The application process
Choosing the right university is the chance for your offspring to assert independence. But, as a parent, you will still most likely be looked to for guidance.
A well-organised school and a well-organised student will usually cover most of this, but if necessary, you can help to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. Here's what you can do:
- Encourage and assist your child with gathering all the necessary information that will help the decision making.
- University websites contain a lot of deatil, and for those who prefer a paper copy, you can phone, write or email university staff in order to obtain a prospectus.
- Read up about the things you are interested in, even if your child isn't. For example, many universities have information on their websites about the safety of the university environment. Don't just assume that big cities are bad; some urban universities are in areas with low crime rates. Some rural universities may provide off-campus accommodation, which could be less accessible especially later in the evening.
Keep up to date
- Get to know the application process and keep a check that UCAS deadlines are met.
- Provide your child with any information that is needed to make applications for student funding support.
- When your child is communicating with UCAS and universities, enure they use an appropriate personal email address, and not one linked to their school or college that they may not have access to after leaving.
- If your details change, such as your home address, make sure your child's UCAS details are also updated.
Help with Open Days
- If possible, offer transport or payment for transport to university Open Days.
- Most universities expect parents to accompany their offspring on Open Days and can assist with 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.
- Make the most of your visit – you're there to be nosy!
Read more about why you should go to a university open day.
But be careful...
Offering advice is something you will naturally want to do. But proceed with caution: unless you have an in-depth knowledge of the process it may be wise to think carefully before you offer advice. Encouraging independence is key in this transitional phase of your son or daughter's life.
Some of the common pitfalls to avoid that parents can fall into:
- Basing your advice on your own experience of university. Universities and student life are constantly changing!
- Suggesting certain courses will always lead to a good job. Are you sure? Have a look at the Graduate Prospects.
- Suggesting certain universities are best for a particular subject. Again, are you sure? See our League Table for the facts about quality, something you previously believed may have changed.
- Projecting your own desires. You may love being a doctor, but that doesn't mean your child wants to be one also. Students switching courses regularly say that they never wanted to do their initial subject but felt their family expected it.
Giving advice can be tough, and your child will appreciate the useful guidance that you do provide.
You can offer all the usual sound, sensible stuff that young people never want – but need – to hear.
Read the prospectuses, take decisions slowly and carefully, dissuade them from applying for Aramaic & Offshore Engineering just because a best friend has; that sort of thing. Test the reasons for their decisions.
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