What Every Parent Should Know About Their Child’s University

May 02, 2018 | Patrick Quinn

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A child’s transition to independence and adulthood can be one of the most challenging times in a parent’s life. Parents want to find the right balance between providing meaningful support and giving their children the space to make their own decisions.

Choosing a university is probably the first major decision your child will face in their lives, and its a choice they will definitely need guidance for. It is where they will be spending the next three or four years of their lives, establishing the path for their future career.

It’s often when children are moving out on their own for the first time, learning how to take care of their own food, clothes washing, and everything else. For the rising number of students who continue to live with their parents while at university, its still a time of changing lifestyle and growing independence.

Providing Support During the Difficult Transition

With more young people than ever pursuing higher education worldwide, there are many students who are the first in their families to attend university. This is especially true in societies experiencing rapid economic growth, such as India.

Indian parents are known to make great personal sacrifices to ensure a better life for their offspring. According to HSBC’s recent Value of Education survey, Indian parents are most likely to pay for extra academic support and go into debt to support their child’s education.

Among the countries surveyed, they are also the parents placing the most emphasis on career success and having their children pursue studies until the graduate level. The intense competition for coveted education spots – 1.2 million students compete every year for just 11,000 places in Indian Institutes of Technology – inevitably leads to tremendous parental and peer pressure on students.

Besides providing vital stability and emotional support during this challenging time, parents can lend their children some much needed perspective, encouraging them to see options beyond engineering or medical school. There is a tendency for adolescents in India to see fewer vocational alternatives. Based on their understanding of their child’s aptitudes and interests, parents can suggest considering lesser known career paths and taking a more patient approach to discovering their purpose.

Helping with the School Search

Many young people know that they want to go to university but don’t know what they’re really looking for. While you want your child to take the lead in researching prospective schools, parents can help guide their search by asking them the right questions.

What kind of campus environment are they looking for? What do they value most in potential academic programmes and student services? Asking these kinds of questions will get your child thinking about the criteria most important to them to help narrow down their choices.

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Photo by Muhammad Rizwan on Unsplash


When having these discussions, it’s best to give them the space to think things through for themselves and reserve your opinions for when they’re stuck. Help them examine the reasons for their decisions. Just being a good listener and helping them clarify their ideas is a valuable service.

Nowadays there is a wealth of university information available online – parents can assist with gathering some of these key details and keeping track of application deadlines. It may be best to discuss the financial situation early in this process, such as your budget for assisting with tuition payments and available opportunities for loans, scholarships and part-time work.

What to Look for in Potential Universities

The best way to know if a university is the right choice is by making a visit. Get a feel for the campus culture and the surrounding community, explore the living arrangements and facilities, and take notes of anything important.

As with all university decisions, encourage your child to assert independence in booking visits, asking questions and planning what to see. It’s ideal to take more of a background role, separating for part of the visit to make your own investigations and comparing findings afterwards. Try to remain objective and positive while being a role model for resolve, resilience and resourcefulness.

During your visit, ask about average class sizes, the effectiveness of career services, and the availability of health and counseling services. Safety is a natural concern, so learn about the campus crime rate, emergency services, and whether there are escorts available to walk students home late at night. It’s best to get student feedback about campus life by talking with current students.

Above all, it’s important to remember that university has changed a lot since your day and to resist the temptation to project your desires onto your child’s education. The number reason that students drop out or change courses is they felt their family expected a certain choice.

A great place to study will not only provide the rigorous academics that deliver fantastic career prospects but also an environment that promotes student happiness.


Patrick Quinn is a content writer of Great Place to Study, a global auditing and intelligence firm that classifies and recognises institutes on the basis of student engagement

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