28 June 2018 | Category: Study choice

Prevent study stress… learn to choose

By Hermien Miltenburg

Most students have an enjoyable and educational student life. But increasingly more students are subject to study stress. Luckily, more and more attention is being paid to this. I asked a number of experts how parents of students can help their adult child prevent study stress. I have written five articles about this, and each article contains one tip. In this article, tip 1: prevent study stress… learn to choose. (Dutch version, In het Nederlands)

Prevent study stress… learn to choose

Prevent study stress… learn to choose

Tip 1: Prevent study stress… learn to choose what suits you

Has your son or daughter (almost) finished secondary school and have they chosen a programme of studies? Congratulations, as a parent you’ve gone through a tense period during final exams. Now future choices have been made and exams (nearly) finished. It’s calm again at home…
Unfortunately, that’s not completely true. Is your child going to study? If so, another very tense period will begin for your adult child. The first academic year is a phase in which students have to make choices, even more than at secondary school. And they have to work hard. Many first-year students consider their parents as their most important advisors in this period. They ask their parents questions about their course of studies. One of the questions that students ask: ‘What subjects should I choose in my course of studies?’ How can you help your child then without pampering them?

Making choices

The first year of a study programme is pre-arranged. Students follow all sorts of basic subjects. They can earn a total of 60 credits; a minimum number of these credits must be earned in this first year. The department concerned will decided whether or not the student can successfully complete the programme and will give first-year students a Binding Study Advice. If a student fails to earn enough credits, he or she will get a negative Binding Study Advice and will have to withdraw from the programme. And that is a disappointment. If a student earns enough credits, he or she may continue in the programme.
Studying then becomes easier because, after the first year, a student can create much of his or her own programme. But choosing the ideal programme of studies is a new challenge since it feels like a new study choice.

Choose what suits you

Which way do you want to continue in your studies? To make the five difficult choices more concrete:

  1. Which subjects suit your personality and your capacities? How are these subjects given and does that appeal to you?
  2. What subjects do you really feel motivated about? What do you really want to do with this course of studies?
  3. Does this combination of subjects lead to the sort of work you would like to do? Or should you emphasise something?
  4. Who can best help you make choices? The study advisor? Older students? Your fellow students?
  5. Does this all fit into the future that you envision for yourself. Do you want to develop in that way?

Students want to discuss these very personal issues with their parents. Prevent study stress… learn to choose what suits you.


Did your child choose the right course of studies? Great!
But choosing doesn’t stop there, as students quickly realise. Many choices also have to be made within a study programme. As a parent, you won’t be able to give substantive help; you can’t expect parents to investigate the contents of all aspects of a study programme. And that’s not necessary. What your child really expects is that you listen.

And talk…

Talking about the choices that have to be made helps you to order your thoughts. And you know your child. Do you think that he or she is still hesitant and still doesn’t have a very concrete idea of a specialisation? Is your child reluctant to start a practical course? Or that he or she idealises a certain project too much? Gives this as feedback. Hold a mirror up to your child. Students truly profit from this. Your child is an adult and can take his or her own decisions. But a listening ear is always important. As is a mirror.

The wrong study programme?

Is the programme disappointing? Has your child chosen the wrong programme? Has your child concluded that the programme doesn’t suit him or her? That is certainly serious. It isn’t fine to have made the wrong study choice. Unfortunately, this happens quite often. Sometimes a student stops after just a few weeks. As a parent, try to point out other possibilities if the first few weeks are disappointing.

Other possibilities

You can still correct a lot in September. You can perhaps change programmes. Some programmes resemble each other and, within an area of interest or within an institute, making a switch is still an option.
Is the subject matter of the programme a good one, but the level is wrong? Should your child perhaps study the same subject at an MBO, HABO or university level? In the beginning, you can sometimes switch levels.
You can also switch within an area of interest. For example, if you have started studying Environmental Science but you discover that the programme in Soil, Water, Atmosphere interests you more… in consultation with the study advisor, you can often choose a slightly different programme at your HBO or university

I really enjoyed economics, but I found the level at the university too theoretical. I discovered that almost immediately in September. Fortunately, I could also follow this programme at the hbo level, and I chose to switch. I was able to begin at the hbo without any delays in my studies. Martijn.

A completely wrong choice?

Was the study choice really completely wrong? Then the student has to discover how that happened. Did he or she spend too little time on the process of choosing a study? Did he or she not think enough about the five steps in choosing? And now what? What went well and who can help you to rethink your future? Here again: Prevent study stress… learn to choose what really suits you.

Free rein?

Sometimes I hear parents proudly say that they have given their child ‘free rein’… But does the student actually want that? Young people want to and have to make their own choices. But talking about those choices, being involved, listening… First-year students really need that.

Many first-year students begin to doubt their study choice. Then they have to make new choices. Learning to choose is a very important skill.

Hermien Miltenburg, parental information officer

prevent study stress

Mother and daughter on an Open Day

Five tips on study stress for parents of students

tip 1 prevent study stress… learn to choose what really suits you

tip 2 prevent study stress… don’t drive yourself crazy

tip 3 prevent study stress… look for help

tip 4 prevent study stress and research on study stress

tip 5 prevent study stress and study credits 

Why these tips?

Increasingly more students are troubled by stress. That is not good. Student psychologists, student deans, student physicians, study advisors and study career counsellors regularly give advice to prevent study stress Also on this blog. On the basis of that advice, I have written five tips for parents. Of course, students are adults and themselves responsible for their ups and downs. But it’s fine if parents can offer some support if necessary. So tip 1: prevent study stress… learn to choose. Read the other tips too; news tip will appear in the weeks to come.


By Hermien Miltenburg

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