Written by Pete, Parent/Carer Ambassador at the University of Suffolk
It’s been four years since my daughter, Ali, was in Year 13. I can’t believe that my son, George, is now going through the same process of being in his last year at school and thinking about what he wants to do.
In some ways it’s easier for George because he was interested in what Ali was doing and can remember what she had to do. He’s spoken to her about how she made decisions and how she coped. It’s easier for me too, because I’ve got an idea of what needs to be done.
It’s a pivotal year. Your children are turning 18 and becoming adults; they are socialising more with their friends and becoming more independent. They can vote; please encourage them to register so that they have a say in their future, however they intend to vote. They are becoming more responsible for taking decisions which will have a lasting impact on their lives.
As carers and parents, you can help by trying to take some pressure off them in a significant part of their lives. If things don’t go well when they get their results in August, it may seem like the end of the world, like that first break-up with your teenage boyfriend or girlfriend, but there will always be other options: retakes, apprenticeships, other courses, jobs, voluntary work, travel.
Ali was lucky in that she knew what she wanted to do – sport psychology. After visiting various universities, she had a definite place that she wanted to go. She was also fortunate in that she had a fall back option of an unconditional offer at her second choice which she would have been happy to go to. However, she really wanted to go to her first choice university and the grades she needed were achievable and realistic. They acted as an incentive for her to carry on working hard to achieve them, which she did. George has just received offers from his choices and again, although he needs A grades, if he continues to work hard, they are attainable.
What was and is my role? Really not that different from previous years. As parents, we naturally try to support our children, who are all different individuals with various personalities, and what works with one may not work for another. As with many things, common sense applies; these are the things I tried and am trying to do in supporting them through Year 13:
- Take an interest in how they are getting on with their schoolwork, so that they can open up about any problems or concerns they have. I find mealtimes a good time usually, but don’t put too much pressure on them
- Accompany them to university open days if they want you to be there
- Be approachable and respect their right not to want to discuss things but let them know that you are always there should they want to discuss something. Make sure you listen to them
- Ask them about their applications, so that deadlines are met, both internally with schools and colleges for references and with applications and externally with universities
- Encourage them to balance their time between carrying on with their studies and completing their applications
- Make sure that you meet your deadlines too with your responsibilities, such as student funding applications and keep your children informed
- Discuss the option of a year out. Ali did consider this and she contacted her first choice university at an early stage asking whether they would defer for a year. They replied quickly and said yes. In the end she didn’t take a year out, but if your child is wavering about what to do please encourage them to consider this. They can do something relevant to their course, gain some valuable experience and go to university refreshed and a little more mature a year later
- Encourage them to have a balanced life. Go to school or college, do the necessary homework and revision, but also have other interests and socialise with friends (not just on social media)
- Stay healthy. Eat and drink well, exercise, get enough sleep. George is always telling me that 18 year olds need nine hours of sleep a day
- On exam days, make sure your child has a good breakfast. Recent research suggests that those who have a good breakfast perform better in their exams
- Encourage them to go to taster days. George knows he wants to do civil engineering, but after open days, he still has three universities he likes equally. He is booking onto taster days, so that he can get a better feel for each place before making his final decision
Year 13 can be a stressful time, but it is also incredibly exciting. 17 and 18 year olds have opportunities to choose interesting courses and career options. With our understanding and support, we can help to give them the best chance to achieve their dreams.
Pete, Parent/Carer Ambassador