Information, advice and guidance
Parents/ carers

Having conversations with parents and carers about Higher Education

You will be familiar with talking to parents and carers of students to support attainment and learning, but what do these conversations sound like when the focus shifts to supporting student progression to Higher Education?

Higher Education - Post-18 opportunities

As students begin to make decisions about what their next steps will be, there are a number of opportunities to consider in relation to their abilities and aspirations. In addition to your input, parents and carers are often keen to play a positive role in supporting students to explore their options and make informed decisions. However, for many parents, this can be a daunting prospect.

Parents and carers may be familiar with various post-18 opportunities available to students, though this is an ever-developing landscape that can be difficult to navigate. When working with parents and carers, it is crucial to avoid making assumptions about their levels of awareness or understanding of what is available. Those supporting young people may discourage them from applying to university if they lack understanding of Higher Education themselves. Others may not be aware that while progressing to university is the right decision for some, it isn’t necessarily right for others. A variety of options are available for students such as deferring their application for the following year or pursuing more work-based training routes such as apprenticeships. There are a wide range of post-18 options to suit different individuals and by providing clear and unbiased information, advice and guidance, parents and carers can be equipped to best support students in making the decisions that are right for them.


Although you have annual routines to support student progression, parents are often unaware of the extent of the work that you do with students and the associated timescales. It is vital that parents and carers recognise when students will be introduced to the UCAS process and consequently the timings of associated events such as summer open days. This ensures that parents and carers can support students in opportunities to explore many different aspects of courses and universities, before completing their UCAS application or finalising their personal statement. There are a number of other time-sensitive aspects of applying to Higher Education that parents and carers may also not be aware of, particularly if students are applying to more competitive courses or Russell Group Universities. These include preparing for additional admissions tests such as UCAT or BMAT, meeting both internal school/college and UCAS deadlines, preparing for interviews, or undertaking MOOCs and EPQs. It is therefore key that those supporting students are aware of relevant timescales and informed and involved throughout the cycle.


Although you will have a good handle on many terms and acronyms often used in relation to Higher Education, these can often be intimidating to others. While not making assumptions and actively trying to make information accessible, a useful point of reference for those less familiar is the UCAS Terms Explained webpage

Research into Higher Education

While some might feel they have a good understanding of what HE can offer, this is likely to be in the context of somebody else, or a reflection of their own experience. Information, advice and guidance about Higher Education and tools used to research different options should aim to dispel any misconceptions or preconceived ideas that parents or carers may have.

The number of options and therefore different sources of information can be overwhelming for parents and carers; we would recommend they look at our blog post about the best sources of information, which contains useful information and signposting for conducting research. Effective research and preparation supported by parents and carers can ensure that students make informed decisions and are confident in their applications.

It is key that parents and carers understand the importance of different areas of research such as supporting students in looking beyond course names to ensure that application choices align with interests and career aspirations. It is also crucial to recognise that different courses and universities may require specific entry grades, subjects and qualifications and appreciate that meeting these requirements will ensure that students have the correct level of knowledge for their studies. Parents and carers also need to recognise that ultimately, students will need to choose an insurance choice from their offers, so it is important that not all application choices have the same entry requirements. 

Attainment and success

Information, advice and guidance should be provided for parents and carers that outlines the whole application process including tracking applications using the UCAS Hub, results day and Clearing. While Clearing is not something the majority of students will access, it can be the driver of a lot of apprehension not only for those receiving results but also for their parents and carers too. The What Is Clearing? resource on the UCAS website is a very useful point of reference.

Further reading

> UCAS Undergraduate: Advice for Parents and Guardians



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