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Parent with teenager on Open Day

Steer clear of these things when helping your child choose a degree

08/02/2022 | 6 MINS

Choosing what to do after high school can be a daunting task for most. And, as a parent it’s natural to want to ease some of the stress or challenges associated with making that choice. Usually high school students start to think about their future in Year 10, so they may be looking to a parent or guardian for advice on how to figure out where and what to study.

As a parent, you want to be able to help guide your child on the right path. But when it comes to offering advice, there’s a fine line between helpful and heavy handed. How do you provide direction without your teenager running to the hills whenever the topic of university is ‘casually’ raised over dinner?  We’ve put together a few suggestions for what to avoid when helping your child choose a degree and what you can do to help.

Avoid – Choosing for them

Remember that your child’s choice where and what to study is entirely theirs. While you can influence their choice to get them thinking about what course or university will set them up for a great future, try not to push them too much into a particular direction.

What you can do instead – Start the conversation

Help them on their journey, and discuss with them the things they're good at and the things they enjoy doing, as well as those they don't. This can help inform their decision and start to think about the future beyond university as well. Some questions you can ask to get started are:

  • Do you have a career in mind?
  • What school subjects or hobbies do you really enjoy?
  • What subjects don’t you enjoy?
  • What are you really good at or really passionate about?
  • Is your child academic or practical?

Once your child has decided what they're interested in, it's time to gather information and do some research. You can help your child compare courses and careers and find out about scholarships, entry requirements and pathways into UWA.


Parent with teen on Open Day talking to Future Student Adviser

Avoid – Pushing a university close to home

Studying close to home can make a lot of sense – your child can live at home to save money, spend less time on public transport and be home early for family dinner. But, choosing a university is so much more than location. It’s important for your teenager to feel comfortable, included and welcome on campus (they’ll be spending a lot of time there!).

What you can do instead – Learn about university life as well as academic life

Make sure you think about your child’s university choice as a lifestyle choice too. Your teenager will be more likely to succeed if they can enjoy the experience and find where they fit in. They’ll be joining clubs and societies, volunteering, making friends and memories, playing sport, attending music and social events and maybe accessing various support services.

If UWA life is a good fit but is too far from home, encourage your child to check out the range of accommodation options including five residential colleges, Perth City accommodation, UWA-owned student accommodation and share house options close by. Your child will be getting the full university experience, making friends, finding some independence and getting to their lectures on time after a short walk to campus.

Get a feel for the culture at UWA by attending events, chatting to current students, taking a tour or doing some online research.

Bonus tip: If your child is relocating to Perth from regional or remote Australia, they may be able to access up to $5,000 to help pay for things like rent or bond for accommodation, household bills, groceries, textbooks, or other study supplies with the Tertiary Access Payment (TAP).

Avoid – Narrowing your child’s options

Once your child has shortlisted their top courses, you might be tempted to encourage them to make their course choice based on the most obvious path to a career. But this might stifle an important part of university and adolescence – the opportunity to explore passions and interests in different areas.

What you can do instead – Remember their choice isn’t set in stone

At UWA, students aren’t locked in to the majors they choose straight away. Your child can develop a study plan that allows them to try units from a number of study areas, before choosing what major/s they want to study. And, if they can’t choose between two majors, why not do both? Students can study two majors from the same area or completely different areas. Whether it’s Accounting and Genetics, or Linguistics and Music, your child can pursue both interests simultaneously.

It’s very normal for teenagers to change their mind after high school and after figuring out what they really want to do as a career. And that’s ok – they have the opportunity to change and try something else without gaining time on their degree. Don’t forget – postgraduate study is always an option after an undergraduate degree to change career paths, further specialise or gain additional qualifications.

Avoid – Putting the pressure on to meet university entry requirements

Studying for ATAR can be a challenging time for a teenager and you can be sure they put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well – so try not to add onto the pressure at home as well. While doing well in Year 12 and final exams is important, there are a lot of alternative pathways into university and other study options to achieve your child’s career goals. 

What you can do instead – Explore UWA’s alternative entry pathways

UWA has a range of courses, some with higher ATAR requirements and some with lower ATAR requirements. If your child’s ATAR was lower than the course they were initially interested in, they could always switch to a course with a lower ATAR that still leads to their dream career.

Units you complete in one degree can even be transferred to another degree at a later date. So, you can encourage your child to get started and make the most of their uni experience while figuring out which course is right for them. If they’re still set on the original course they were hoping for, their grades at uni can help them get there.

You can also read up on our alternative pathway options. Some of them include:

  • Completing a Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) and passing to meet our requirements
  • If your teenager studied at a Broadway-identified school in WA, they’ll automatically have their ATAR adjusted
  • If your child is the first in their family to complete a university-level degree, they may be eligible for a place at UWA through the First in Family program
  • Your child can always take a break before they start university and apply for mature-age entry after they turn 20 years old. They can travel the world or start working and building some life experience and start their successful career a couple of years later!

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