How to manage your parents and their views on university and jobs
If your parents don't agree with your choice of career, apprenticeship or university degree, it may feel like they don't support you. However, it could just be concern about whether you're making the right decision, and if you understand what is stressing them, it will be much easier to reassure them and win them over to your way of thinking. Bear in mind that they are likely to be heavily influenced by their own experiences.
Things your parents are likely to be worried about:
- Whether the path you are thinking of taking will lead to financial stability
- Whether the path you are thinking of taking will lead to you being happy
- Possibly, whether the path you are thinking of taking will lead to you having the sort of job that they would like you to have (though they might not admit this!)
- Whether you will be able to change direction later on if you want or need to
- Whether you are clued-up enough to make good decisions or if they need to guide you
- Whether you will be able to climb the career ladder as well and as quickly as those who have made a different choice
- The amount of debt you will have if you go to university
- The unknown – even if you are considering a route that is similar to the one they took, they will be aware that things have changed since they were your age.
How to reassure your parents and gain their support
To reassure your parents, compile evidence that you have done your research. Bookmark key webpages you’ve visited and keep notes from conversations you’ve had so you’ve got these to hand.
The following should go down well with them:
- Knowing that you’ll be happy with the career option(s) open to you once you finish your degree or apprenticeship. Make sure you’re clear what these options will be. You might find this information on the university or employer’s website. If it’s not there, contact the admissions tutor or recruiter and ask if they have details they can send you. For graduate careers, our list of degree subjects you need for different careers will also help. Run your parents through the options. If your choice would lead to one specific career, explain why this career would suit you.
- If you want to do a degree, knowing what the employment/unemployment rate is for recent graduates on that course – take a look at the unistats website.
- If you want to join an apprenticeship or other school leaver programme, knowing that you will receive training that leads to nationally recognised qualifications. Look for this information on the relevant pages of the employer’s website. If it isn’t there, get in touch and ask about this.
- Knowing that you will be able to afford to live. If you’re going to work, find out how much you would be paid, work out roughly how much you would take home each month after tax and national insurance deductions, and research how much rent or travel would cost. If you want to go to university, use the gov.uk website to calculate how much you could borrow and whether you’d be eligible for a grant. Lots of universities also provide information on their websites of what living costs are like for students at that particular institution. Many students need some financial support from their parents – if it looks like you would, be open about this.
- If you’re looking to start an apprenticeship, your parents will be keen to know whether you will be able to progress as far and as fast as a graduate joining the same organisation. Ask the recruiter or HR manager about this and make notes (if you speak to them) or keep relevant emails so you can show these to your parents.
- Having a rough idea of how much you might earn when you finish your degree or apprenticeship. Again, the unistats website includes some information about how much previous graduates from different courses earn. Employers don’t tend to publish this information, but may be willing to tell you if you ask.
Catch your parents at the right time
Your parents might be feeling stressed about the need for you to make decisions about the future. So try to discuss things at a time when they (and you) are calm. You could arrange a time to do this or seize the day when they seem to be in a receptive mood.
If your parents ambush you at a bad time, try the following tactic. Agree wholeheartedly that it would be a good thing to have a discussion but explain why now isn’t a good time – perhaps you want to find out a few more facts first or have an essay to finish for tomorrow. Then suggest a time in the near future (‘How about Wednesday evening?’) to show that you’re not just trying to get them off your back and stick to it. You never know, you might even impress your parents with this mature approach and add to the impression that you’re grown up enough to make good decisions.
Where to find back up
If you need back up, you can refer your parents to our dedicated advice section for parents and teachers, which is designed to address some of the concerns they may have. If you are planning to take up a place on a school leaver programme, check whether there is any information aimed at parents on the employer’s website.