Parent Blog: Stella – Information Stage

Wednesday 25th April 2018

Stella has two daughters who both have degrees, one of which progressed via A levels onto University and the second completed an Open University degree after originally completing BTEC and A level qualifications.

When you son/daughter expresses an interest in higher education you have a responsibility to take an interest and support them.  You can do this by offering advice to help them research and make their choices informed ones. Students will get help during year 12 & 13 at school or sixth form college.  At this stage it is helpful to spend some time having a general conversation about the issues.  Not to pressurise them into any sort of choice but to regularly ‘air’ and revisit the subject without it becoming a pressure point.  Find out what their school has been doing either by discussion or via the school website or direct communication with teachers at Parents’ evenings.   Specific higher education evenings may be held and it’s helpful to attend and learn as much as you can.  If you contact the school, Head of Year, Sixth Form, or their equivalent, they will be able to give you their calendar of timetabled events that are planned for students.

It also depends at what age the interest in higher education is first expressed.  Many schools begin their links with higher education institutions from Year 7 and some outreach may even begin before that.  Students have to make choices about which subjects they are going to study for exams quite early in their secondary years.  It’s important to ensure that they make realistic choices.  If they have an idea of what higher education subject area they might be interested in this can in turn infer subject choice at GCSE and A level.  For example, it’s important to go to parents/careers evening when information about courses is described and explained.  For example anyone wishing to enter the medical professions usually need to study separate science subjects and not just a general science GCSE.

Higher education doesn’t just cover going to University but includes new degree apprenticeships and further education college courses.  The process for applying for these opportunities is very different from University applications and can be researched online via individual university, college and employers websites.  Many higher education institutions have sections on their websites for parents and these can be used anytime.  Don’t think you cannot use these if your son or daughter has not reached that stage in their education.  They are excellent sources of information and advice.  Similarly, there is no reason why you cannot attend University Open Days at any time with your son/daughter.  If you want to go when they are in Y9 then go and visit.

Most Universities run a registering and online booking system so you can plan your day from a menu of courses and get the most from the visit with the preplanned programme.  This is especially important if you travel any distance.  Be prepared to ask questions yourself and to ensure your son/daughter has a range of questions too. Try not to overshadow them; it’s their day.  It’s always useful to attend the introductory talk and visit accommodation and finance stands.  If your son/daughter has SEND assessments and subsequent support at school make sure you visit the student support stand.  Find out about the process for applications and deadlines.  Some universities such as Sheffield Hallam University have parent ambassadors who are there specifically to support parents, answer questions and guide them to the appropriate staff.

Student ambassadors are an excellent source of information and often run tours during term time, for example you can book them on Wednesdays at Sheffield Hallam.  It is good to speak with existing students as this is an excellent way to get any questions answered and especially to gain detailed information about courses and what it’s actually like to study on them.  Discussion with school and university staff, careful study of online or paper copies of the prospectus is important.  Drawing up a list of pros and cons for each establishment offering courses that might be applied for. Parents can provide support with this and subsequent discussion.

If a student loan for fees is being considered remember this is the student’s loan.  Any loan for maintenance has a ‘means’ tested element so ask about what you need to do regarding submitting your financial details.  Pick up as many leaflets as you can and if when you get back home you have questions use the contact numbers usually printed in the Open Day guide.

Most of all enjoy your day!

Parents Open Days and Information Stage