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Worried about DS's first choice uni -WWYD?

(146 Posts)
IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 10:11:56

DS didn't get his first choice (Oxbridge), but he has four other offers though. Three are at well-known, well respected universities. Two of them consistently rank in the top 4-6 across all the league tables for his subject. The third is typically about 10/11.
His fourth offer ( uni Z) is usually somewhere between 12 to 25 in the rankings. It has a good reputation for his subject, in fact that department is something of a flagship for the University. DS spent a week on a course there over the summer and had a good time.
Since then they have been bombarding him with marketing materials saying how much they hope he will join them next year.
Now he is saying he thinks this will be his first choice, but DH and I are concerned that he is not making a rational, informed decision but is being influenced by the fact he has spent time there and "knows " it.

I know league tables aren't the most important thing, but I can't help feeling that DS can do better than this university. The typical grades achieved by people who start the course are much lower than his predictions – think ABB rather than A*A*AA. Uni Z has a reputation for accepting grades several grades lower than their offer. I'm worried that he will be bored or not find the course challenging enough, or not find like minded individuals.
Unfortunately he is being quite arsey about it though, and DH and I don't want to back him into a situation where he chooses this university to 'spite us'.
Of course his decision is important, but we want him to make it based on good, rational reasons not just a gut feel from a holiday placement.
We still have some offer holders days to go to, but DS has already dismissed one of these unis as being 'too cold and wet'.hmm

WWYD?

Butterymuffin Tue 12-Dec-17 10:18:25

He likes the place and you've said it has a good reputation for its subject. That's a good enough reason to choose it. Let him make his own decisions.

IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 10:26:08

His other offers have even better reputations though? I wouldn't mind if I felt DS could articulate the reasons why he wants to go to Z, but I fear he has just been sucked in by the marketing.
Could be an expensive £50k mistake ☹️

Think it's our role as parents to be sure he's making his decision for well-thought out, rational reasons?

Butterymuffin Tue 12-Dec-17 10:38:50

Reputation isn't the only thing that's important. Oxford, for example has a world-leading reputation but also high rates of mental health difficulties and suicide attempts by students. You keep mentioning the marketing, but your DS has spent time there and had a sense of what the course will be like. Surely that's what's attracting him, not the marketing? I think you're underestimating him.

You can try to help his decision making process but it's still down to him.

thesandwich Tue 12-Dec-17 10:44:56

Has he looked at graduate prospects/ careers beyond uni and average salaries? That will tell you so much. But he needs to be somewhere he wants to be.

IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 10:47:53

Battery – I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure it is the course that is attracting him to uni Z. He went there with two friends from school in the summer and I think he is just equating having had a great time with his mates as being the reason to make his choice. I'm really worried he's treating it a bit like buying a jumper – he's seen one he quite likes and just thinks that's fine I'll go for that!

ragged Tue 12-Dec-17 10:49:17

12-25th is not bad for most subjects, or is 25th very bottom of the league table?

You should tell us what subject/Uni.

Plexie Tue 12-Dec-17 10:58:32

What's your definition of "well thought-out, rational reasons"? Presumably not the fact his decision is based on actual experience of that university.

You do realise that going to university involves 3/4 years of working and living there? It's not just a way of buying the right to state "I went to University Fabulous" on one's CV. Having a good 'feel' for the place is important.

The league tables you mention, are they subject-based or university-based? 12-25 in the university rankings is high. Not so good in subject rankings though, but you say his subject has a good reputation.

Is his subject one that has direct career prospects (eg medicine)?

Needmoresleep Tue 12-Dec-17 11:04:44

Peers can also be important. Is your DS naturally studious. Is he likely to want to get into his subject if others around him are into theirs.

If the prevailing culture is a party one, and plenty of students, especially those on the softer degrees, are likely to get OK degrees whether they attend much teaching or not, it can be tough for a student who is there to study, however interesting the course sounds.

