ask toni & josh

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 February, 2010, 12:00am

Dear Toni

I am going to go university this year. I wanted to choose where I went, but my parents don't want my opinion. What do I do?

Still babied

Dear Overruled

Leaving high school and heading to university is a scary but exciting time. Tertiary education is a lot more focused than anything you'll have done so far: you'll be required to do a lot more self-study than you're used to.

Socialising, too, is very different - you won't necessarily have a curfew, or rules about how long you can stay out if you've got assignments to work on, especially if you study overseas. This means you have to be incredibly disciplined.

Seeing as you're going to be spending at least three years at university, it's crucially important that you're happy with the place where you're studying. If you end up crying into your pillow every night, you are not going to experience what most people look back on as some of the most fun years of their lives.

Have you asked your parents why they don't want to hear what you have to say on the matter? Are you only suggesting pricy overseas institutes, which perhaps they can't afford, or are afraid are too far away? Perhaps they're afraid you won't choose a 'prestigious' enough school if left to your own devices, and they'll have to explain to neighbours and relatives why you chose a 'party school', while their children slave away at Oxbridge or an Ivy League.

Maybe it's worth writing down the reasons why a particular university appeals, and explaining your choice clearly and rationally. Then ask your parents if you can present your reasons - if you've got them written down, you're less likely to let emotion get the better of you.

If they still insist on making the final decision, I'm afraid you might have to grin and bear it - especially if they're the ones paying the fees.

But uni is very much what you make of it. If you set out to have a good time, despite circumstances conspiring against you, and despite not heading to the place you imagined receiving your cap, gown and diploma, you will enjoy yourself.

Wherever you end up, be sure to make the most of it. University is the place where many people make life-long friends, so open your mind and your heart, and talk to people you wouldn't usually hang out with. Join clubs and societies which do activities you've never thought about, as well as the ones you've done all your life.

Keep in touch with high school friends, but don't allow your past - and the hopes you had for alternative study venues - prevent you from enjoying every moment. I ended up at my second choice uni, far from my best friends, and allowed my disappointment to get the better of me - for the first week. I realised I was wasting valuable opportunities to make new best friends, and find out what this unexpected uni had to offer me - turned out it had a lot!