How to help your teenager make a decision - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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How to help your teenager make a decision

1 Jul 2016

Making a decision about going to uni can be tough. There are so many options to choose from and a lot of information to sort through. Some students already have a passion for a particular course of study or career which makes the selection of QTAC preferences much easier. But many students have no idea about what to study or what sort of career they want.

If this sounds like someone in your family, there are some things that you can do to help. Here are some tips for supporting your son or daughter as they make a decision about uni:

1. What do they LOVE to do?

Encourage them to enrol in a degree program that will lead to the fulfilment of their dreams and passions. Though it may be difficult, it’s important to remember that it's their future, not yours!

If they’re concerned that they might not get the OP they need to follow their dreams, help them choose a program that can act as a pathway to the degree they want.

2. What subjects are they good at?

Suggest that they choose a program that connects with subjects that they are good at and enjoy at school.

If you’re not sure how to work out what subjects might match with which degree it can help to look at the courses that make up each program. All USC programs have a webpage that includes a tab labelled “What will I study?” Click on this and you’ll find a list of courses included in the program.

3. Take some time to explore

This is particularly important if they are concerned about not 'keeping up' or meeting the standards required for university study.

Encourage them to choose a program that will give them the flexibility to explore different fields of study and help them to build their confidence and knowledge about what it means to be a uni student.

There are also lots of simple profiling tools available that can help to provide some direction – try USC’s Superpower Profiler which is a lot of fun and provides a few study areas to investigate further.

It might also be a good idea to explore USC’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) which provides a great opportunity to experience university life before committing to a full degree program.

What if they get it wrong?

Lots of students are concerned about making the wrong choice and many students start uni and then discover that the program they have chosen isn't quite right for them. Don’t worry, they can always change programs later on and there really is no such thing as getting it wrong!

If your student is unsure, the best support you can give is to encourage them to choose a program that includes the types of subjects (courses) they are good at, whatever that may be.

USC has career counsellors and career development support services that can help students work out their options and find something that they really want to do.

Helping them stick at it

Keep in mind that students who get an offer for their first or second choice have a much higher chance of staying at uni and completing their degree, so if your student has a passion for something in particular, encourage them to make that their first or second QTAC choice.

Other students may be concerned about whether they will cope with the academic demands of uni – most new students feel the same way. USC’s first-year courses are specifically designed to support students while they develop the skills and knowledge they will need for success later in their degree.

There are also pre-semester workshops to help them get ready to start uni as well as regular drop-in support sessions. If your student is someone who is less confident, encourage them to choose a program that will build their confidence to go on to more challenging learning later on.

About the author:

Professor Karen Nelson is an internationally recognised expert in student learning engagement and student retention and success. She commenced at USC in 2014 as the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor for Students. Among other duties, Professor Nelson is also responsible for our Student Services and Engagement and Student Wellbeing teams and chairs our Learning and Teaching Committee.

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