Assisting your child with university course preferences

As a parent, you play a vital role in supporting your child and helping them through the course preference period. Picking a course, university and career can be difficult, especially as these decisions are made in the lead-up to final assessments. If you are wondering how you can assist your child, start by asking the following questions before they settle on their preferences.

1. Have you researched and considered all your options?  

Research is crucial and should come from as many sources as possible. It’s also important that your child keeps an open mind, considering a broad range of options rather than settling on a single institution or course. Institution websites and materials, current students and alumni, and independent comparison websites such as The Good Universities Guide are all great resources. And even if they missed the open days of their preferred institutions, there are still opportunities to get in touch with university course advisers — over the phone or online, or by dropping past the campus or arranging a private tour.

2. Have you chosen courses that fit your needs, interests and skill set?

The best way for your child to work out if they are choosing the ‘right’ course is by cross-checking potential courses against their individual needs, interests and hobbies, as well as their academic strengths and overall skill set. This means taking the time to examine course and institution features to find the right fit, considering elements such as teaching staff, availability of electives and specialisations, quality of facilities and equipment, as well as additional perks like study abroad or work experience opportunities. 

3. Have you spoken to your career adviser and teachers?  

Career advisers are an invaluable resource during this time. Most schools allow students to book individual consultations before they submit their preferences, providing the chance to work through any concerns and ask questions before they finalise their preference list. It can also help your child to speak to their subject teachers, who are likely to have their own advice. Perhaps there’s a course out there that is suited to your child’s strengths that they haven’t already considered. You may also reach out to family or friends, particularly those working in fields aligned to your child’s interests.

4. Have you investigated pathways?

Tertiary entry can be competitive, especially if your child is applying for a high-demand university or a course with strict entry requirements.This is why considering ‘pathways’ is crucial. Pathways can include starting out in a lower-level course then moving up the qualifications ladder, or selecting a back-up course at a university with lower demand with the intention to transfer into their preferred course or university. An alternative is to take the postgraduate route after completing a generalist qualification. Pathways are particularly common in high-demand fields such as law and medicine. In these fields, students complete degrees in fields such as arts or science before commencing specialised study as graduates.

5. Have you thought about tuition fees, government loans and scholarships?

There’s no doubt that tertiary education is expensive, particularly in light of the federal government’s recent Budget release, so it’s important that your child looks into study costs and funding options. Tuition fees vary between institutions, so you may want to sit down with your child to think about which course or institution provides the best value. If your child is opting for a particularly pricey course, are the benefits worth the additional cost?  

Also important is to investigate the availability of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans and scholarships. HELP loans allow domestic students in approved courses to defer the cost of their tuition fees until they are earning above the repayment threshold ($53,345 for the current financial year). These loans include VET FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP. See the Study Assist website for further information. Scholarships can come from education providers, the federal government or industry organisations. Although most scholarships recognise academic merit and financial need, some are geared towards students with a particular talent or skill set — gifted musicians and athletes, for instance.

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