Can he see more of the others, via offer days or similar? Or can you find someone slightly older to tell him that a party culture is OK for the first few weeks, but after that being woken regularly at 3.00am by anti-social flatmates is tedious, as is getting up to discover the night owls have drunk your milk and eaten your bread/cereals, and unless you have generous parents, everything eventually grinds to a halt as you cant afford many large nights out. At which point life is better if you are on an interesting and challenging course with similarly engaged peers.

Plan B. Can you suggest a (reasonably structured) gap year. This will allow him to get some growing up out of his system and, assuming he does some minimum wage work, for him to have a better understanding of the value of money.

IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 11:06:46

The rankings I quoted are subject rankings, so no, 12-25th is not so great for a student predicted A*A*AA.

I don't want to say which subject/ uni as there will then be lots of people saying 'well my DD was very happy there' etc.

The well-thought out/rationale reasons I think he should be looking at are things like:
- structure of course/ module options/ exam vs assessed work
- relationships with industry/ opportunities for year out/placement
- research funding
- employment prospects post uni / average salaries after 1 yr etc
And so on

The fact that he can't tell us about any of these makes me think he's just being lazy...

PilarTernera Tue 12-Dec-17 11:07:59

You have to let him make his own choice. If you pressurise him into doing something, he could end up resenting you and your relationship will suffer. By all means offer your opinion, but then leave him to it.

It's OK to choose a university for social reasons. My dd chose her uni partly because she loved the city when she visited. As pp said, he needs to be somewhere he wants to be. He is the one who will be spending 3 or more years of his life there.

LIZS Tue 12-Dec-17 11:08:35

Top 25 is usually fine for all but a few niche subjects. Bear in mind some of the tables are skewed by campaigns against student questionnaires and the measures are not always to relevant to all subjects within the same uni. However there will be chopping and changing cone summer so he should not rely on mates being there to make his decision.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 12-Dec-17 11:14:11

It has a good reputation for his subject, in fact that department is something of a flagship for the University.
Some places rest on their laurels whereas 'up and coming' institutions have a lot of new investment and fresh teaching ideas.
Your DS obviously took to it.

DS has already dismissed one of these unis as being 'too cold and wet'

Wondering which that is!

MargotsDevil Tue 12-Dec-17 11:17:44

Your attitude towards his potential fellow students isn't great tbh. It comes across he will only have carried out "rational thought" if he selects one of the other unis. Exam grades do not equal type of person in my experience.

My university was ranked somewhat below another university in the same town (think an old university v a more modern but not "new" ex-poly establishment) but the course I was on was taught to a FAR better level at my uni. In fact the lecturers/tutors employed by my uni also delivered the course for the old uni...

IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 11:17:48

One of his teachers at school also went to Uni Z (20 years ago!) and I think he is influencing DS 😡

We still have offer holder days so we can go back and see the other unis again. I just wish he would be more open-minded at this stage.
He is not a social animal and I don't think Uni Z would suit him at all. He tends to be motivated by being in competition with his peers and I think he would just coast at Z.

IsThisForReal Tue 12-Dec-17 11:27:09

Perhaps I'm not explaining this as well as I could. If DS could say to me I really want to go to Z because....and explain what he is impressed by and what he feels about it then I wouldn't have a problem, but as it is he just kind of shrugs and says he thinks it's 'fine.'
I think this is too big a decision to drift into without knowing why!

SuburbanRhonda Tue 12-Dec-17 11:28:49

I just wish he would be more open-minded at this stage.

You mean you wish he’d change his mind and go to the uni you want him to go to.

Just back off, OP. No wonder he’s digging his heels in.

MaidenMotherCrone Tue 12-Dec-17 11:34:48

Good god, I think you'd do better by respecting you son and his right to make choices for himself.

You sound very controlling and stifling.

BubblesBuddy Tue 12-Dec-17 11:41:27

You cannot direct what effort they put in at university. So if they coast or work all hours is not down to you or even for you to influence much. He is obviously used to being nearly top (or top) in his subjects at school and possibly would like to stay near the top of the tree and take the easy route at university. This may well make him happy. At university I think you work for yourself and it is not like school where you are pushed by others around you in the same way.

