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Starting a difficult conversation

How to Tell Your Parents You Don't Want to Go to Uni

Charlotte
Abrahamson
Community & Education

If you are in sixth form or at college right now you are probably overwhelmed with exams and revision and the last thing you really want to think about is ‘what will I do next?’ And that’s ok. The last thing you should do is rush a decision like this. And the best thing about the employment climate at the moment is that any decision you do make, isn’t going to close doors for you.

When your parents, teachers and even older siblings were growing up, they were taught that the subjects you choose at GCSE, A level and beyond will dictate which job you can go into. There is this whole thing about ‘keeping your options open’ and ‘not closing any doors’ by doing general subjects. Nowadays employers are so much more focused on the skills you have and can develop rather than the knowledge you have.  This is because as technology improves and jobs change, more important than knowing the structure of an animal cell or the date a particular war happened, are the skills you develop whilst learning these things or in any part of your life.

But how do you explain this to your parents, who grew up in the stone age and don’t know this. You should feel for them, they need you to open their eyes to the possibilities out there for you!

What is your strategy? You will need one!

Find a good time to speak to them

You need your parents in a good, calm and open minded mood. Pick a time of day with them and agree them with this in advance (show your maturity, it’ll go a long way).  Maybe get them a cup of tea and a biscuit, it may seem obvious to you that you are buttering them up, but really it shows them how important this is to you. Which is what you need.

Plan what you will say

Just like any important conversation, the more you think about it and plan what you will say, the smoother it will go. So plan out your key messages and bring evidence with you to back up your points.

Example Plan for Speaking to Parents about wanting to do an Apprenticeship in Accounting:

  • I want to train to be an accountant, because….
  • I prefer learning by doing rather than learning at university. (Maybe reference poor attention in lessons, ability to hold down saturday job, enjoy working)
  • An Apprenticeship is a viable alternative to university and equally as prestigious, for example you can train to be an accountant at top accountancy firms like PWC and global brands like Warner Music.
  • I will get paid, I don’t want to be in debt from tuition fees. Useful article to share.

Have good examples of jobs or people who have been successful via a non-university route

This is super important because this is where you get to show your snobby parents that you can be successful without going to uni and prove it.  And there are loads of examples of this.

This story about Humza explains how it is not easy to get onto a good Apprenticeship programme. And sometimes you have to upskill yourself in order to get there. But once you are, the opportunities out there for you are the same as any other trainee accountant.

Use positive terminology to explain that you are doing something cool

Sometimes, it’s about being clever with your language. Parents like to know that you aren’t going to make your life harder for yourself than it would be if you went to uni. It’s a well trodden path with clear consequences in their eyes. Sadly, more and more university graduates are struggling to find jobs and therefore having a degree is not the be all and end all anymore. More and more companies are recruiting people based on their skills and potential and not their qualification.  

Using language which excites your parents, and shows them that although you are choosing a slightly less well trodden path, you are doing something really cool: You are a trend setter, you are a pioneer, you are unique and you are doing something which will make you stand out.

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