Should your child go to university?
Help and advice
Students choose to continue their studies for lots of reasons...
Maybe they know exactly what career they want and need a degree to get there, or maybe they're expanding their horizons before choosing a job. No matter how much you want to support their decision, sometimes it's hard to believe your child is making the right choice.
Studying at university is a big decision and is different from learning in school. It's normal to worry about your child when they make such big choices but it helps to find out more about university and what they're doing.
We discuss some common concerns and myths below.
My child hated school – will university be better?
Plenty of students have a tough time doing their GCSEs and A levels. It might feel like university will bring around the same problems.
There are some major differences between studying at school and university. At university your child will study a degree subject that interests them and have more freedom day to day. They'll control when and how much they study. This is different from having weekly homework assignments for a range of subjects.
There are lots of opportunities to meet like-minded people at university with plenty of clubs, societies, and more on offer. Developing these relationships can help students focus and might even help build their career in the future. Support from friends is also a huge help when moving away from home for the first time.
As well as social support, universities offer professional support for their students including academic support, wellbeing support and careers support. Although your child may be moving away, they won't be alone at university.
They'll also be allocated a personal tutor when they start studying to support them throughout their degree.
Isn't university just getting drunk and partying?
University isn't just about socialising, but it isn't just about studying either. Your child will have the chance to meet new people, start a new sport hobby, develop skills and improve their job prospects on their degree, and it's up to them to manage their time.
Students don't have to drink to enjoy university. Learning to manage their time and social commitments is an important part of university which develops skills they'll take forward after they graduate. If your child is experiencing difficulties they can speak to their personal tutor, who can support them and direct them to other University services if needed.
There is much more to university than alcohol. Students are expected to attend their lectures and most universities will contact students who miss a certain number of sessions to check in.
Can we afford it?
Student fees are a common objection to university studies. With tuition fees costing up to £9,250 a year and living expenses that need paying, a degree isn't cheap.
Depending on your income, parents can be expected to pay a contribution towards your child's living costs while they study. There is no official marker for how big this contribution should be.
Students can apply to Student Finance for loans to cover their tuition fees and living expenses when they apply to university. Tuition fee loans are paid directly to the university, and maintenance loans are paid to students to contribute to their living costs. How much loan your child receives depends on your household income. Your child will start to pay their loans back, with interest, after they've graduated and are earning over a threshold amount. They won't be expected to pay it back if they're earning less than the threshold.
As well as student loans, most universities offer bursaries to support students. You can find out more about specific university bursaries online.
Will they cope with the exams stress?
Exam stress is tough, and some people struggle more than others. Most universities offer wellbeing support, exam support, and tips on coping with stress to help students through their exams periods.
Although some courses have a lot of exams, some don't have any. You can usually find out how a course is assessed on the university's website course pages, or by speaking to staff or students at open days. If your child particularly struggles with exams they might be able to find a course that has fewer exams or is graded mostly with coursework or practical assessments.
Getting a job would be better than university
If your child knows what career they want already you can help them plan a path to get there.
Some jobs need a certain level of experience so getting started sooner is helpful. Degree apprenticeships are a great way to gain industry experience while earning money. The employer pays tuition fees so the student won't need to pay them back after they graduate.
If your child doesn't know what they want to do yet, that's OK. Earning a degree will help them develop skills, access work experience and careers advice, and meet new people. All of these activities will help prepare them for work after university.
Is university safe?
Moving away from home is a big deal. It's hard not to see the dangers in moving to a new city, especially for the first time. You might worry about your child's general wellbeing if you can't check in on them as often as you're used to, but also their psychological wellbeing.
Universities prioritise their students' safety. Many unis have safety protocols in place for students on campus and have phone lines, drop in sessions and building security throughout term time. Staff are always on hand to help.
Why waste time learning things nobody needs to know?
Some degrees and academic research seem unnecessary to those outside of their field. For all the research into life-threatening illnesses and new technology, there are also plenty of things that are less obviously useful.
The benefits of doing a degree aren't just what you learn but also the transferable skills gain – such as problem solving, analysis, and creative thinking. Employers value the discipline of having to think in a structured way and problem solve.
Have they picked the right degree subject?
One of the advantages of university in comparison to school is that you can focus on one subject that you care about. Most students choose a degree that they believe they'll enjoy, but no matter how much time your child spends choosing their subject, it can change once they arrive and start studying.
Picking a degree can feels like a big decision so your child might think that they can only choose once, but this isn't always the case. Most universities support students who want to change their degree subjects in the first few weeks of term. Changing degrees means your child will need to catch up on any work they've missed so far, but it's better to change courses at the start of their studies than regret the decision later.
Does university really help career prospects?
Degrees themselves won't guarantee anyone a job, but the opportunities open to your child at university can make a big difference.
As well as supporting your child when they search and apply for jobs, many universities offer industry-specific careers advice and support. Careers support usually offer CV and interview advice, among other things, and universities often have relationships with local companies the help secure work experience opportunities for their students.
What if they change their mind?
University can be fun, but it isn't for everyone. If your child decides to end their degree the university will help them do so and support them through the process.
Starting university is hard for a lot of people. Before they leave, the university may encourage your child to explore the support available at the university. As well as personal tutor support, most universities offer academic support to help with essays, assignments, and studying, and mental health and wellbeing support if for students struggling with being away from home or anything else.
Things change when your child starts uni – find out how we support them, and get answers to your pressing questions.
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