This is the transcript for the audio All things uni that a parent needs to know

Hi, I’m Jess Claymen and Welcome to your path to UTS.

Your path to UTS

In this episode we’ll be looking at a parents’ experience.

Hi, my name is Lesley Parker, and I’m the mother of Natalie Parker who did a double degree at UTS.

My name is Tim and I have two daughters, one started at UTS and I’m a secondary school teacher here in Sydney.

Tim, Lesley thank you so much for joining us, really appreciate your time.

Could you tell us a little bit about your journey with your kids starting at UTS?

So, Natalie went to a school actually in the Sydney city itself and she really enjoyed the experience of a city school, so UTS which I was aware of had something of the same flavour, so it was always on our radar. And so, we started exploring courses there and visiting a little bit to see what she thought of the campus and what was available.

That is such a big part of choosing where you want to undertake your tertiary studies, is the campus life and being smack bang in the middle of the city is certainly a huge advantage for a lot of UTS students.

Absolutely, and she wasn’t really interested in a traditional sandstone type of University with big fields – she’s not exactly a sporty kid. She did definitely want that city experience and having access to the city was definitely what she was looking for after her high school experience.

Fantastic. Tim, what about you? What was your journey like?

We actually looked at many Universities, particularly with Tutti. Her ATAR allowed her to get into any University she wished, and she went around to all post-HSC, and during that important period of determining which university and the culture of the University I think was really very important to her.

We’d visit the Universities, their Open Days, we’d look at their facilities, she was looking for some kind of conviviality, some type of sense of belonging, she came from a very large school – secondary school, yet in that large school she had a very tight knit cohort of peers and was looking to somehow I (spose) reproduce that culture in which she thrived in a University.

She ended up at UTS for the culture, I think, for the fact that the people who showed her around were students. There was a lot of student involvement in the Open Day and she felt she had this, as I said, this conviviality amongst them, they were students who were in her degree and progressed through the degree that she was looking at and in doing so, could give her an insight and that was what convinced her that UTS was the University for her.

Fantastic. What would you say to parents out there who are listening and who are just helping or trying to help their kids get through this really challenging time in their secondary school education? Their HSC, it’s big, it’s what they’ve been working to for years, it’s a really stressful time. What would you say are your top tips for parents out there who are just trying to help their kids succeed at this big test that’s coming up?

I think that at looking back, the best thing I did for my daughter was actually to reduce the pressure. You know, she was putting enough pressure on herself without us intervening and saying “are you doing this? Are you doing that? Do you think you should be going out this weekend?”.

So it’s really actually about keeping her calm, keeping her fed and watered. You know, making sure was getting some exercise and having a break. Really just constantly, our message to her was, you know, you’ve been working really hard, really not just this year, but in past years, and all we would ever ask from you is to do your best. And so, it wasn’t even about aiming for a certain mark or sort of pushing, you know “you’ve got to do your best, you’ve got to get the highest mark”, it was about saying “you’ve got this, you’ve been working really hard, just do your best now and be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up about every little thing”. I guess some great advice actually that a principal whose school gave really early on was about being slow and steady and consistent. So that’s what she did throughout high school, so in a way that pressure wasn’t there in the last year. She’s just been consistent all the way through.

How about you Tim? What would you say are your top tips for helping people, kind of help their child succeed in their HSC?

Well I concur with Leslie, in that to find balance between motivation and reality, and the reality of the situation can be disastrous if the young person doesn’t thrive under pressure. The support that I really think is important, and it varies with the child, and only the parent can know that child, and the school itself can have some insight and the parents should use all the resources that the school offer.

But it’s the parent and really, it’s the one thing that I think is paramount is the line of communication are kept open. Whether it’s through verbal communication or through physical presence of the parents.

The motivation one I find is a bit difficult because I’m not a driven person, the motivation has to come from the young person as well. I think how you motivate is a tricky one, and really I think its not the values of the parent and Leslie articulated this and I think it’s that the child and that her child had the goal to go to UTS, and I don’t think that either of my daughters had a particular goal, they just sought achievement at the HSC, then they would have a choice after that.

