Help! My teen is choosing university for the wrong reasons

Q & A with Careers NZ

Dear Careers NZ

Just how do kids choose courses these days? My daughter is in Year 13 and there are just so many course options for when she leaves school, it is mind blowing!

When I left school there wasn’t much choice, and I decided to stay in town and work.

My daughter is not so sure what to do, but she seems keen on going to university just because her friends are. She’s really easily led by them and I think she just wants a fun time and hasn’t really thought about the money, where she’ll go, or even what she’ll study.

What do I say to get her to take this more seriously?

Olivia’s mum,

Tokoroa.

Dear Olivia’s mum

Leaving school is a huge step for teenagers like your daughter – she has to decide on a career path, where to study, where to live and how to look after herself on her own. It’s no wonder she wants to make the change a little easier by choosing to go to university with people she already knows.

Choosing a course based on what her friends are doing could be an easy way of not actually having to pick something when she feels confused about all her options. Unfortunately your daughter might study something she is unsuited for, causing her to drop out of university with a big loan.

Making it easier to choose a course

Before you attempt to help your teenager choose a course, let them know you understand it is a big decision and you accept they want to have a good experience wherever they study.

In your chat, reassure your teen you don’t want them feeling stressed about leaving school, but you do want to help them think more about what they’re going to do.

Conversation prompts to help choose a course

If your teen is going to feel sure about their future path, it’s important to help them come to their own realisations about life after school. To get these light bulb moments, use these conversation prompts:

  1. Why do you want to do tertiary study?
  2. What do you think the people around you want you to do? Why?
  3. What do you think you need to do to pick a course?
  4. Will you be able to study what you want at this university?
  5. What will you do after your study?

Exploring the Careers New Zealand website jobs database and courses database will make it easier to reach a decision about study.

Choosing the course

Once your teen feels they have found the course for them, check in with these questions:

  1. Will your course lead to the career or job you want?
  2. Do you need to do a course for your career, or could you train on the job?
  3. Where would you like to study this course?
  4. How will this course fit in with your life? Are you prepared to move towns or change your lifestyle?
  5. How will you fund your study?
  6. Is there an opportunity to work with employers during the course?
  7. Does the course provider help you with your job search after graduation?

Keep your questioning relaxed and don’t feel you have to ask or answer all these questions at once.

Make a study or training action plan

At a computer, sit beside your teen and help them research places to train or study.

This handy study or training action plan will help you store all your information in one place:

Remember that ultimately the choice is your teen’s, so with your healthy realism add a dollop of supportiveness and positivity.

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Our Q & A series of career advice and tips answers common questions parents have about their child's work and learning choices. 

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