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How to best support your child at university  

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A diverse group of male and female students sitting outside a Curtin building at Bentley Campus.

Has your child applied for a university course? If so, you may be wondering what to expect as they transition from high school to university, and childhood to adulthood. 

The landscape of higher education in Australia has evolved significantly over the years, so it may seem baffling to you – even if you have been there before. So, here is some information on what university looks like today, and some tips on how you can support your child through this new chapter in their lives.  

Drawing from questions raised by parents – and some lesser-known but equally vital aspects of the experience – we will provide practical insights on costs, university life, online learning; moving out and independent study. Read on to find out more.  

The cost of a university education  

Understanding the financial aspects of university education is essential for students and parents alike. There can be significant differences in fees between courses so it is important your child is aware of the facts so they can make informed decisions about their future finances. 

Course fees 

Most public universities offer Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) for domestic students.  

A commonwealth-supported place means that the government will subsidise some of the costs of the course. The subsidy amount is not a loan and does not have to be paid back. Your child will only need to play the reminder of the fee, known as the student contribution amount for each course unit for which they are enrolled.  

The remaining course costs can be paid upfront, or your child can apply for HECS-HELP, a government loan scheme that allows them to defer the payment of their student contribution amount until they start earning a salary above the compulsory repayment threshold. Once their salary reaches this threshold, they will repay their loan as a percentage of their wage to the Australian Tax Office. 

International students must pay their fees upfront. 

Student Services and Amenities Fee 

This is a fee that universities may charge for services such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, childcare, financial advice and food services. You child may choose to defer all or part of the fee through a government loan called SA-HELP. This loan can be added to their HECS-HELP debt and repaid in the same way. 

Other expenses 

Tuition fees do not cover the cost of some items required for studying a particular course or unit. These items may be art supplies, field trips, first aid courses, lab coats, textbooks or the Working With Children Check, so make sure these are factored into the budget. 

You may be wondering whether your child can access Centrelink support while they are at university, or if you need to continue to support them yourself.  

This is a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. Centrelink does provide financial assistance to students who are Australian residents and studying full-time, however each applicant is assessed on a case-by-case basis and must meet other specific criteria. The type of assistance your child could apply for are government programs such as Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY as well as other benefits such as a health care card. 

Visit the Services Australia website for detailed eligibility information. 


Scholarships are another way to help alleviate the cost of a university degree. At Curtin, we offer scholarships to those from low-income backgrounds, First Nations backgrounds, high achievers, those from regional areas and those studying specific courses. Your child can view and apply for scholarships via our scholarships page. They can also apply for more than one scholarship if they meet the eligibility criteria. 

Staying at home vs. moving out  

Moving out of home is a big step for your child (and for you too!) and requires thoughtful discussion between you all to choose what is best for your family. After doing the budgeting, you may realise that by having them stay at home while they study you can significantly reduce living expenses and provide a stable environment, making it easier for them to focus on their studies.  

On the other hand, by moving out, you may feel you are encouraging their independence and self-reliance, offering your child invaluable first-hand experience in managing their finances and daily living tasks. See what their preference is and whether they feel ready to take that step. 

At Curtin, students can live on campus in our student accommodation. Living on campus means they are only a short walk to their classes; they are close to public transport and can gain independence while living in a safe and structured environment. It is an ideal place for your child to start their journey to independence. 

For more information on accommodation options, visit Curtin’s accommodation page, or, to learn about the application process for on-campus student accommodation, check Curtin’s guide on applying for accommodation

University life  

The university campus is a dynamic place, vibrant and full of activities. Curtin’s Perth campus offers 116 hectares of beautiful architecture and green spaces; a world-class library, an art gallery, a sports stadium and even a radio station!  

There are plenty of ways for your child to engage in campus life. There is a multitude of clubs and activities – from networking events to lifestyle clubs and sports teams – that cater for every interest from standup paddle boarding to eSports and bubble tea. Clubs, societies and sports are a wonderful way for your child to meet people and make new friends – and your child can sign up as soon as they start uni – during Orientation Week in their first semester. See our full list of clubs and chat with your child about clubs that may interest them. 