And ATAR or a good ATAR all it gives you is flexibility of choice, and that is the main motivator that I used for both of my daughters, if you achieve at this, then you have the choices of broad spectrum of opportunity and even then not that I stress this, but the HSC is not the end all or be all. This is what I mean about motivation is that it’s going to be fraught if I say to a young person, “ Look It doesn’t matter, and when you’re 25 this will mean nothing, and you can go and do a mature age degree.”. I wouldn’t use that, but it’s something and to a certain young people I certainly would.

Now Tim you were saying your girls were striving to achieve the highest ATAR they could, so they have lots of choice in terms of what they want study. Lesley, your daughter had decided very early on that she wanted to come to UTS specifically, how do you both assists your child in deciding a particular University course?

So, having had a look at 2 or 3 universities, but UTS being a fairly strong one on the radar. Natalie started looking at courses, well we both started looking at courses, and I was more quietly in the background looking at courses, sort of knowing. And she didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted to do all the way through school or the later part of school, it was really in Year 11 and Year 12 that we started talking about it, she was an all-rounder, some what a generalist and we started thinking about, “what might she do?”. And I heard about a brand-new course at UTS called Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, which sounded really interesting and what I read really peak my interest, and I did a little bit of research into that while she was looking at other things.

So, I mentioned it to her, and she was very dismissive, and she batted it away, and I thought, ok I’ll let that lie for a little while. I was still very interested in it and I kept looking around and I came across on the UTS website; a video of actually a student who have done the first year of this particular degree talking about it and it was fantastic! I really enjoyed the video and struck me that, it was really good for Natalie to hear from another student and as Tim said about through open days, hearing from other students is fantastic.

So, I sent her an little email and I don’t think I even commented on my email and just shared the link. And she watched the video and same day she came racing downstairs saying this course looks interesting, I want to find out more about it. So, I guess what I’m saying it, give very gentle nudges, and if I had been too forceful with my first approach to this she might be, “uh oh”, basically saying underneath that I’m making my own decisions here mum. But just a little gentle nudges, don’t hurt and it was a different sort of degree, she initially thought it was a robot degree and she’s not a tech kid and she saw the video and realised it was quite something different than she became interested in it. So yeah, be part of it but my advice would be to be careful it’s a nudge and not a push. I mean we all know what teenagers are like.

Tim about you? How did you go about helping your daughter decide what University course she was going to do?

Again, with what Leslie’s articulated very well is that there is a fine balance. I think you’re right to say Leslie, that to drive your teenager to a particular direction that you desire or that you think is just going to get push back and the whole teen rebellion type post adolescence; it’s not going to be a good thing.

If you desire them to do a particular profession; and having become a secondary school teacher for many years I have seen so many disaster in this scenarios. Where students are forced into degrees or courses that they absolutely have no affinity for, and they’ll spend 5 years and they come out and never use it. They’ll say, “No, this really isn’t me.” After all of that investment and their energy and their time and their youth, now as far as my daughters were concerned, and again this all comes down to individuality.

She had a fairly good knowledge or desire to do law. The communications, the dual degree the communication aspect of it, that again sold, and I know a lot of Universities offer dual degrees now but that particular combination at UTS encouraged her, she was well aware of the diversity that this will allow her in her studies. And its proven and look, in all credit to her its proven exactly correct. UTS has a real type of kinesthetic type of approach to learning, there’s a lot of opportunity to apply your knowledge, the theories backed up by application that suited her learning style and I suppose her desire to engage and give her the greater sense of society and with the culture with the University and the greater community.

She’s had a lot of opportunity to do, she did a semester in Berlin, so she has a lot of opportunity to branch out in an international sense. So, its proved correct but the fact is that she was exposed to, As Leslie said, she was exposed to opportunities and then allowed to choose her own guidance and under her own insight. But that exposure, I’m not taking away from that’s really  important that, than exposure to the options if very very important  because parents have clarity, have a clarity of knowledge and experience and insight to the broader world and that you can’t expect a teenager to have.

Yeah absolutely, and I guess what I’m picking up from both of you is that to open those lines of communication and be quite patient with your kids when they’re trying to make these really big life decisions.  

