The lead-up to finishing high school and starting university is insanely busy, and consumed by decisions, decisions, decisions! Along with where to attend university comes one major choice that your child will need to navigate – determining what to study. With a huge range of degrees and study options on offer at Australian universities, this is no easy choice, but rather something that deserves attention and careful consideration.
Keep reading to delve into the things your child should consider when selecting their university degree, along with tips for guiding and supporting their decision.
Their 'hard skills'
We talk about hard skills vs soft skills, with the former being those informed by the concrete things learned during school – mathematics, writing, science, music and so on. These shouldn’t be your child’s only consideration when selecting a course, but they’re certainly important – after all, these are the things that they’re good at!
Even if your child isn’t sure what they want to study, they’ve likely undertaken senior courses that can act as prerequisites for university programs, such as Maths to enter a STEM field or a humanities subject for an Arts degree. Let these hard skills loosely guide the area of study they choose, or at least encourage them to consider programs within a related field.
Of course, their interests may vary wildly from the things they’ve excelled at in school, which means it might be worth taking a different approach. If there’s one particular area that they’re passionate about, help them to evaluate whether there’s careers within this field they would be interested in pursuing, or learning more about through a related degree. For instance, there are degrees offered in animation if they love cartoons, game design if they’re glued to a console or literature if they’re an avid reader. The career landscape is ever-evolving, so if they’re into it, chances are there’s a way to pursue it and get paid.
Lateral ways to achieve their goals
If your child has broader goals but isn’t sure where to focus their efforts during university, consider seeking out the knowledge that will help them make it happen. As an example, maybe they’re really involved in sport and want to own a coaching business, but aren’t sure how to translate these skills into a university setting. Perhaps a degree in Sport Management, Business or Nutrition & Dietetics will help them realise these dreams more effectively than they could without a qualification. Lateral thinking means considering all of the ways to achieve their goals and weighing up the best path to get there.
Whatever degree your child is considering, it’s crucial that they weigh up possible career prospects. If you can study it, there’s a career in it, but not all jobs are created equal. Consider their broader goals in light of their possible area of study – are there ample jobs in that field? Is it growing or are the opportunities diminishing? Are there opportunities to grow and learn new things? What about opportunities for leadership? Salary growth?
Perhaps not all of these things will be relevant to your child and what they want from life, but at least one will be, so make sure they think about their choice of degree in light of it.
This one’s for the kid who’s still unsure – consider studying a degree that’s a little more general or open-ended. These degrees will allow them to pursue a few different disciplines within a broader field (e.g. science, arts) and try out electives to find the right fit. Plus, when they’ve graduated, it’s likely there will be a range of career options at their fingertips, rather than being locked into the one thing. They’ve got the option to specialise or major along the way, which will refine their skill set without narrowing job opportunities.
On the other hand, if your child is trying to decide between two paths of study, encourage them to consider combining them into a double degree if possible. Certain fields complement each other well – for instance, the practical framework learned in a law degree can be enhanced by further study in commerce, international relations, journalism, arts or even science. Not only will a double degree let them explore multiple interests, but it could set them up for a niche, in-demand career.
Armed with these tips, your child’s got everything they need to select the right degree for their unique skills, interests and goals. And, don’t forget, this choice doesn’t define their entire life – there are so many ways to sidestep in both your degree and your career.