical Support for Applicants
The single most important thing parents can do is be upbeat and positive about higher education.
- For most people attending university is one of the most enjoyable and fruitful times of their lives.
- 94% of undergraduates agree that going to university is worthwhile; 85% of undergraduates agree that the money they are spending on going to university is a good investment for their future (UNITE Student Experience Report).
Studying at university is a time when young people try a vast range of new experiences, form some lifelong friendships and equip themselves for the world of work.
- If that isn't enough, the crude economics are telling: on average a graduate will earn much more in their working life than a non-graduate (a major study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2006 calculated that the graduate-earning premium amounts to an average of £129,000) and is much less likely to be unemployed. (Read our article on the graduate premium – the difference a degree makes to starting salaries.)
- Whilst there are a number of well-known individuals who have achieved a great deal without going to university, they are in a minority when compared with the legions of bright, confident, articulate and knowledgeable graduates who are equipped with the skills and experience to succeed and prosper in their chosen field of work.
- Generally speaking, university is the gateway to success: the more you learn, the more you earn.
Having instilled the value of a university education sufficiently for your offspring to be making an application, it is time to get practical.
- Their school or college should provide plenty of practical support for its students through the application process. In addition there are still some ways in which you can contribute.
- Enoucrage your child to gather all the necessary information. University websites contain a wealth of detailed information. For those who prefer a paper copy, a phone call, letter or email will generally result in the speedy dispatch of a prospectus
- Read up about the things you are interested in, even if they are not at the top of the list of most applicants' priorities.
- For example, many parents are concerned about the safety of the university environment and many universities have information about this on their websites or in special publications. Don't just assume that big cities are bad and rural campuses good. Some urban universities are in areas of their city with low crime rates; some out of town or small town campus universities may provide off-campus accommodation, which could be less accessible after dark if transport links are poor.
- Get to know the application process and keep a check that UCAS deadlines are met.
- Provide any information needed to make applications for student funding support.
- If you move house, alter your phone number or change network supplier for email make sure UCAS is on your son or daughter's change of address list.
- When communicating with UCAS and their chosen university, make sure that they use an appropriate personal email address, not one linked to their school/college. This may be closed down around results period when they have already left.
Offer transport or offer to pay for transport to university Open Days.
- Most universities now expect large numbers of parents to roll up on Open Days (both the big general pre-application visits and the specific departmental days held for applicants who have been made an offer) and make special arrangements.
- Universities welcome supportive families; you will often get taken off for a parents' programme with sessions by university student ambassadors.
- If you have joined in the trip, you can help your son or daughter to be critical about what they have seen and heard.
- Open Days are like prospectuses and websites: they are designed to attract. A university that is unlucky with the weather can't hide the fact that it is a long walk in the rain from the lecture theatres to the Students' Union, but you can be sure that the lecture theatres you see are the most modern and up-to-date.
- Take a look around other parts of the university, or peer through windows as you walk down corridors, if you feel you are being shown only the better parts.
Choosing the right university is the ideal chance for your offspring to assert their independence and take the opportunity to stand on their own two feet.
- In addition, if you have been able to remain slightly detached from the whole process, offering a positive and independent viewpoint will prevent the whole "I told you so" debate on the days when life at university isn't quite as rosy.
A well-organised school and a well-organised student will cover most of this between them, but if either isn't quite on top of things then you can help to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Next page: What Should a School Do?