Parental influence on children's educational aspirations

Mother and daughterA study conducted by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) found that there is a strong link between students' educational aspirations and parental influence, showing the role parents can play in their children's post-school plans. Parental influence was found to be a key factor in students' aspirations to complete Year 12, their intentions to go to university and their expected occupational status at age 30.

It's worth considering that for many students, parental influence is no more than a push in the right direction. For others, the pressure to succeed can be overwhelming and lead to setbacks down the track. Whatever the situation, it's important to keep an open mind when it comes to your child's post-school decisions. Read on as we list some of the points to consider when discussing study and career options with your child.

University is not for everyone

This is one point that many parents struggle to grasp: not everyone is suited to university study. Just remember that this doesn't rule out further study altogether your child might pursue a hands-on, less theory-focused option such as an apprenticeship or traineeship, or a course from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. Many students also find that they would prefer to get started in a lower-level qualification, learning the ropes and getting used to the tertiary environment, before moving into a university course. Alternatively, your child may want to spend some time out in the workforce to determine whether further study is an option they wish to pursue.

There is more than one pathway to a career

Perhaps your child wants to become an accountant. They might choose to pursue an accounting degree straight out of school or start out with a business course with the intention of progressing into a postgraduate degree or maybe they'll enter the field through VET study, working their way up to the bachelor degree. When choosing their course, they might pair it with arts or law, study full time or part time, or try their hand at studying off campus. The point is that there are an endless number of pathways and study methods available to suit all types of students.

They may not want to follow in your footsteps

Even if you went to university, it's the family tradition to go to a certain institution or generations of your family have pursued a certain occupation, your child might have different ideas about their post-school options. It's likely they'll have their own agenda when it comes to future aspirations, and it's important that they choose a field of study or institution that works for them not because it's expected of them.

A high ATAR or OP does not have to be used for medicine or law

It takes more than a high entrance score to succeed in fields like medicine and law. With an outlook of years of tough university study, competitive work environments and many high-pressure situations, your child will want to be studying for the right reasons because they're passionate about the field and can truly see it providing an enjoyable career. Many parents mistakenly think that intellect is ˜wasted' on a course that is easier to get into, forgetting that their child may be genuinely interested in this field.

Gap years can be very beneficial

There is a lot of negativity surrounding gap years, but they can actually be a very positive experience for students. It allows them to take some time out from study and avoid ˜burning out' after Year 12, while also providing an opportunity to gain some independence. Many students choose to travel as part of their gap year, which is a great way to get out of their comfort zone and see what life is like in another part of the world. Alternatively, your child may decide to take a year off after school to spend some time in the workforce and head off to study with some savings in the bank.

Further information

For more information, see At school and beyond. Parents and students seeking more comprehensive information about tertiary study should visit the Good Universities Guide website. The Good Universities Guide website allows you and your child to search for courses, institutions and scholarships; compare the performance of Australian universities using independent ratings; and read helpful information to prepare for tertiary study.

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