Parents' Guide to Student Finance and Careers
One of the biggest issues facing parents of prospective students is cost. Find out how much you can expect to contribute, and whether the investment is likely to pay off in terms of your child's future salary expectations.
Funding is a high priority issue for most prospective students and their families, whether planning to study locally or further afield. TopUniversities.com outlines the key issues to consider.
1. Tuition fees
Often, the charge for international students is higher than that for domestic students – so do make sure you’re checking the correct price.
An important exception here is the European Union region. EU legislation states that students from within the EU have the right to study at any university within the EU under the same tuition fees as local students, and with access to the same student grants.
While the amount universities charge varies dramatically from country to country, you may also encounter significant variation within a single nation. This is especially the case where there’s a choice between state-supported and private universities – in general, the latter will charge higher fees.
And even within the same university, there may be fees differences depending on the subject your child intends to study. Certain subjects, especially those which require lots of resources and equipment, cost more to teach – so some universities charge more for these.
2. Financial assistance
If that’s not enough to consider, it’s also important to bear in mind that the initial amount you see may not be what you actually end up paying. Grants and scholarships are often available, so contact the university to find out if your child could be eligible for any financial assistance.
The manner in which fees are charged may also be an important factor for you. You may be expected to pay for an entire year up front, or have the option to make several payments throughout the year.
Or your child may be eligible for a student loan to cover their fees, which they will then gradually repay once they graduate and begin work. If this is part of a national scheme, the interest rates should be minimal – but obviously do check thoroughly.
3. Living costs
Tuition fees aside, your child will of course need to cover all their living expenses – accommodation, travel, food, course resources and leisure activities.
If s/he is intending to study abroad, there will also be some additional costs to consider, including visas and health insurance.
Universities know that prospective students and their families need to be able to budget in advance, and many provide advice on their websites about how much these items can be expected to cost. Governmental agencies’ websites will also provide guidance to help you plan a budget.
4. Student jobs
Many students are able to make at least some contribution to these ongoing expenses by taking on part-time work. So part of your research might involve finding out what types of job are available – both within the university campus and in the local area – and how much your child could expect to earn.
If s/he is intending to study abroad, you’ll also need to check whether there are any restrictions on the amount or type of work allowed under a student visa.
Universities will also often provide guidance, both in terms of what student jobs are available, and the maximum number of hours they recommend students should work. This last point should be taken seriously.
After all, there’s no point paying for the course in the first place if your child is unable to benefit from all it has to offer because they’re spending too much time working.
5. The pay-off
Finally, you may want to get some idea of the kind of rewards your child (and you) can expect from all this time, money and effort.
In the most literal sense, there is likely to be a financial return. Numerous studies have shown that graduates typically earn significantly more that those without a degree over the course of their lifetime.
If your child already has a specific career in mind, you could consult recent reports and even look at job listings, to get an idea of starting and ongoing salary expectations in that field.
In terms of selecting a university, you might want to find out what kind of career support is available at the institutions you’re considering. As well as careers advice, this might include help in finding internships, networking events or professional mentorships schemes.
You might also want to know how favorably a university is viewed by employers, which is one of the factors used in compiling the QS World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings by Subject. (To see how well a university scored in the global employer reputation survey, check the ‘ER’ score.)
If your child is planning on studying abroad, this is also likely to add to their ‘employability’. Many recruiters recognize the value of international experience, and the wide range of opportunities for personal and professional development this provides.
Of course, the rewards of a university education are not all so tangible. To an extent, you may just have to take it on faith that your child will benefit from the rich and diverse array of new experiences, challenges and opportunities they can expect to encounter during their university years.
- More advice and information about studying abroad >
This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in September 2021