Parents' Guide

students in a lecture

Choosing the right career pathway is one of the biggest challenges a young person faces at a time when they are coming to grips with adulthood and transitioning away from a structured school environment, or perhaps even leaving home for the first time.

Only around 35% of students go directly to university, so that leaves around 65% choosing to get a job, train at a polytechnic or a private training provider, join the police or defence forces, find an apprenticeship or perhaps choosing not to do anything at all.

As parents you no doubt want the best for your child. Each individual will have different needs and ideas. The best you can do is to support them through this transition, provide them with as much quality information that you can and hope that this results in a sound choice that serves them well both now and into the future.

Recognising that this is a challenging time we have tried to put as much impartial information as possible in one place to make this transition easier. We hope that you find it useful.

Apart from meeting the minimum course requirements, what else would be helpful to gain entry?

For many programmes, subject selection is very important, as well as how well your student achieved at school. If they want to do a science based programme without science, or engineering without maths for example, they may be out of luck.  However for some other programmes, a student’s attitude and reasons for choosing that area of study are the most important qualities that tutors are looking for.

To have the widest amount of options available to your student, doing English, science and maths for as long as they can at school will help their chances. Interview technique is important too. Things for your student to think about before an interview include why they have chosen that particular career path, what they want to do in the future, and asking some intelligent questions about the course also helps! They should be punctual, engaged and enthusiastic in their interview to show that they are keen! Finally, any work experience, paid or voluntary in their area of choice, shows that they have put some thought into their future career.

This link relates to job interviews, but many of the principles are the same as applying for a popular course at Polytechnic or University where an interview is needed: Interviewing.

How do I check on my son or daughter’s progress?

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic staff members are unable to disclose information to parents regarding a student’s progress or results without the permission of the student. 

How do qualifications gained at Polytechnic rate against those gained at University?

Some subjects can only be studied at university, such as dentistry or medicine. Other areas are the domain of polytechnics such as the trades, but in many areas they cross over. Where the outcome is the same qualification (for example, Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Sport and Recreation), research conducted by the Ministry of Education suggests that there is no discrimination by industry as to the origin of this qualification.

View the full report on how industry views qualifications gained at Polytechnic vs University.

How do students choose the right career and qualification?

Welding student taking a break

Some students follow in their parents’ footsteps, some do what they know or what they are good at and some just want to go their own way.

Whatever the decision, it’s important that it is student driven so they take ownership of their education and feel motivated to finish what they start. Doing something because they have nothing better to do or because they feel pressured to will often result in bad choices and poor completion rates. Students need to be up for the challenge and positive about their choices. See:

How much does it cost to study full time?

The length of programme, whether it’s full or part-time, online or on campus and what resources are needed, etc, will affect the cost of the programme. Fees range from free programmes that run for a couple of weeks, to six month programmes – (17 academic weeks) which cost around $2500 to $3000, to full year programmes (34 academic weeks). A typical full year will usually cost around $6000. 

Sometimes this is a set fee, and sometimes it is broken down per ‘paper’, which is a credit bearing subject. E.g. in the NZ Diploma in Business, paper ‘520 Economic Environment’ is $763, a student has to complete eight papers a year (four per semester) = $6,104 plus around $80-$140 books per paper. In some specialist study like medicine or dentistry, the costs can be much higher. For a full breakdown of fees, refer to each institution’s website. 

Try these budget calculators:

For information on how to finance your study see:

Student Loans & Allowances

What are the entry criteria for certificates, diplomas and degrees?

In simplistic terms, some certificates are ‘open entry’ where no formal qualifications are needed to get in. Otherwise to enter level 3 or 4 certificates your student needs NCEA at level 1 or level 2 from school depending on the programme. For diplomas, they’ll need NCEA at level 2, but in many instances you’ll need good level 3 results or University Entrance to get in, as many programmes now have degree pathways. 

Each institution will have different entry criteria and some universities have a points system (based on achievement of Merits and Excellence). Some courses require an interview, character reference or a police check, and some require students to submit a portfolio of work.

 For a full explanation visit each institution’s website. For mature students or students over 20 years old with relevant experience, the entry criteria may be waived on a case by case basis.

What can students do while still at school to confirm their areas of interest?

Students at the Careers Expo

Most schools should have a comprehensive careers department. If your son or daughter has somehow managed to avoid it completely, it may be an idea to book an appointment and have a talk about what options are available to them.

There are work experience opportunities through the gateway programme, star programmes, access to trades academies, career education classes, and guest speakers from industry and education providers. There are also often field trips to careers expos and university and polytechnic open days, which are good ways to see what’s on offer.

To get started, have a look at:

What if you don’t have the grades to do what you really want?

One of the good things about polytechnics is that there are programmes that start at all levels.

Students could have University Entrance and embark directly on a path to a degree. Sometimes students can gain entry to a programme based on their Year 12 results, otherwise there are short ‘preparation for study programmes’, or bridging in maths, numeracy and literacy embedded in lower level programmes. Students often can opt for a full year bridging programme, or start in a certificate and then step up to diploma or degree level the year after.

For mature students (over 20) entry is often discretionary, based on previous achievements and life experience. 

Whatever your student’s situation, each institution should have systems in place to help you achieve your goals. There is always a way to get there, it sometimes just takes a bit more time and effort on the student’s part! 

What is expected of students once they move onto tertiary study?

Transition to tertiary study is either a welcome relief or a huge shock for young students coming straight from school. All of a sudden the student becomes a paying client who is there by choice, so they need to be self motivated, organised, punctual and responsible for their own learning. There are also consequences to failure. At a cost of $6,000 per year plus expenses, the student needs to be sure in their subject choice and commit to finishing what they start.

At Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, we are committed to helping students achieve their goals. Even though we expect our students to take ownership of their learning, support systems are in place to help students succeed. Relationships with tutors are all first name basis and very real. Our success and retention statistics are excellent and, with an industry focus built into our programmes, we are confident that we are setting students up for the best chance of success.

What is the difference between Universities and Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology?

tutor in a lecture theatre

Historically the main difference was that universities focussed on academic programmes and polytechnics focussed on practical vocational training. Over recent years both types of institutions have expanded their range of programmes and now there is significant overlap between universities and polytechnics with many polytechnic programmes pathwaying directly to degree programmes.

Over recent years many polytechnics have added a number of degree programmes to their course offerings. A number of polytechnics have also merged together and have changed their names from polytechnics to institutes of technology to better reflect their focus. Cross-credits for diploma courses completed at a polytechnic can be credited to ongoing university study in many instances.

View the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic degree pathways.

What scholarships are available to assist with fees?

There are a whole host of scholarships available. Some are for school leavers, mature students, subject specific, academic, sports people, leadership, arts, māori, women or people with disabilities. 

Each university or polytechnic has scholarships available and some are aimed specifically at particular schools. Students are often offered more than one scholarship and providing the scholarships are from different organisations, you can apply for as many as you like. Check the institution’s website and have a look at the information below, plus pay special attention to the ‘breakout’ website which has a comprehensive list.

What support systems are in place at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic?

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic has comprehensive, integrated support services. Find out more about our student support.

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic

Private Bag 12001, Tauranga 3143
07 571 0190  |  0800 BOP POLY (267 7659)
info@boppoly.ac.nz