Mother and daughter taking about the transition to university

Transition to university: 5 ways to help your child

Finishing Year 12 can be said to signify the end of childhood. So starting university can be described as the first brush with adulthood. And while this transition to university can be exciting and rewarding, it can also be pretty daunting – for students and parents alike.

When the time comes, it’s common that your child will feel overwhelmed by the changes. Moving out of home, meeting new people and having new experiences are all part of this journey. Your child will experience greater autonomy, intellectual stimulation, increased choices, and new explorations and relationships. Although they’re on the cusp of adulthood, navigating life without the safety net of parents can be scary territory for both you and your child.

This period can also reflect a shift in the parent–child dynamic.

For the past 18 years, you’ve made the decisions and you’ve been in control (most of the time, anyway). The thought of your child having complete independence can be pretty hard to swallow. However, it’s important to loosen your grip (a least a little bit) and take a step back. It’s natural that you’ll want to help and guide your child during the first 12 months of their university life – especially if it takes a bit of time for them to find their feet.

Remember that your child’s first year at university is a time of new experiences and rapid personal growth – and the best support they can receive is reassurance and encouragement from you, and a shoulder to lean on if or when they need it.

At Charles Sturt University, we want to make this transition as smooth as possible. So we’ve put together our top five tips for supporting the move from high school to uni life.

1. Discuss their living arrangements

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your child’s living situation while studying. Whether they’re living on campus, renting their own place or still living at home – it’s important your child’s home environment is stable, calm and conducive to study.

A determining factor is affordability. Can your child afford to support themselves financially while living out of home or are you able to support them? Our advice is to sit down and work out a budget together. Take into account things like rent or accommodation fees, groceries or a paid meal plan, bills, textbooks, technology and equipment expenses, entertainment and transport.

For students who need to relocate or those looking for that first taste of independence, we have a range of affordable, on-campus accommodation options to explore. When you choose to live and study at Charles Sturt University, you’ll join a supportive and welcoming community and make friends for life. Our Residential Support Scheme makes sure your child gets the most out of their uni experience – academically, personally and socially.

One further benefit of on-campus accommodation is living with current students and residential advisers (RAs). They’ve ‘been there, done that’, and they’re here to help. RAs assist students with the challenges they can face, and back it up with their own experiences. If your child needs to know where to file an assignment, who to ask about enrolling in the next session or just how to make a decent spaghetti bolognese, an RA is their first port of call.

2. Talk about the transition to university

Helping your child understand the difference between high school study and tertiary study can definitely have a positive impact on their transition period – because knowing expectations can ease a lot of anxiety for both parties.

There’s a lot to get your head around. Here’s a list of some basic differences to get the conversation started.

TopicHigh schoolUniversity
AttendanceAttendance is compulsory and if a student misses a day of school, a note explaining the absence is required. During school hours, students are expected to stay on school grounds.Attendance may or may not be taken in lectures, but often is for tutorials (and for some tutorials attendance is compulsory and an unexplained absence can result in a fail). Active participation in these activities is a strong predictor of student success. Students are free to come and go from campus at any time.
EnrolmentA parent enrols a child in school. The parent is the primary point of contact. It is compulsory for a child to be enrolled at a school until they are 16 years old.Students are responsible for enrolling at university and in their subjects each session. The student is the primary point of contact and can choose to cancel their enrolment.
Teachers versus academicsTeachers remind students about important dates and deadlines, ensure homework is completed and monitor a student’s progress. Teachers also supervise classroom behaviour – and may intervene as appropriate. They have usually completed an education degree.Students have to keep track of important dates and deadlines, and monitor their own progress. They are treated as adults who understand appropriate behaviour. Lecturers are subject-matter experts who have usually completed a PhD. They are also really approachable people who genuinely care about their students and are willing to help students where needed.
Contact with parentsParents play an important role in their child’s school life. Parents keep in regular contact with teachers to receive updates on their academic progress.University staff, both administrative and teaching, can’t talk to parents (or anyone else) about students or disclose their information, unless the student has signed the appropriate consent form.
Class sizesClass sizes are smaller (around 30 students) and students have one-on-one access to teachers.Classes, particularly lectures, can be larger than school classes. Students often need to arrange to speak with their lecturers outside of class and will be expected to email and make appointments so they are across their course material.
Class timetablesTimetables have fixed hours and days, generally Monday to Friday.Students arrange their own timetable based on their chosen subjects. There will be options to choose tutorial times but these often work on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s important for students, to get the information they need, to sign up for their tutorials.

3. Have open discussions about money

For a lot of students, the transition to university will be the first time they’re responsible for managing their own money without parental support. As a parent you can give them the emotional support and financial know-how so they can feel stable while studying. Budgeting is key. After helping with a budget framework, step back and leave it to your child to make it work. It’s also important to ensure you’re having ongoing and open discussions about finances. Discussion points might include the level of support they can expect from you, whether they need a casual job or creating a monthly budget together. Regular conversations are important, so recap your child’s financial experience with them at the end of each session and look for areas they did well and places to improve.

While we’re talking finances, it’s also a good idea to get familiar with the range of scholarships and grants on offer from Charles Sturt. We understand the costs that come with study and the transition to university. That’s why we make study more affordable for new students. and will continue to do so in the future.

Did you know that the Australian Government also provides financial assistance to eligible students? Programs like Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY support students with fortnightly payments for rent, food and other expenses. Jump online to see if your child is eligible. Hot tip: the application process can be tedious, so make a start as soon as possible.

4. Become familiar with our support services

At Charles Sturt, you child is studying with us – we’re all in this together. From the day you start thinking about further study to the moment you graduate, and later as an alumni, our staff are on hand with the support and advice you need to succeed.

As a parent, it’s a great idea to familiarise yourself with the support services we offer. Student Central (our centralised support service) can connect your child with free help, facilities and advice on:

  • accommodation
  • academic and study support
  • financial support
  • careers
  • health and counselling
  • gender and sexuality support
  • disability support
  • religious or faith-based support.

We want our students to thrive and enjoy their university experience. We support them along their journey with us.

5. Be present

As a parent, you can expect ups and downs while your child is settling into uni life. One minute they might be a pillar of strength and independence, the next they could call in tears. You know how it goes, you’ve been living with a teenager for the last six years. Readjusting to your new role in your child’s life can take time. However, as you and your child become more comfortable and confident in their abilities, things will get easier. Be present. Be available. Guide, rather than pressure and control. Remind your child that you’re both in this together. Support each other on this journey and enjoy the uni experience.

You can find more dedicated information for parents – about Charles Sturt and helping your child transition to university. If you have further questions, you can talk to one of our friendly advisers for support and guidance on all things Charles Sturt, including courses, fees and accommodation.