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In our family university was never spoken about before … and now, it’s “Oh what are you going to do? Are you going to leave school, are you going to go to uni?”

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Be Prepared - Things Will Change!

I just thought “I’ll see how it goes”. I knew there would be changes but again I didn’t sort of imagine too much until I realised that 10-15 hours a week per subject was expected on top of the actual class time. That’s when I realised it was going to be quite an impact, especially weekends; very late nights, like last night, that I think I was unprepared for. However, you can’t expect for everything or you can’t prepare for everything. You don't know what you don't know (Noeleen, 47 year old student, and mother of two)

Even if you know that things will change for you and your family member when they start uni, sometimes it can be hard to prepare for it because the changes are often uncertain until they actually happen! Change can be difficult, but change is not always negative. Here’s an insight into what some of the family members and students in our study experienced, which may help prepare you all for this ‘whole new world’:

  • Personal Growth:

    What family members noticed:

    Well Mum’s been … more happy and more excited about her studies and learning lots and lots and lots of more information about all different characters and everything and she’s been like … “talk to the hand” sometimes because she’s working really hard … (Nathaniel, Yr 7, son of Noeleen, 47 year old student)

    Already she is starting to discuss very in-depth global topics and starting to observe the way people behave around her (FM#205, 48 year old male partner)

    I am obviously very proud of my brother for taking the life-changing decision to return to study but, more than that, I am so happy for him as I can see each day the impact that being a university student has had on him and his family. He is excited about what he is studying and this is evident from the impassioned way he tells family and friends about. (FM#224, 38 year old sister of student)

    My mother has become a more socially outgoing person and has developed a better understanding of academic reasoning as it pertains to understanding biases and analysing primary sources. (FM#212, 17 year old son of student)

    I believe she is happier, more enthusiastic and more energetic due to new people and new demands and having an opportunity to extend herself academically as well in other aspects. (FM#220, 17 year old daughter of student)

    She's more willing to make friends and is more sociable (FM#221, 16 year old sister of student)

    Her views on everything have developed. She is more confident in sharing her opinion, which I think comes from her now knowing more. She has even started challenging common or normal aspects of life. (FM#225, 55 year old mother of student)

    She tries to talk me into doing more homework and study. (FM#229, 15 year old daughter of student)

    Since she began studying my mother has had many more academic conversations with me about her studies. This is because we are both in the process of learning about ancient history. Further, my mother has slowly but surely become a more social person, which I believe will be beneficial to her overall character in the future. (FM#212, 19 year old son of female student)`

    Not much has changed … only now I can ask her how she is doing with her studies … when my daughter started studying I have seen her confidence boost, that is the biggest change and high point in my life. (FM#226, 43 year old mother of student)

    Working hard on his studies seems to be a personal achievement in itself, as he previously had a tendency to quit before he had a chance to fail on things that were important to him. Even better, he has achieved some fantastic results that effectively demonstrate how much effort he has put into his work. (FM#224, 38 year old sister of student)

    High points have been passing tests, and the vindication that she is intelligent enough to pass. It is good for her confidence. (FM#219, 54 year old mother of student)

    She is highly engaged, motivated and enthusiastic about her study and is enjoying it immensely. This makes her more engaged generally which is an overall huge positive for our family. It is great for our children, who are aged 7, 10 and 12, to see her so engaged in study at the higher education level. (FM#211, 42 year old male partner of student)

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    What students said:

    I do know that those ghosts of self doubt are no longer there and I do know I will do my best to succeed, and I am somebody even if I don't succeed in furthering my education. The somebody I am is a mother and grandmother and a partner to the greatest man and support system I could ever hope and ask for. (Survey#45, 50+ year old female student)

    Overall I love being a student !! It is difficult at times but I think I’m setting an example to my kids of the hard work that is required to follow your dream. (Survey#114, female student, 40-50, mother of 2)

    I feel as though I have lived most of my life with blinkers on and suddenly the whole world has been opened up to me. Some days I can barely contain my excitement. If only I didn't have to sleep! I guess for me, the biggest change is within myself. I am not that single parent with a troubled teenager, never earning enough, always behind, always being obsequious, worrying about devaluing the neighbourhood just by being in it! My perception of self has changed. The words I use to describe myself have changed. I rather like who I am. I wish I'd met me earlier! (Female student, 40-50 years old, mother of one)

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  • Changes in family dynamics

    What family members noticed:

    She has a little less time for the family and I take on more responsibility looking after our 3 kids on the weekends. (FM#203, 32 year old male partner)

    Mum is on the laptop a lot. The routine changed a bit. Mum asks me to be quiet a lot … she has less time to do things. She is a lot more stressed and cranky. (FM#218, 14 year old son of student)

    Our plans for the near future have changed. My mother is incredibly busy with her studies and commits a lot of her time to completing the amount of work required. My father is a lot more involved with us children and is also really involved with the domestic aspects of life. (FM#220, 17 year old daughter of student)

