There are a few big choices in life – where to live, which career to pursue, who to surround yourself with – but one that can feel especially daunting is where to attend university. Perhaps it’s because we often ask people to make this choice at a very formative stage in their lives, or because it’s one of the biggest decisions they’ve had to consider up to this point. Either way, as a parent, it’s natural to want to make your child’s selection as easy as possible. However, this doesn’t mean choosing for them, but rather supporting them through their own personal journey.
It can be difficult to step back and trust their judgment when it feels like just yesterday they needed your help with everything – tying their shoes, writing their name, brushing their teeth… But, let’s face it! If university’s on the cards, your child is almost an adult, and it’s time to teach them good decision-making habits rather than taking the reins.
Support looks different for every parent, child and family, but here are a few things to keep in mind when your child is asking for help to make the decisions that will shape, at the very least, the next few years of their life.
Treat nothing as off-limits
It’s important that when you start guiding your child through the process of selecting a university that you don’t put them off any potential options. After all, it’s about what’s best for them, so preconceived notions should be left at the door! Chances are your child knows themselves pretty well and won’t choose a university that is a blatantly wrong fit. Keep negative talk to a minimum and make sure they know that you support them in whatever they decide.
Help them lay out the options
There are so many universities in Australia, so depending on where you’re located, there might be upwards of five options within a 100km radius. That’s not even considering the possibility of moving interstate! The sheer volume of universities on offer might feel overwhelming, but there could be a hidden gem in there, so don’t overlook the possibilities. Grab a university guide, do research online and make pro-con lists to narrow down a huge list to a few favourites.
Listen to their concerns
With some frontrunners emerging from the pack, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. There might be specific things that excite them about a university, but equally, it’s likely they’ll have some worries or concerns. Is it too far away from home? Will they get the learning experience they need? Are there clubs and activities to aid making friends? Listen to all of their concerns and gently work through the possibilities to guide them towards a clear choice.
Take a tour (or a virtual one!)
When it’s down to the finalists, consider visiting each university, whether that’s in-person or virtually. Some universities will offer online open days that allow you to really experience campus life without actually boarding a plane or jumping in the car to travel there. This is a great way to present a university to your child without too much pressure, and seeing it in real life and letting them imagine themselves there might be the thing that cements their decision.
Pinpoint their excitement
With a few open days or campus tours under your belts, it’s about time to make that all-important decision. Observe how your child speaks about each of the universities they’re considering. Are they struggling to hold back their excitement, or caught up in the logistics of their decision? Are there things getting in the way, like leaving home, missing friends (or staying near them) or fear of change? Differentiate between real concerns and nervous jitters, and guide them towards the choice that feels right to them.
Let them fly
When all is said and done, and they’ve chosen a university to attend, there’s one thing left to do – support them through the journey. Let them make their own decisions and trust that they’re capable of navigating the ups and downs of adult life at university. Remember, this decision although important isn’t permanent, so if they wind up feeling unhappy with their choice of unis, there’s still room to forge a different path.
Although their journey to university marks their transition into adult life, that doesn’t mean they don’t need your help along the way. Just remember to take a step back and give them the space, tools and support they need to make this big decision.