Four pieces of university advice that parents need to stop giving their children

The Careers Department

The Careers Department

Apr 18, 2019 — 4 mins read

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There are many traps you can fall into as a parent, and giving career advice, this has incredible potential to either propel or to limit the trajectory of their children as young adults.

#1 Pick a course that you’re curious about.

So many students choose courses that they’re interested in, but don’t really understand. You should encourage your child to be curious when they’re researching all the options and paths available to them. But when it comes time to actually locking down a course, your child should know as much as possible about their choice.

Encourage them to look into the course content, read relevant industry articles, and hear from working professionals. Don’t let your child make the mistake of assuming what a course will involve, or where it will lead them.

#2 Prioritise courses at a good university.

We constantly hear of students who are encouraged to pick their university first, and their course second. This is a risky move because students will be inclined to settle for an obtainable course at their university of choice rather than really considering what’s right for them.

Personally, I have several friends who fell into the trap of picking a university for the prestige and later regretted not choosing the course that would’ve been best from them.

In Australia we’re lucky enough to have an extraordinary range of high-quality universities in just about every city. In fact, many are in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide. This means that you don’t need to try and discriminate between universities based on their ‘prestige’.

Research shows that parents are the number one influencer for their children when it comes to career advice.

Research shows that parents are the number one influencer for their children when it comes to career advice.

Instead of worrying about what a university will look like on your child’s resume, you should consider what your child wants from their tertiary education. Your child is more likely to succeed in a course that they truly want to do, which is much more beneficial to their future employment than scraping a pass at a more prestigious institution.

#3 Courses with higher entry scores are better

Having a law degree doesn’t mean that you’ll make more money/be happier. Equally, just because media communications is worth 98.5, doesn’t mean that you’ll find it any easier to get your foot in the door in a media role post-university.

Often students are told by their parents or friends not to ‘Waste their ATAR’ but put simply, there could not be worse advice. 

We implore you, don’t tell your child to use up as many of their ATAR points as possible.

Of course, performing well in your high school exams is something to be very proud of and if your child wants to study Medicine then achieving a high score will be necessary. But as universities continue to confirm, entry scores are a signal about the demand for a course, not its inherent quality. The entry requirement is a result of the number of places available and the number of students who are expected to apply for the degree.

Degrees with lower entry scores aren’t less prestigious, less difficult, or require less time. Quite the contrary. For example, technology and science degrees often have lower entry scores than law, media or arts degrees but research shows that the faculties housing those science and tech degrees are ranked just as highly as those with higher ATAR ranks (like law and media). And sometimes, even higher.

At the end of the day, achieving a high final score is great because your child will have lots of options. But you should still implore your child to choose the course that’s best for them, not the one with the highest entry mark.

#4 Pick a course that focuses on job-ready skills

Try to remember that university is not always meant to be a job-training centre. While it’s perfectly understandable that you’ll want to draw a tight connection between your degree and future employment, you don’t necessarily need to approach your course selection based on this theory.

Many of the jobs that will be available when your child graduates haven’t even been invented yet. This means that a narrow, vocationally focused degree will not necessarily set them up best for the future.

If you are interested in a generalist degree, like arts or technology, don’t be deterred by the lack of immediate jobs titles that come to mind. Remember, the fastest growing salary in the next 20 years is for the role of a data scientist. Which certainly didn’t exist a few short decades ago.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has done extensive research into the future work reality and advises young people to prioritise enterprise skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication, as such skills can be transferred into a range of different jobs. 

The Careers Department takes this research and has built a profiling tool that looks at students skills and works style and recommends industries and jobs for them - then introducing them to advice from people in those roles. Find out more:

career advice parents careers education
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