    My mum has less time for us during her semesters. We have less money now because she cut back on her work. It is difficult to stay quiet and this stresses her out at times. (FM#229, 15 year old daughter of student)

    She has a strict routine in the evening to give her the hours of required study time (FM#205, 48 year old male partner)

    I spend less time with her … she is under more stress - juggling work and studies while trying to fit in downtime. (FM#207, 46 year old mother of student)

    My wife requires study time regularly so on my days off I'm required to find activities outside the house especially during school holidays. I have to take time off work to mind our youngest during exams. (FM#235, 40 year old male partner of student)

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    What students said:

    Time management is a must in my house now, strict routine (FM#208, 38 year old female student)

    My time is a bit more flexible, so I see more of my family (particularly my retired mother) Survey#68, Female student, 40-50 years old)

    The two boys are okay; they play their games and things and they keep to themselves. My daughter’s more “Mum can I have this? Can I have that?” On the weekends when I’m really busy I’ll put a movie on for her … or a game or something and say “Look, I’ll do this, and then we’ll watch something together” and that normally does help to compromise. (Elle, 33 year old student, mother of 3)

    Study has drastically impacted on time. I am missing seeing my girls grow up right now. Everything has had to change. I used to cook clean wash etc, and now I am away for class and work so much that I do not have time for these things everyday. My family has had to learn to cook and clean and wash. I work as well so I find the juggling act difficult. Making sure there is someone to watch the kids and prepare meals all has taken a lot of planning. (Survey#102, Female student, 30-40 years old, mother of 3)

    My kids life has really changed - before I started university I was home and on call for them 24/7. I could attend all school activities and sport events. Now they also have to go into after school care. I don't have as much time to spend with my family at times when I’m under pressure with work and my husband has had to take on a lot more responsibility when it comes to cooking dinner and picking up the kids and taking them to out school sport training. (Survey#114, Female student, 40-50 years old, mother of 2)

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  • A new appreciation …

    What family members noticed:

    My daughter is happier and more focused, which in turn makes me happier and more focused (FM#209, 56 year old mother of student)

    My brother and his wife positively beam when they talk about how different their lives will be when he has a career doing what he loves, instead of dragging himself to an exhausting and dreary job that simply pays the bills and it is great to see the focus they have on achieving this goal for the family. This love for learning is also having a very direct, immediate impact on how they talk about educating their own young children. On a broader level, I can also see the positive impact this decision has had on the relationships between my family and our wider social circle. (FM#224, 38 year old sister of student)

    We have better discussions because she is able to better articulate her points of view and the basis of why she holds them. She is more informed and knowledgeable about a wider range of issues. I feel she is more open and broad-minded generally. (FM#211, 42 year old male partner of student)

    She seems to have less time, but more direction. There is a plan to move forward. It is also good as she tries to encourage her kids to follow their dreams even if they seem out of reach. (FM#225, 55 year old mother of student)

    She is highly engaged, motivated and enthusiastic about her study and is enjoying it immensely. This makes her more engaged generally which is an overall huge positive for our family. It is great for our children, who are aged 7, 10 and 12, to see her so engaged in study at the higher education level. (FM#211, 42 year old male partner of student)

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    What students said:

    I don't think my relationships have changed in a negative way. If anything, I think that it has been positive because some of the things I learn I discuss with my family. I am also setting an example for my children, by showing them that education is to be valued and it takes commitment and hard work to do well. (Survey#10, Female student, 40-50 years old, mother of 3)

    I started my youngest in preschool a day a week so then her days with me actually are with me, so we do “us” time… (Vicki, 41 year old student, mother of 3)

    I don't spend much time with anyone socially any more as I'm too busy, which is one downside of doing this study. My relationship with my husband has improved and I believe he actually listens to some of the things I have to say now because he perceives that what I'm saying is founded in others' knowledge. (Survey#29, Female student, 40-50 years old)

    My partner now cooks and does laundry more than before. My floors are cleaned less often. I spend a lot of time on my own. My daughter moved out this year which was a massive change for everyone. I make sure I see her at least once a week and have regular telephone contact. Unexpectedly, my partner and I now make time to go for a walk every evening, which we did not do before. … I no longer do a weekly shop and meal plan - things are a lot more by-the-seat-of-our-pants than before, and again, no one has died as a result. Amazing, really. (Survey#138, female student, 40-50 years old, mother of one)

    I think my relationships with my family members have gotten closer. Because I spend a lot of my time before and after work studying, when I have some free time we always do something together, and I think that has brought us closer. (Survey#17, Female student, 21-25 years old)

    I feel that I have become perhaps closer to my family since I spend more time studying, and so enjoy seeing them and talking to them a lot more. (Survey#143, female student, 21-25 year old)

    I have a better relationship with my children because I study from home and am not at work, just more present. I have less in common with some of my friends. (Survey#12, female student, 40-50 years old)

    Some people have drifted away, or I see much less of them, not due to animosity, just simply leading different, busy lives. (Survey#158, Male student, 21-25 years old)

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