Yeah, absolutely I think the thing to remember to, is that when they make that transition from high school to University, there not going to have their hands held at University. They are adults, they are independent people and they’ll will treated like that at University and so in a way I knew I had to make sure I was allowing that to happen even in the transition to University, to make sure she took some ownership of decisions, that she was starting to being to behave (well she was already behaving like a young adult) but you know, taking on more and more and more of that independence in life, so I thought this was the time to start doing that, because this is what it was going to be like in the following year and the year after, and the year after that and that.

The other thing we talked about a lot to was actually about what people what we’ll know call in quote marks “the future of work”. So, my profession as a journalist, so I’m reading about and writing about change all the time and again I was sort of aware as perhaps that as the adult in the situation, the world was changing. So, we were sort of very much looking at, you know always taking about what might this degree lead too? What skills will this give me? You know rather than going this is a degree about a particular job necessarily, as I say she was a bit of an allrounder, so what sort of skills would it be good to get from a degree program for the sort of work that might be around the corner in five years’ time, not this year or next year or ten years’ time and so certainly again that was a discussion we had around that Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, which she also combined with a degree in Communications degree as well and the Communications aspect has been fantastic for her to.

Lesley, Tim if you could go back in time to the position of a lot parents are finding themselves in now with their kids coming to the end of high school, looking to go to University, looking at all their options. What would be something you would say you wish you known then, or a really good piece of advice for these parents who are finding themselves in this position?

I think really it is to reassure yourself as a parent that your child will be ok. That in the end, there will be an outcome, I think in December you get the results, there will be an outcome it may be what they wished for or it might be better than they hoped for. It might not be quite what they wished for, but they will be able to work it out. It is part of that process of becoming an adult.

I think the other thing, that I love to tell parents having come to the end of the University part is what an amazing experience you’re in for over the next few years, because they really do change and these next few years, the next three to four years, you’ll see your child going from being a child and someone you call a young adult to really actually being a fully formed human being, you know the really being an adult and it’s sort of a growth period, almost like when they are toddlers – they change and grow so much every year.

So I think as a parent you actually have a great time to look forward to and as I say, they’ll be ok. Whatever happens, they’ll be ok.

Yes I think again, wise words that the process is difficult to have a perspective on when you’re in the middle of it, like many things but the ultimate outcome, if things have gone well and you’ve put in that bit of effort, that firstly you can say I did my best and enjoyed it, but then when you do have this young adult who is motivated and engaged and content not that, that’s going to be all the time as Lesley you were saying that it’s going to be fraught with many highs and lows but ultimately it’s what we look for in life, we don’t want smooth sailing, we don’t want to be living vicariously living through someone else. Yet we do want them to be successful and happy adults and ultimately that’s all we can ask for and I think that perspective is that it is a mere step, it’s like the first days of high school, first days of kindy, the first steps they take, it’s the first words the say. It’s another progress, yet what you see comes out of it is just a wonderful, wonderful validation of one’s effort as a parent I spose.

Is there anything else parents need to know or would be useful in this particular conversation?

My daughter, when I asked her about this sort of stage. She did actually have a little bit of practical advice and the one that stuck in my mind is that look it’s great to take that summer break between the end of HSC and the start the of University, but her tip was you know spend a few days during Summer actually looking at how to reference.

She can’t even remember who gave her this tip, but whoever did it, did her a big favour. She said, “there’s so much you have to think about, in that first year as a new student but actually knowing how to reference is just one thing you won’t have to think about”.

Enjoy your summer break, but maybe just start thinking about somethings you could do to be ready for University.

I probably again speaking again to my daughter. It’s take the opportunities when you’re in University to create a balance and there are so many opportunities, there is 2SER, there’s all types of outreach, of social justice or organisations and the degree is not your only motivation or your only reason to be going to University, it’s to become a broad, well read, well experienced. As I said my daughter has taken the opportunity to go study overseas and if possible take those many kinds of opportunities that you can take that are enrichment as well as offering your child the qualifications of the degree when you come out. It’s the culture of University.

Lesley, Tim thank you so much for your time.

Really enjoyed it

No worries

That was Tim Copping and Lesley Parker

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