He is displaying a somewhat immature attitude though. Go to the other offer days and try and make a spreadsheet of pros and cons of each university. This should include what students actually do when they leave the course. It may also depend on what he wants to do and how well each university may facilitate that. Do consider each city/town and what else it has to offer besides the university and where he will feel comfortable living. There may be other well qualified students and he could gravitate towards them as like minded people. I would also get him to look at the reputation of the whole university. I know science subjects tend to be more course led, but prestige of the university counts too. Seems odd that someone who applied for Oxford now does not want prestige at all. I would also look at the opportunities each course offers. What differentiates them? Which course really suits his talents and future needs?

The "lesser" universities do "hard sell" because they have to. They want bright students and do not want to fill up with lower qualified ones. He has possibly also been swayed by teaching/contact hours which can be high where more students do not have the high grade A levels. The style of teaching may also have swayed him and also shiny new facilities of course. Would he consider what employers are looking for when it comes down to grad jobs? Some employers at the top level are very picky about who they employ and look at top ranking universities as a big plus on a cv. Do you have evidence to show him that the other universities are better placed for a good career.

I do think quite a few students look for the easier option now in the belief that "cream rises". If you are good you get to the top anyway. Does he want to be like his teacher and therefore follow him/her or does he aspire to a better paid job? That may unlock his enthusiasm for elsewhere! Ultimately though, if you push him into something he does not like he will blame you forever.

RockyRoadster Tue 12-Dec-17 11:43:39

Perhaps he wishes you could be more open minded as well?

pallisers Tue 12-Dec-17 11:43:50

I find these responses really interesting as there isn't a parent I know (I have one child in uni, 2 in last couple of years of high school) who wouldn't have exactly the same concerns as the OP and who would expect their kid to make a choice having at least considered the kind of criteria OP listed in a later post and think hard about choosing a lower ranked college. No one thinks it is controlling and stifling. Everyone thinks they are doing their best to give the best possible start to their children. maybe the cost of college has something to do with it.

Needmoresleep Tue 12-Dec-17 11:47:51

It also depends whether you are talking about science or humanities. A lecture room full of students with A* in maths will cover a lot more ground than a room where many only scraped a B. And employers recruiting students in part for their technical skills, do know. There is a world of difference between Imperial, say, and the fifteenth ranked University in many subjects. More so if the employer is international, and really has not heard of many "schools" beyond Oxbridge/London.

It does not mean that it is impossible to make the journey from a good top 15 University to wherever you want to go, but it will be harder. If might mean a two year Masters, rather than one, etc. And it is a lot easier if peers have the same aspirations as you do.

(I admit though that this is a bit circular. One of the reasons DS has done well in London is that he has picked up on the aspirations and work ethic of his peers. If he had gone elsewhere he may have been equally happy. However his ambitions may not have been as high. The correlation between "sucess" and happiness and which should be the aim, is a different argument altogether.)

PricillaQueenOfTheDesert Tue 12-Dec-17 11:50:47

You have to let him make the decision, or do you intend to make all of his decisions for him once he is actually at uni too?

Oscha Tue 12-Dec-17 11:50:51

When I went to university, 15 years ago, I went to the no. 1 for my subject. It’s no longer no. 1 (and in fact no longer top 10). These things change, and reputation really isn’t everything. I think him basing his decision on where he thinks he’ll be happiest is sensible.

ragged Tue 12-Dec-17 11:58:18

I started at a university that is ranked about No. 7 in world (is outside of UK,).

I had one Uni year of getting great grades but feeling lost about my future. Had a gap year. Then went back to Uni-you-never-heard-of.

My parents were devastated, my decision couldn't possibly be well-informed. I had some tangible reasons, but my parents thought they were unimportant so didn't recognise I had them. I was a conscientious hard-worker, not that sociable, yet I decided on the Uni that had the reputation as Number One Party Uni within 800 mile radius.

30 yrs later I have zero regrets. I got a great degree, got into a great field (not available at high-rank Uni), & made great decisions for me. I am The Parent Pallisers Doesn't Know.

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