University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Andrew Cooper

by Andrew Cooper

Hybrid Delivery Co-ordinator at the University of Liverpool

posted on 23 Feb '23

A parent guide to how students can make their post-16 and post-18 subject choices with university in mind

Sending your child off to university is an odd time for parents and guardians, you may be feeling nervous and not sure where to begin when supporting their decisions. I often have longer conversations with parents at events than students, with the main questions from parents being: Where do we start in order to help? and What should they do to get onto the course? I will provide support to help you with this here.

What do they want to do?

There is a lot of coverage in the press about what a ‘good degree’ is, and this can lead to misconceptions that students won’t get a good job if they study certain subjects. It is easy to understand why you may wish to encourage your young person in a certain direction, but generally it should be about what is best for your child. Listen to what they want to study and support them to find out as much information as possible about it.

There are many career possibilities from a single subject, some that don’t even seem connected. There are also plenty of transferable skills, which means a student can walk into a huge range of careers outside their subject area if they wish to. It is often easier to pick post-16 options if they have a desired or perceived direction of travel after their courses.

Support their research

Look through university courses. Any admissions criteria will be stated on the course entry requirements and obviously may have an impact on decisions.

Ask what tools your child’s school use when researching courses, if they are already using resources such as Unifrog or chatting to students on The Student Room, they can find out what other students with similar interests have gone on to do. Other useful websites can explore labour insights (to help pick a degree area) or SACU has an A Level match tool, where students can put in what A Levels they wish to study and see degree matches that people studying the same subjects have progressed on to.

An image to show the importance of planning and the steps involved in the process

What if they have no idea on post 16 and/or post-18 choices?

Don’t worry. Many students in Year 13 say they still don’t know what they want to do. Advise them to consider subjects which they enjoy, that they are good at and where they would also meet university entry requirements. If they are predicted good grades and they enjoy the subject, that is a great place to start.

There are many things to consider, but the best way to plan post-16 options is to keep an open dialogue with your child, their school and future providers. Experiencing university in person will always be useful and is a great way to find open days, as well as further support sessions for parents.

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