Based on our experiences of counselling new students, we have put together the following tips to help parents support their children in their university studies.
1. Support the student’s independence
Let the student make his or her own decisions. Decisions on what field to study and what programme to take shouldn’t be only based on making the safest or most practical choice. Allow space for decisions based on scientific curiosity. At the University of Helsinki, all students are treated as equal and mature adults who plan their own studies and choose their courses independently.
2. Listen and reassure, urge the student to ask for advice
Almost every student will find university studies difficult and doubt their choices at some stage of the first year. This is perhaps most common among students for whom universities are an entirely new world. Getting used to new study methods and studying cultures can feel difficult. Talking to student advisers usually helps. Students can also contact a study psychologist, if necessary.
3. Encourage the student to get to know the university staff and participate in events and activities organised by the study programme and the Student Union
Studying at a university is a highly independent undertaking that can feel lonely at first. For this reason, we encourage our students to get to know other students, the staff of the study programme and the faculty, and to go meet instructors and professors during their office hours.
The Student Union offers a vast range of recreational activities and clubs that can help bring balance to university life. Research has shown that the students with close ties to their faculty’s staff and other students are the ones who get the most out of their studies.
4. Encourage studying for the sake of learning
People study at universities to become academic experts, but the years spent in university also include intellectual exploration and personal growth. Many students are used to collecting credits and focusing on their grades. However, at the University of Helsinki we also encourage our students to study for the sake of learning – to increase their understanding. Our university is at the forefront of research in teaching and learning, and it is important for us that each of our students identify the learning methods that are the most effective for them.