Applying to university is an exciting time, full of anticipation for the future and the prospect of opportunity, but there's no doubt that the process can lead to stress and nerves for not only the student but for their parents as well.
SoGlos and Hartpury University round up some helpful advice, from considering finances to managing expectations, to ensure your child's application experience is a positive one — and memorable for all the right reasons.
It can be difficult to know where to start with the university application process, but it is easier that you might think. Starting the research process early can save on stress and anxiety, while building excitement as you explore the variety of options available.
Order some prospectuses online, or have a click around the university websites together to open your mind to what's out there and what might be the right fit for your child.
The UCAS application process is fairly straightforward, but allowing plenty of time to explore and understand the website and its features means you won't miss any crucial deadlines. The deadline for applications for 2024 undergraduate courses is 6pm on Wednesday 31 January 2024.
With over 160 universities in the UK, students are spoilt for choice when it comes to narrowing down your choices to just five for your UCAS application. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting campuses in person.
Most universities — including Hartpury University — offer open days that include a tour around the facilities, the halls of residence and student recreational spaces, so families can see first-hand what to expect while living and studying.
Lecturers and support staff are also available to chat to, as well as current students, in order to really get a feel for student satisfaction and the support available at each institution.
Consider course options
Your child has found the subject they excel at and are passionate about, so now it's time to seek out all the courses within that subject area — and there will be many.
It's also important to consider which institution to choose in terms of the courses they offer, whether they put emphasis on more practical-based teaching methods or theoretical, and how each course measures performance and success, such as, through exams or course work.
There may be universities that you hadn't considered for a certain subject area. Hartpury University is well-known for its hugely successful agriculture, animal care, veterinary nursing, equine and sporting programmes, but it also recently announced the launch of its new degree courses in Business Management and Biological Sciences, available for Gloucestershire students looking to study at a top university while still living at home.
The cost-of-living crisis is a huge challenge for many families across the UK, but there are options and resources out there to help you plan financially for studying at university.
Parents can help their child budget for application costs, such as UCAS fees; but, if studying at a university away from home turns out not to be the right path, Hartpury University offers everything needed for students in and around Gloucestershire so they can stay near friends and family — which can save money and stress.
Loans and grants are available to apply for through the government's student finance services, but it's important to create your application in plenty of time, to avoid any delays in getting tuition and maintenance payments.
Maintain balance to manage stress
While it's important to remain focused on the application process, such as writing an excellent personal statement, gaining references from teachers and doing as much research as possible, it's also important for parents to allow and encourage relaxation, time for fun and time for socialising.
Keep in mind all the many positive aspects of university life to come, including the opportunities to make lifelong friends, take part in enrichment and extra-curricular activities, while learning new skills that could shape and fulfilling career that your child is passionate about.
Wellness techniques such as meditation and self-care can come in handy for families when it comes to accepting when things don't go as planned and the stress of a big transition for young people, but setting time aside for fun activities, hobbies and quality time together is also a great way to relieve the pressure of applying for university.
Set realistic expectations
Regardless of preparation, remember that setbacks happen to us all. In many cases, such setbacks open new doors and often give a nudge in the right direction — leading to new opportunities that may not have been previously considered.
While it's not the end of the world if your child doesn't get accepted into their first choice of university, it can certainly be a huge disappointment if they have their hearts set on a certain institution or course.
By setting realistic expectations and making sure students understand the application process, parents can help ease the blow of not receiving an offer from their most desired university.
With five choices available to add to a UCAS application, it's worth ensuring that all five universities are options that you and your child would be happy with. If they miss out on their first choice, their second choice can still be a great consolation prize. There's also a Clearing process, offering plenty of last-minute options in a variety of subject areas.
Keep up the support throughout the transition
The leap to higher education from sixth form or college is exciting but also sometimes daunting for many students, so parents can help by keeping a positive outlook on the transition, as well as helping with collecting school supplies such as new stationery, a new bag, or even a new laptop — and there are plenty of refurbished and pre-loved outlets available, so it doesn't have to break the bank.
Ultimately, talking to your child is the best way to make sure you're aware of how your child is feeling and if they need a gentle push or an extra hug to reach their academic goals.