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Applying to university

Application advice for parents

Understand what it’s like when your child goes to university, how best to help them, and what to do after they’ve gone.

Mother and daughter relaxing in their living room


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Due to the current situation, there may be changes to the university admissions systems for the 2020 intake. Please go to our coronavirus updates page for the most up-to-date information on exam results and university admissions for 2020.



  1. Becoming parents of a university student

  2. What your child’s school should do

  3. Helping your child through the UCAS application process

Becoming parents of a university student

While this page generally refers to parents, it applies equally to guardians and all other carers and supportive adults who may get involved.

As a parent, you provide an important element of stability at a time of change for your children. The emotional backup and support you offer can help them transition to university life.

Of course, not all students live away from home at university – many choose to stay at home with their parent(s) or family. If this is the case, be prepared for a change in lifestyle and flexibility that comes with university study.

What your child’s school should do

Most schools and colleges have programmes in place to support students applying to, or considering, higher education. As a parent, you’re fully entitled to ask the school about what they can offer.

This support should include some or all of the following:

  • A library of resources including university prospectuses and UCAS publications
  • Trips to university open days/events
  • A visit to a UCAS higher education convention
  • Talks by university representatives on general issues
  • Sessions giving advice on the UCAS application process
  • Access to university outreach initiatives and activities
  • A dedicated member of staff to help students and parents
  • Impartial advice without bias towards certain types of course or university
  • Parents’ evenings/events

Daughter kissing mother as she leaves for university

Helping your child through the UCAS application process


  • Encourage and help your child to gather all the information needed to make decisions (from university websites, prospectuses or any other sources)
  • Read up on things your child may not think about, e.g. crime rates in a university city

Keep up to date

  • Get to know the application process and make sure UCAS deadlines are met
  • Give your child any information needed to make student finance applications
  • When your child is communicating with UCAS and universities, make sure they use an appropriate personal email address and not one linked to their school that they may not have access to after leaving
  • If your details change, such as your home address, make sure the UCAS details are updated

What to avoid

  • Basing your advice entirely on your own experience of university
  • Suggesting certain courses will always lead to a good job
  • Suggesting certain universities are best for a particular subject
  • Projecting your own desires – remember that encouraging independence is absolutely key in this transitional phase of your child’s life

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