Help! What to do if your child is not happy with their choice of degree

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Help! What to do if your child is not happy with their choice of degree


20 February 2018

Picture this: your child has enrolled in a degree, bought their textbooks and headed off to their first classes. After a few weeks, they should have a feel for university and be ready to dive into their first assignments.

But what happens if the excitement wears off and they are having second thoughts? Maybe the course content isn't what they expected, or they're worried they've chosen the wrong degree. Maybe they're just not loving the experience as much as they thought they would.

If your child is in this position, don't panic. Many new students feel this way, and it doesn't mean they're doomed to fail. Instead, it's an opportunity to think about what they really want from their future.

Pinpoint the source of their dissatisfaction

First, isolate the problem. Talk with your child about why they are not enjoying uni. Perhaps they hoped their courses would be more hands on, or the workload is higher than they expected. Perhaps they can't see how what they're learning in Week 2 will lead to their dream career.

University is supposed to challenge and push students (within reason) to achieve things that they may not have even thought they could. At the same time, first year students need to manage their own expectations of their abilities. They are not going to be (or are expected to be) content level experts in their first few weeks. This can sometime be difficult for students who were high achievers at school, but may feel disheartened when they achieve a Pass or Credit grade for their first assignment.

Consider whether things might improve over time. First-year courses are designed to build the foundational skills and knowledge students need, and your child might hit their stride as they move on to more in-depth subjects that appeal more to their area of interest. Encourage them to attend student-led study groups or drop-in sessions, where they can meet more experienced students from the same degree and ask questions about course content and work-related opportunities in later years.

Help is not far away

Dissatisfaction can also arise from a lack of confidence or from feeling overwhelmed. If your child is struggling to master new learning skills (like referencing, note taking or time management), they can attend an academic skills workshops or meet with an academic skills adviser. If they're stuck on an area of course content, most lecturers and tutors offer appointments or drop-in sessions that will help. You can view the vast array of support services offered to USC students here.

What if they still want to change?

Often, once students have settled in and are feeling more confident, they'll realise the program they've chosen is the right one after all. On the other hand, some students do change their minds about what they want to study. And that's perfectly OK!

If that's the case, your USC student can make a free appointment with USC's Career Development team to chat about career interests and which programs are best suited.

Important to know: to apply for a program change at USC, your child needs to have completed at least one semester of study and your child still needs to meet the admissions criteria for their new degree. Planned program changes should be discussed with USC's Career Development team before applying through Student Central and applications need to be submitted within a specific deadline. If your child is receiving a scholarship, they will need to contact the Scholarships team to ensure their program change won't affect their ability to continue receiving their scholarship. After the program change has been approved and credit has been applied, USC's progression advisors can meet with your child to discuss their new program and to plan a study path moving forward.

If your child wants to change universities, they will need to reapply for their new degree through QTAC, most likely for the following semester (there is no internal transfer process between different universities). However, your child should speak to admissions staff at their new university before completing their QTAC application, to ensure they meet any prerequisites and to discuss options for possible credit transfer for study already completed.

Sometimes it can be difficult for young people to understand that life doesn't always go in straight lines, and that it's the experiences along the way that best prepare us for what's ahead. However, if you and your child are concerned that they may not be on the right tertiary study pathway, be assured that they are not alone, and that there's support to help guide them through.

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