The first thing to remember is that every individual is different, so your child needs to make the right decision for them. Start by researching the different options available, such as degree courses, apprenticeships, internships, employment, and gap years. Help them to consider how each option fits with their skills, strengths, and interests.
Both my children decided that studying a degree at university was the right path for them. Our next step was then to decide on a course. Their enthusiasm for a particular subject helped get them started, but courses differ greatly, so looking at the entry requirements and the course structure helped to narrow down the shortlist. Would your child prefer a more practical approach or would they rather study theory? Is there an option for a year abroad, year in industry, or a combined honours, if of interest? Are the entry requirements realistic for your child’s current achievement and projected grades?
The distance from home is a consideration. Some young people don’t want to move far away – they want to become more independent, but with the security of home being within easy reach. Others are keen to stretch their wings a little more. If they are looking further afield, it’s worth discussing how they can get there and back on public transport if necessary, as well as considering how they’ll transport their possessions at the beginning and end of each term! Living at home can be a cheaper option but does limit the opportunities to fully embrace student life. You and your child will know what will suit their personality best.
It’s a tiring process to attend open days, but it’s very valuable. Attending talks will tell you a lot about the university’s approach and emphasis. Seeing the department and chatting to current staff and students will give you a far better sense of what the course is like and how well-equipped the facilities are than any prospectus is able to. My children both found they liked the look of one university on paper, but when they visited, they just couldn’t quite see themselves there – it didn’t ‘feel right’. Don’t underestimate that instinctive reaction! After all, your child has to live and study there for the next few years, so it needs to be the right fit!
Accommodation options vary widely. Some university accommodation is fully catered, some self-catered, some offer a mix of both. Don’t forget that this accommodation is generally only guaranteed for the first year of study, so it’s also worth finding out where second years live – are there good transport links? How expensive is private student accommodation? How much help does the university offer in finding somewhere to live out?
There are several factors to take into account and some big decisions to be made, but this is an exciting time in your child’s life too. If they work hard and make the most of the opportunities on offer, they will have a fabulous and successful time wherever they end up studying.