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Life is full of transitions, but the transition from high school to university can be a big step for your teenager. The pressure to choose a course and career can be overwhelming, so how can parents help make this process easier for their kids? There are three key aspects parents or carers should discuss with their teen when considering university study.

1. What are they passionate about?

Students are about to potentially spend years of their lives studying at university and possibly decades in a career resulting from their study. It’s important they pursue something they find rewarding and satisfying.

2. What are their skills and expertise?

If they are passionate about becoming an engineer, but have no skills in mathematics, then it would be wise to seek some advice from the school’s careers counsellor.

3. What will employers of the future be looking for?

What types of education and skills may be needed by employers of the future and consequently, what careers will pay a good return on the investment of time and money for a university education? It’s understandable that students and their parents feel pressure to choose “the right degree”.

While exploring these questions is an important step, enrolment records consistently show that university students will often change their area of study. For example, people who might initially enrol in psychology might change to engineering or nursing or education (and sometimes the other way around).

In other words, there is no need for students or their parents to feel pressure to choose a course. It’s good to keep in mind that many university courses include elective components and the units completed in the first few terms may be credited towards the new degree. If a school-leaver is still unsure, there is always the option to find employment or undertake some travel.

Ultimately, entry into some university degrees can be competitive and some students may not be successful. However, universities often offer related degrees that have lower entry requirements. After successfully completing a first year of study in the other degree, it is possible to apply for their “first choice” degree. It is best to consult directly with their university of choice if this could be a good option for your teen.

It is important for new university students to recognise that university study will be very different from studying at high school. University students are expected to manage their own time, including enrolling in classes, attending lectures, handing in assessments and preparing for exams. Self-management is often complicated by moving away from home, part-time work and new social opportunities.

To make this transition easier the student should stay in contact with the lecturers and tutors and ask questions to know what is expected of you and how to use university systems.

Being surrounded by a strong social circle of university students who will support them through the tough times and become friends and colleagues after graduation is an essential part of the experience. This social circle can also be helpful for finding employment opportunities.


  • Chris Crawford

    Chris has experience working as a psychologist in Queensland Health acute care, community mental health and rehabilitation. He also has experience as a private practitioner with referrals from General Practitioners, WorkCover and Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Since 2015 Chris has been a lecturer at CQUniversity teaching in undergraduate psychology focusing on therapeutic interventions and biological psychology. His areas of research interest include mental health outcome measures, resilience development and the use of mindfulness strategies.