Saturday 1 October 2016

It's CAO offers day and I'm a parent... get me out of here!

You are your child's greatest ally this week - and they know it

Patrice Twomey

Published 17/08/2015 | 06:00

Patrice Twomey: 'Perspective is important at this time and, as a parent, you are best placed to put context around this much-hyped week'. Photo: Sean Curtin.
Patrice Twomey: 'Perspective is important at this time and, as a parent, you are best placed to put context around this much-hyped week'. Photo: Sean Curtin.
'Aiming Higher', by Patrice Twomey.

The day of the first round offers has arrived. Hopefully your son or daughter is happy with their offer. If so, you can now get on with the practicalities of seeing them off to college. For those parents of students who are disappointed with their offer, you are negotiating a new challenge.

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However, there is no need for panic or rash decision-making. Your child has a full week to consider their CAO options and there are lots of ways in which you can help and guide your child through this stage.

Firstly, allow your child the time and space to feel their disappointment. Tempting though it might be, don't dive into 'fix-it' mode. You may be feeling stressed and anxious yourself but try not to burden them with this. It's not for them to assuage your feelings.

Over the next day or two, listening to your child will be more important than talking to them. This is a very effective way of acknowledging their disappointment and helping them to work through it. Many students also find the support of their peers helpful, so encourage them to spend time with their friends at this time.

After these hectic first days, gently introduce the first-round offer to a conversation. If the course was further down their lists of preferences, your son or daughter may know very little about it. So, it's a good idea to encourage them to research the course on the relevant on-line prospectus, getting them to focus on the course content and structure.

This is a good way of prompting practical thinking. When discussing the course, don't fall into the trap of thinking that they are 'wasting their points surplus' by opting for a course with a lower points requirement than they have achieved.

In my experience of third-level employability at the University of Limerick (UL), decisions based on interests and strengths produce much more positive educational and career-related outcomes for students. In a very limited number of cases, students may be offered one of their higher preference courses in round two. This, however, represents a very small percentage.

The best advice, therefore, is for students to base their decision on the merits of the first round offer. Remember too, of course, that just because they have received an offer doesn't mean they have to accept it. There is little sense in accepting a course in which they have no interest.

Perspective is very important at this time and, as a parent, you are best placed to put context around this much-hyped week. Encourage your child to see higher education qualifications as a first step in their future career, rather than something that will somehow define their future.

After all, future graduates will change careers an average of 11 times during their working life. And remind them of their unique talents, abilities and strengths, a set of attributes that will stand them in good stead in whatever path they choose.

The good news for parents is that you are consistently cited as being the most valuable influence - by some distance - both on your child's career decision-making and in supporting them to reach their full potential.

You are their greatest ally on this week's journey - even if they don't say it, they know it. So, approach this week with confidence, secure in the knowledge that you can make a positive impact.

Patrice Twomey is Director, Cooperative Education & Careers Division, University of Limerick and author of Aiming Higher, a guide for parents and guardians to support their children in higher education choice.

Irish Independent

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