22 February 2018 | Category: Study choice

My child can’t decide on a degree programme

By Hermien Miltenburg

I often hear parents sigh: ‘ My child can’t decide on a degree programme ; what should I do as a parent?’ A very good question. And very justifiable for a parent to be concerned if the final year of secondary school is at hand without a degree programme having been chosen. I know from experience how that can worry you. But why can’t your child decide on a degree programme? In my practice as a parental advisor, I have seen a number of reasons and causes, which I want to discuss here.

My child can’t decide on a degree programme

My child can’t decide on a degree programme. Father and daughter are studying the flyers at an Open Day

My child can’t decide on a degree programme; causes and solutions

If you ask secondary school students why they can’t make a choice, they give various answers. I’d like to address some of these.
Do you recognise your son or daughter in one of these remarks? Perhaps you can benefit from the possible solutions I suggest.

My child is still to young to choose a degree programme

I really don’t know what I want. And I’m so tired of all the hassle at school and at home. 1 May is still far away. I’ll just wait and see.

Most of these students who can’t choose are simply not ready to do so. You have to be ‘ripe’ for all of the important decisions in your life. You have to have enough self-knowledge. You can make choices only if you know who you are and what you want to do with your life. Not easy for an adolescent. Boys in particular haven’t finished ‘ripening’ at the end of secondary school. But you have to make a choice by 1 May in the year you plan to study. By then you will have had to have chosen from among many (too many?) degree programmes. My tip: don’t force things. Some young people really can’t choose. Perhaps a gap year is a solution for them.

My child is interested in everything

I like going to school and I really think all of my subjects are interesting. I had trouble dropping subjects when choosing my profile. There are a lot of degree programmes that interest me. But if I choose one, this automatically means that I can’t do another.

Eager, talented students also sometimes have problems in choosing a degree programme. They’re afraid to shut certain career paths for themselves. Choosing for one direction means that you can’t choose the other. Fortunately, both the universities of applied science (HBO) and especially the universities also offer very broad degree programmes. My tip: these students should certainly take a look at University Colleges (Maastricht University), honours programmes (WUR) or a freely-composed Bachelor’s programme. These programmes allow students to put together a very broad programme, and study advisors can help them to choose. There are a lot of examples.
In addition, every degree programme offers many possible choices. Even after graduating, students may still change direction or profession. Only a very few people spend their entire career doing what they had once been trained to do. You can always make a change.

My child prefers to work

I really don’t enjoy school. What I enjoy the most is playing computer games or hanging with my friends. I’d really rather just get a job.

Parents want a good future for their children, and an education is part of that. But not every young person is ready to start studying right after secondary school. High demands are made of students. Is it an idea to start working after secondary school? I know a lot of examples of young adults who have started their own business or have taken a job and who then start studying after another couple of years.

My child wants ‘something with sciences and informatics’, but what?

I want to do something with ICT. But there are so many degree programmes in this area. What should I choose?

The sigh about ‘my child can’t decide on a degree programme’ is not quite correct here. The student knows which subjects or areas interest him or her, which is a good start. But it’s true that this field has a lot of possible choices. My tip: take a good look at the site https://www.studyfinder.nl/ where you can find a brief description of all of the degree programmes in each field. The fields of study are:
Agriculture And Environment (190), Economics, Commerce, Management And Accounting (308), Engineering (163), General Programmes (178), Health Care, Social Services And Care Services (135), Hotel, Catering, Tourism, Leisure, Transport And Logistics (54), Humanities, Social Sciences, Communication And Arts (672), Law, Public Administration, Public Order And Safety (115), Mathematics, Natural Sciences And Computer Science (215) and Teacher Training

My child has a handicap or impediment

I’m only 1 m 40 tall. Not all professions are suitable for me. Which degree programme would suit me? I can study well and I think a lot of subjects are interesting.…

Quite a few young people have a handicap or an impediment. This makes it extra difficult to choose a degree programme. But your son or daughter isn’t alone in this. Many young people have an impediment such as autism, ADHD, or a physical handicap. There can be any number of reasons why it is difficult to choose a programme or to study. My tip: compare the possibilities. On the site handicap & study you can find a list in which universities of applied sciences and universities are compared. Where are the best facilities?

My child shows no interest whatsoever

I could care less. Just leave me alone

Distressing if your child simply can’t be motivated. Do you know the reason why? Have you had enough (small) discussions with your child? Perhaps you should just lean back and see what happens. The person choosing the degree programme has the final responsibility for taking action. And unfortunately your good advice could just make matters worse. My tip: think of the saying that I always use at parents’ meetings: ’you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ You can do your best as a parent to stimulate your child, but he or she has to take action in the end. ‘My child can’t decide on a degree programme’ is sometimes a great problem for parents… but… the responsibility for this choice and for study success lies with the (beginning) students themselves.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink

Too much stress for school

Homework every day, waiting to see what marks I get… always doing my best…

Taking tests… passing exams. This is a very stressful period for some students. Some of them have to do their utmost to pass their final exams. They have to really try, try to do better, work hard. This is a completely different mechanism in your brain than making a choice. For an important decision you need time to think carefully. This is why it’s important not to wait until the final year to think about choosing a degree programme. Does your son or daughter have to do their very best to pass their final exams? The process of choosing the right degree programme takes time. If it isn’t possible in 4/5 HAVO or 5/6 VWO to make time for this, then a gap year isn’t such a bad idea.

Mother and daughter are studying the flyers at an Open Day

My child can’t decide on a degree programme and needs extra help

The dean doesn’t have enough time for me. I need extra support

When choosing a degree programme, the dean is the first point of contact at secondary school. But a dean’s time is also limited. Perhaps your son or daughter needs extra help. There are individuals and agencies that specialise in help for this sort of student. This blog contains various stories from these professionals. And HBOs have special programmes in choosing a degree programme. The dean at your child’s school can help you further. And you can find additional information by googling. For example, google ‘ My child can’t decide on a degree programme ’.

The dean is the expert in the area of choosing a degree programme. He or she can refer you to additional information about making choices in addition to the LOB lessons at school.

Headache, my child can’t decide on a degree programme

‘ My child can’t decide on a degree programme ’… leads to discussions in some families. But this should never lead to too much stress. Does your child really find it stressful to choose? Be sure there’s also enough relaxation. You shouldn’t hasten this process. And also read the ‘ten tips on choosing a degree programme’. This can really help you. If you have questions or comments about this article, please let me know.

By Hermien Miltenburg

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