Parent Blog: Stella – The Application Process
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.
The application process can sometimes happen without you as a parent/carer realising it. The main reason for this is not that your son/daughter are keeping things from you but if they are attending a good school or college that’s where all the advice and information should be coming from. Teaching staff will be reminding them about deadlines especially writing their personal statement with model templates and tips. Parents can help with this if their son/daughter would like to share their drafts. You can offer a different perspective and advice of their positives which can be a valuable addition to the statement. Things they may not have thought of but you can see make them shine and should be included.
You can also advise on how realistic their aspirations are. It may be that your child would find accessing Higher Education through extended study at college or improving their A level grades to get into the course they want. There are a great deal of Degree Apprenticeships now being developed and coming online so it’s worth checking out the alternative routes into higher education. School staff should also be keen on this aspect of the personal statement but it may be easier to accept coming from a parent! The Sheffield Hallam University website has an informative section on the range of Degree Apprenticeships on offer as will other institutions.
As for course choices you can help by drawing up a pro’s and con’s list with your son/daughter of various courses under consideration at the favoured institutions. Draw up a chart and perhaps all do one and chat through your reasons for the choices you make. For me employability was a factor especially as our daughter took an Art course. Some universities have a better level of support than others. For example, SHU have a Careers and Employability Centre which supports throughout the course and up to 5 years after graduation. Do remember that it’s them taking the course and having to turn up to do the work for the next 3 or 4 years and not you. Advise by all means but do not make the choice for them. This really is the start of you as a parent being on the periphery of the process of Higher Education. You won’t be contacted by academic staff if they don’t hand in course work or attend lectures as you have been when they attended school/college. Such issues are addressed in house and are between the university staff and student. They are responsible now for their own learning. Your role changes to taking a supportive interest.
I personally think if you have set the right climate in your relationship that your child will want to share what they are doing and ask for advice. If they don’t then some reflection on your own part might be required. There will usually be a parents evening at school/ colleges in the Autumn term when you can find out more from the teaching staff, so be aware of their internal timetables; check out their website or online record/reporting system. If you cannot attend, use their home school communication systems. There’s really no excuse not to know what is happening!
Teaching staff are also keen that students who want them to write a personal reference for them let them know in good time so it can be written before the Christmas holidays. The UCAS deadline for applications is usually mid January; you can find the exact date for your child’s application on the UCAS site www.UCAS.com. There are different dates for the range of courses, some are as early as October the year before their proposed start others can be as late as March. Have a look on the UCAS site for yourself and check out the section specifically designed for parents and guardians; it covers everything you need to know about the application process from your perspective. There are helpful videos and downloadable guides on everything you might want to know, e.g. for How to apply, there is an easy to follow step by step guide and useful blog on how to reply to offers. If you have done your homework then you are in a position to prompt in an appropriate way.
It is a good idea to check what their staff advise regarding the application timetable when you visit university open days what their staff advise regarding the application timetable. Use their parents areas on their websites too.
Remember to avoid any last minute panics by ensuring that any personal documents on PC, Laptop or USB are backed up and are not just on a school computer. Also, that the contact details your child gives are their personal email address as opposed to a school one. Often Universities, Student Finance England and Accommodation Services will try to get in touch for confirmation throughout the summer. It’s no good if your son/daughter is away and never gets the messages as they have been sent to a school account they no longer have access to!
It is very exciting when an offer comes through. It may be a straight offer or conditional on achieving certain grades. Again, the section on the UCAS website for Parents and Guardians explains this really well.
Parents can also support by not only reminders about the deadline but also, if invited, in the decision making. It is good to keep up to date with what is going on and support where you feel it is appropriate.