Outside of joining a club, encourage your child to strike up a conversation with someone in a tutorial, or outside of a lecture theatre – the other person may be keen to make some uni friends too, but may not be sure how to start.  

When your child starts university, they may feel out of place at first. They are out of their familiar and comfortable school and social environments and must adapt to a new adult learning environment alongside people they do not know. 

Be kind to them and encourage them to reach out to their new peers. It is part of everyone’s university experience to break through the first-year nerves. Remind your child that when students are in the same classroom, they already have something in common.  

When your child has a disability 

If your child has a learning disability, autism or a physical or mental health condition that affects their studies or their ability to settle in, contact our disability support services. We can create a plan to adjust your child’s timetable or their studies in a way that caters for their specific needs. If they have a support worker, they can also apply for their support worker to come onto campus with them. For more information on disability support services at Curtin, visit Curtin’s Disability Support webpage. 

University requires independent study  

One of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of university study is the significant shift in schedule and academic responsibility compared to high school. Unlike the structured 6-hour day, Monday to Friday schedule of high school, most undergraduate courses operate on a much more flexible timetable. A full-time study load may comprise as few as 10 to 12 contact hours per week, where a ‘contact hour’ refers to tutorials, lectures, or laboratory sessions that require your child to attend.  

Your child will be expected to do a lot of the work independently, outside of class. They will also be expected to plan their timetable from a selection of times available for each session. Your child will need to book themselves into the relevant session slots.  

This adjustment can be challenging for some students; unlike in high school, there’s minimal oversight if a student misses a day of class or fails to submit an assignment on time. Talking to your child about that change in expectation will help them prepare for uni life. Encourage your child to take proactive steps in managing their academic responsibilities, such as identifying mandatory classes, understanding how to request assignment extensions, and accessing university resources like the library.  

Online Learning 

Let us take a closer look at online learning. It is a topic worth exploring, especially considering its growing prominence and significance to students seeking flexibility in their educational pursuits.  

In today’s digital age, online learning has become an integral component of higher education. It offers your child the flexibility to engage with course materials and lectures at their own pace, from home or wherever they may be. This flexibility is particularly valuable if they are juggling academic commitments with work, family, sports or other commitments.  

All Curtin lectures are recorded and can be viewed online, giving your child opportunities to catch up on work or rewatch lectures as they wish. 

Some courses are available fully online – while other may be a mix of online and face-to-face. For those studying fully online, we provide comprehensive resources and services to ensure they receive the assistance they need to succeed without a classroom.  

For more information on our online courses and the support available to online learners, visit Curtin’s Online Courses webpage. 

What if they are finding first year tough? Should they change course or ‘stick it out’?  

First year uni can be tough for a multitude of reasons – and not only due to the switch to independent learning. Some students feel they have chosen the wrong course. If this is your child, don’t panic but have an honest chat with them about their feelings and interests, and what type of career they really want. Go with the flow, even if it surprises you. Sometimes, students are studying a course they thought they wanted to do, or their parents said they should study, but on reflection, they would prefer to do something else. It is okay for your child to want to change. 

At Curtin, it’s easy to course switch. And your child may be able to get Credit for Recognised Learning for the study they have already done. You can read more about switching courses at Curtin here.  

Changing from full-time to part-time 

It also makes sense that a full-time study load may not be right for everybody. Whether that is due to the intensity of the course load, other commitments, or something else besides, switching to a part-time study load is an option taken by many students at some point in their study journey, and may be the right choice for your child. Again, chat to your child and take their preferences into consideration. 

Support Services  

Your child should know that they are not alone. Not only do they have their family looking out for them, but Curtin also has support programs and staff ready to help, including counsellors, academic support, student wellbeing advisors, psychologists, career advisors, social workers, as well as specialist First Year Advisors – who deal exclusively and expertly in the typical first-year issues that we have written about in this article. And of course, there is the Student Guild – an independent, student-lead service that can provide advice and guidance on a range of issues.  

Going to university will be a transformative and exciting part of both your child’s and your life, and we hope we have prepared you to help prepare them. If you have any questions about what to expect from university or need any advice, feel free to contact us.  

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