Katie: The friends and families guide to university
‘Everything in life is easier when your siblings do it first’, Joseph Gordon Levitt once said. For me, my older sister was the first to travel overseas, get a driver’s license and buy a car. Which is why I was so happy for her when she applied and was accepted into USQ. Not only was she the first to go out of the two us, Emma was the first in our whole family to go to university.
As a family, we were so supportive of Emma's endeavours and her choice to go to uni was one that we encouraged whole-heartedly, but we had no idea how we could help her achieve her goals. We wanted Emma to make her own path and pursue the career of her dreams, but we really had no clue how to support her. It was tough, as we had no personal experience with tertiary studies. Together, we supported Emma in different ways by doing our own research into university or helping her to become more independent. One way or another, everyone in the family and network of friends pitched in.
Over time, we have picked up a few things we feel form a good survival guide for family and friends when supporting a first in family student. Here are just some of the things we’ve learnt.
University is quite different to high school.
Even though my sister wasn’t at uni every day from 9-3, she was still working hard. We really had no idea of the time commitment required for uni, but a little research and asking the right questions gave us the answers.
There is a lot to get involved in at uni.
Emma was a little apprehensive to go and seek opportunities so as a family we encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and, by being that little voice supporting from the sidelines, we found Emma was more than willing to seek out opportunities to get amongst life at USQ.
Take an interest.
You might not have ever had anything to do with a university, but there’s no time like the present to get involved. It was really important for us to understand the processes that take place at university. We certainly don’t know all the ins and outs of uni life but we now have a better understanding than we did before!
They may be the first in your family to go to uni but that doesn't mean they should be alone.
They're a trailblazer. Every great trailblazer had a fantastic team behind them. Be supportive. It might mean doing a bit of extra housework now and then but it shows your student that you support what they are doing and it shows you care. They will love knowing there is a strong support crew there for them.
Make the effort.
Whether that be doing your research or cooking a lovely meal for your student. University is a big change and for someone who is the first in their family to experience it, it can be pretty daunting. Small supportive gestures will go a long way.
What Joseph Gordon Levitt said definitely applied to me. As the younger sibling of a uni student I found it so easy to make the transition to university after my sister had done so. Being the first to do something is never easy and first in family students should be commended on taking that leap of faith and following their dreams. As a younger sibling, I cannot thank my sister enough for going to university, as it allowed me to feel confident in pursuing tertiary studies and it was a great feeling to know that someone else had experienced what I was going through.
My final piece of advice is to just be there along the rollercoaster that is university. Even if you can only offer a listening ear and a warm cup of tea, don’t think that your contribution isn’t important. That strong encouragement at home could be the thing that helps get your loved one over the line.
If you’re looking for more ways to support the student in your family, this great resource will help you understand the different stages of a university semester and how you and your student can get through them together.
The First in Family Project was funded through the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation Program (HEPP) in 2015, to improve the access, participation and success of students from communities under-represented in higher education.