Uni essentials: 5 ways to prepare your child

Catherine is a mum of three, step-mum to two and also a Charles Sturt University alumna. Four of her kidults have studied, or are still studying at universities across New South Wales. Kidault number five is in the process of deciding whether uni is for them. When it comes to knowing the uni essentials, Catherine has some points for parents who are looking to prepare their child for further education.

You and your child can now book your spot for our 2024 campus Open Days! Join us and check out our campuses, accommodation and state-of-the-art facilities. You'll discover different study options, what uni life is like and what Charles Sturt has to offer.

1.      Begin to discuss what your child would like to study

This may seem like an obvious first step in preparing for uni, but it’s not always the easiest to tick off your uni essentials list. Your child might be fairly certain about what they want to study at uni – or they may have no clue at all. Either way, it’s good to start chatting, as early as your child is ready. This could be from Year 10 onwards, depending on your child.

With my first child the starting question was: what to you want to do? By the time we got to the fifth, we were asking: what are you interested in?

The first version can pressure your child to lock-in one career – which is hard when you’re a teen. The second question opens up a world of possibilities and kicks off positive discussions. Together you can consider your child’s hobbies, strengths and preferences, like indoor office work vs outdoors, people vs data etc.

And be sure to reinforce that change is always possible. The field in which they begin their career most likely won’t be the field they finish in. Plus, they can also investigate changing what they study when at uni.

Kidult number one wanted to be a member of the New South Wales Police Force. Did a year of criminal justice study, but loved law and switched degrees. Anything’s possible!

2.      Grab two copies of the UAC Guide

This Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) Guide is jammed-packed with info that parents can use. It rates highly in the uni essentials kit! Grab this guide when your child is in Year 11 so you’ll have a whole year to become familiar with the admission process and the kinds of degrees that may be available. Then grab two copies of the new guide released when your child is in Year 12. It will contain important dates, the uni courses offered for that year and info on uni open days and early offer programs.

Why two copies? Because your child will take one and you may never see it again. (I’m looking at you Child 1, 3 and 5!)

3.      The early bird gets…the uni spot

Speaking of early offers, make it your business to find out what is being offered by universities. Put it on your uni essentials list now. If your child receives an early offer to study at uni it will help to alleviate the pressure around HSC exams – because they can get a guaranteed spot in their uni course before sitting final exams. It’s every parent’s dream.

The Charles Sturt Advantage early offer program is your child’s chance to get into uni based on work they’ve done in Year 11 and skills they already have. There are three application rounds throughout the year. Some of Charles Sturt’s most competitive courses fill in the earlier rounds – so make sure your child applies early.

Three out of the five kidults received early offers to study at different unis. The benefits were numerous. The greatest being the reduction in final exam stress. When stress decreased, study performance actually increased in our household!

4.      Promote the living on campus experience

Uni life is as much about what happens outside of the classroom as in it. Even if you live near a uni campus, consider the benefits of living on campus. A rich on-campus uni experience is about the three Cs – confidence, connection and co-curricular.

Your child will study with people who have similar interests. They’ll also be on campus with people who have diverse and different interests, career aspirations and views of the world. I believe both sets of people will impact your kidult’s growth, development and confidence.

Our proof? Child 2 and 3 who both “frothed” living on campus. (We guessed this was good.) And child number four who bucked the trend and rented their own place but soon missed the campus vibe.

From the friends they’ll make during Orientation to the inspirational lecturers and tutors who spark your kidult’s interest throughout their studies, they’ll make connections that will last a lifetime. And the quickest way to begin building those connections? Dive into the co-curricular activities on offer. Whether they’re keen on study clubs, social clubs or sports clubs, there’ll be plenty for them to try.

Student council, residential leaders, UniSport Nationals, AFL, rugby, rugby league, soccer, basketball, netball, hockey – we could hardly keep track of it all. But the kidults were happy, healthy and engaged = happy parents.

5.      Learn as much as you can

You wouldn’t buy a car before looking it over and you’d at least do a walk-thru (even if it is online) of any prospective new house. See where I’m heading?

Uni is a big investment for your child. Time, money and grey matter. A correct choice of uni could set them up for life, not only with a job and a career path, but also networks and friendships.

When preparing for uni study, how do you help your child with their first decision? Which uni to choose. Here are three must-dos for your uni essentials list:

  1. Go to university Open Days and Explore Days. Parents are encouraged to visit Charles Sturt with their child and see what’s possible. At different events you can talk to staff and students, check out all the facilities or accommodation and find out about scholarships or costs of uni.
    • With kidult number four, our visit to an Open Day (at a uni that was their third choice) was enough to bump that institution into first choice! Charles Sturt’s Open Days are back on campus this August and September. Book your spot now!
  2. Book a campus tour. As they say, seeing is believing. Taking your own family campus tour is a great way for you and your child to get a feel for uni life. Campus tours can be booked for any working day of the year at each of Charles Sturt’s six campuses – Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Port Macquarie or Wagga Wagga.
    • With kidult number two, two campus tours were needed for them to be sure the fit was right. (One visit in Year 11 and one in Year 12.)
  3. Talk to the experts. Most unis are more than happy for you to email, phone or pop in for a chat – with or without your child. Take them up on the offer!
    • With child number one, we spoke to members of the Charles Sturt team three times during the process. Popped in for an initial ‘we’re new at this uni thing, how does it all work?’ chat. Moved onto a phone call to discuss course options and ended with an email conversation helping us with the admission process. We still send Christmas cards!

Support for all uni essentials every step of the way

We’re here to help. Visit our parent info hub or reach out to our friendly team if you’d like any other uni questions answered.