Thinking Ahead About University Applications
As parents the educational choices can seem ongoing - you’ve just got schools sorted when you discover that university decisions are just around the corner! By this age, your children will obviously have much more of a role in making the decision about if they want to go to university, and if so, where to go and what to study. But as parents you will still want to be involved in the university application process and your children will appreciate your input if you help them to think ahead and avoid making a stressful last-minute decision.
Factors to ConsiderIf your child has already decided on a definitive plan for their future career, then you will be able to work with him or her more easily to decide on how to get there. For example, a wannabe dentist will only be able to attend certain universities, so you can find out what these are through the UCAS (the University and College Admissions Service), and from there you can look at other factors that might influence the decision, such as how far the institution is from your home, the facilities available, the standards of academic research and teaching qualities, and so on.
Be aware, however, that students of some vocational careers such as law and teaching are still able to take a more general degree at first, before a postgraduate qualification is obtained afterwards, and this can bring the benefits of a broader education.
For students who are less 'dead set' on a particular career route, however, the university application process might seem more overwhelming - purely because of the magnitude of choices available. But again, thinking ahead can really help you and your child to work out the best option.
TimingsWhen your child is in his or her last year before Sixth Form, normally known as year 11, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the possibilities offered by further education. University applications have to be sent off in the first or second term of year 12 (depending on whether your child is applying for certain degrees or Oxbridge, which ask for early applications.
Take Off the PressureFor students, university applications will often seem like the biggest thing that has ever happened to them and may become a stressful topic in your house. So help your child to realise that while the application process is important and you will support them, it is not the 'be all and end all'.
Firstly, most jobs do not require a specific degree so to some extent students should pick a subject that they most enjoy - in any case, doing so will help them to achieve a good grade, which is important for prospective employers. Secondly, if necessary most universities are willing to help students who feel they have chosen the wrong degree, and it is even possible to change institution. Although this would obviously be an undesirable turn of events, this realisation can help to ease the process of university entrance.