If your child’s on the cusp of moving from high school to university, there’s a good chance your household’s in a high state of anxiety. For your son or daughter, it may feel like their entire future is riding on achieving the right ATAR score. Here’s where your capacity to offer some well-informed perspective and reassurance can help your child navigate this daunting – and exciting – transition, regardless of their final results.
Let’s explore how you can guide your child through to this next phase of their lives.
Before results are released
Familiarise yourself with the application process
Even if your child knows exactly which course they’d like to enrol in, it’s important to set aside some time to get to know how the VTAC preferencing system works (especially the key dates). It’s also useful to be familiar with the alternative pathways or entry schemes that could play a vital role in helping your child enrol in their dream course.
Support your child to pursue their passions
As a parent, one of the most valuable forms of advice you can offer is the knowledge that the path to a rewarding career takes many forms.
Encourage your child to consider courses that align with their passions, rather than what they think they ‘should do’.
This approach will give them the confidence to choose subjects that draw on their strengths and character attributes, which will serve them better in the long run. After all, further study is about more than gaining a qualification – it’s an opportunity for your child to expand their horizons, learn to think critically, make connections and build an identity around a new pursuit.
Make the most of alternative pathways
Our experts recommend that students think beyond a linear trajectory to university. For this reason, it’s worth exploring pathways that allow your child to reach their destination by embracing detours along the way. For example, many students who aren’t able to enter their desired course find that enrolling in a course with similar foundational subjects can help them transfer into their preferred course in their second year of university. A mid-year entry to our popular Aspire program is another option for students with a proven commitment to giving back to their community. Bridging pathways through VET or TAFE also provide alternatives for students who didn’t achieve the required entry score for a specific course.
Focus on efforts over results
For many young people, the fear of disappointing their parents will be much stronger than any disappointment over their results. Remind your child how proud you are of the hard work they’ve put in to complete Year 12.
Take this opportunity to let your child know that grades do not define their self-worth.
There are plenty of people who don’t get the marks they hoped for, who go on to bright futures by leveraging attributes that aren’t as easily measured by essays and exams. In fact, today’s employers are placing increasing emphasis on the importance of human-centred ‘soft skills’ when it comes to hiring new graduates.
On results day: offer non-judgemental support
How you react to results day (Friday 15 December) will impact your child almost as much as the score itself. Here are some common-sense tips to get you both through.
Listen and empathise
For the first day or two, allow your child time process their results. Provide a sounding board if they want it, but give them their space. When your child is ready to speak, let them drive and initiate these conversations – there may be a lot of confusion and uncertainty with the outcome, especially if they didn’t quite achieve the score they were hoping for.
Allow them to feel what they’re feeling
If your child has met or exceeded their own expectations, take time to simply celebrate with them before moving on to talk of future plans. If not, it’s crucial to try to avoid making negative comments about what they could have done differently, or dismissing their feelings prematurely with well-meaning ‘look on the bright side’ sentiment. Rather, acknowledge their feelings and tell your child how proud you are of the effort that’s led to this point.
Provide support, not advice
As much as you may want to help your child make the ‘right choice’ about their future, they must ultimately feel a sense of ownership and confidence in their decision. Let them know you’ll support them in their decision-making by accompanying them to Advisory Day and helping them to consider all the study options available to them.
Post-results: focus on the future
After your child has had time to process their results, it’s time for decisions about changing preferences. This time is especially fruitful for students who didn’t achieve the ATAR they were hoping for.
If your child is really set on a dream course, there’s no reason to remove its rightful place at the top of the preference list – but this is the time to explore alternative pathways to achieve the same outcome and enter some ‘pathway’ courses as secondary preferences.
Alternately, the release of ATAR results may have catalysed a broadening of your child’s ideas about their future. Enjoy discussing a range of options and help your child understand that any one of them could be great.
If you’re after extra guidance and more specific advice about your child’s situation, talk to our experts: