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Common questions asked by parents

16 Apr 2018

I am a university parent. I have been for some 10 years, and I still have a few more years to go. I have four students who are, or have been, studying.

So I have been in those final years of schooling, four times. You know, those final years when it can feel like every conversation your child has starts with someone asking them what they are going to do when they leave school.

As your child heads into Years 10, 11 and 12, it is the perfect time to look at the options for the study road ahead – and there are so many pathways to university, so you and your child should never worry about missing out. Here, I am going to talk about three questions I’m often asked by ‘soon to be’ university parents.

Should my child take a gap year?

The most common question I am asked by parents is whether their child should take a ‘gap’ year before heading to university. A gap year can be a great opportunity for students to get some more life experience or money behind them before heading into full-time study, and it can also help them choose their profession. I myself had a few years off after school before I went to university, and taking a gap worked for me. With my own students, three had a gap year and one didn’t. One of my students chose their career specifically because of a job they landed in their gap year. However, going straight to uni from school may be a better option for students who have a firmer idea of what they want to study. Taking a gap year or even two depends on the individual student and whether they are ready for university study. Encourage your child to research the pros and cons of gap years before making a decision.

What should my child study?

Choosing what to study can be a hard one. My advice? Ask questions. Year 10, 11 and 12 are the perfect times to be exploring the options available at all the universities you might think of attending. There will be career expos and university ambassadors coming to your child’s school and most universities have open days and times where you can take tours.

At USC, your child can try a Headstart course or two to get a feel for university study. The Headstart program is a great way to dip your toe in the water of university study, while you are still at school.

And if your child does enrol in a program and finds out it is not for them, that’s okay. Learning is never wasted, and the program may still count towards their next area of study. I had one student start university in Biomedical Science and change to Law.

Will my child be ‘on their own’ when they go to uni?

University learning is different to school, but your student is definitely not on their own. Sure, students are expected to manage their own study, and most of the time, no one will check they have done their readings or have handed in an assessment. But there are tutors and lecturers who really want students to succeed. There is help and support at Student Central and the Library, and study resources online. This support includes one-on-one academic advice, drop-in sessions for specific subjects and free counselling services. University students do need to be proactive and ask for help and advice, but there is lots of help available.

It is a big commitment to make the decision to study at university, so when your student is in Years 10, 11 and 12, it is the perfect time to take the opportunity to find out all the options, and relax and enjoy those last few years of schooling.

About Dr Janet Lee

Dr Janet Lee received her Doctorate of Creative Arts from USC. She is also mum to four children who have all completed (or are completing) their undergraduate degrees at USC. Janet lives on the Sunshine Coast with two dogs, some very spoilt chickens and her wonderful, noisy family. Janet is a regular contributor to USC's Parent Lounge.

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