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What to do if your child doesn’t want to go to university

Got your heart set on uni qualifications for your child? Don’t worry, there are lots of options if your child doesn’t want to go to university

So you’ve helped your child through high school and now they’re unexpectedly telling you uni might not be for them? 

Time to take a deep breath and have a chat with your child about next steps. Forcing them down the university path is unlikely to end well, so a chat with them about why they’re not as keen on uni as you are is a great place to start.

It may be that they’re worried they won’t get the ATAR they need for the course they want, they might have chatted with a friend who had a bad experience at uni, or it could be they don’t want to take on a HECS debt.

RELATED: Don’t stress, your ATAR isn’t the final call

It could be as simple as they’re just not ready to decide what to do next – a completely common state of being for a teen!

A gentle nudge toward considering all their options could help. Here are a few to consider.

Short courses

Year 12 is hectic, so your child will probably need a proper break to rest their brain and recharge the batteries for any more learning. After that, there are plenty of short courses in person and online they could consider to help narrow their areas of interest – even if just to work out what they’re not into!


Another great way for your child to help narrow down their interests is with a fee-free TAFE course. They’ll get a feel for if a trade path is for them without the upfront bill!

Apprenticeship or traineeship

Apprenticeships and traineeships combine the best of both learning and earning.

You get to study at TAFE working towards a VET qualification certificate, and work on-the job, studying and earning a wage. In some cases, the government will even cover your training fees. 

Consider a Defence pathway

If your child doesn’t want to go to university but the idea of serving their country appeals, then Defence offers a large variety of options that can include further study. They can get a taste of Defence life via the Defence Work Experience Program.

Try out a university Open Day

If your child isn’t completely decided on not going to uni, getting them along to a university Open Day could make all the difference, They’ll be able to chat to other students, see what it’s like to go to classes and feel the buzz of a uni campus.

Gap year

Did we mention already that Year 12 is hectic? There’s a reason many students choose a gap year before taking on any further learning. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to support your child, or they can take on a job in retail or hospitality to help pay the bills while they consider what to do next, then why not encourage a gap year?

A 2007 study found Australian students who deferred university had higher marks than students who started uni straight after school. 

Keep an open mind

Uni isn’t for everyone, and your young adult might try a bunch of different things before settling on something that works. Having an open mind as they work it out for themselves can make all the difference. Here are some helpful tips for supporting a young person to feel safe, heard, reassured and empowered.

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