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Is Higher Education, specifically university, something you are considering?  With over 50,000 degree courses available offered at over 300 different places of Higher Education, how do you go about finding the right course/university for you?  Below are some useful things to think about which may help you in your decision-making process.

Why do you want to go to University?

Ask yourself this question.  If the answers are ‘for the social life’, ‘I don’t know what else to do’,’ my family expect me to’…. then they are possibly not the right reasons.  After working with young people and listening to their answers, we have narrowed it down to 3 main reasons why people choose to go:

  • Professional reasons– If you know that you want to be a Doctor, Engineer, Dentist, Teacher, Nurse, Architect, then you will need to go to University/ a Higher Education institute because all of these professions require a university degree in a specific subject.
  • Level of Study – There may be a subject that you have a particular interest in that you have never had the opportunity to study at school/college, such as archaeology, astrophysics or zoology.  At university you can pretty much find a course in any subject that interests you.  Universities have the facilities and resources to be able to offer these courses.
  • Personal reasons – You may have fallen in love with a current subject that you are studying and wish to continue studying it in more detail.  Your career path may be slightly less clear but you know you want to learn more about that subject and develop skills from university that are easily transferrable to the workplace.

Types of degree

There are different types of degree that you could opt for at university.  Most are a 3 or 4 year course but there are different options. 

  • ‘Single honours degree’ – This is where you just study 1 subject
  • ‘Combined honours degree’ – This is where you study 2 or more subjects.  They can be weighted 50/50 or 75/25 depending upon the course.
  • ‘Foundation degree’ - This is a 4-year course with the first year being a ‘foundation’ year.  The entry requirements are slightly lower but if you pass the first foundation year, you can progress onto the degree course the following year.
  • ‘Sandwich degree’ - this is where you spend a year of your course working in a relevant industry for valuable experience

What qualifications do you need?

You will need Level 3 qualifications.  These are A levels, Level 3 Btec or other equivalent Level 3 qualifications.  You can either have straight A levels or a straight Btec or a combination of both.  GCSEs are also important, especially Maths & English (grade ‘C’/4 or 5 or above) which are a requirement for many courses but particularly Nursing and Teaching.  Make sure you check the entry requirements for the university you are interested in, as they vary between universities.

Each grade at A Level will give you so many points:

              A* 56 points, A 48 points, B 40 points etc.

BTEC’s need to be at Level 3:

               -MMM is worth 96 points,

               -DDM is worth 120 points.

Choosing a university

How do you choose a university that is right for you?  Below are some questions which may help you with your decision making

  • Best universities for my subject? – Are there any universities which specialise in the subject you are interested in?
  • Universities that accept my grade profile. – Be realistic.  Have a chat to your teacher/tutor to ask them what they think you are likely to achieve and match this to a university’s entry requirements
  • Location – home or away? – Would you like to commute to your local university, or do you want to get as far away as possible?
  • City or countryside? – Do you like the ‘bright lights’ of the city and the anonymity that comes with it or do you prefer a more rural, community-based location
  • Large or small? – Some of the bigger universities can have up to 30,000 students attending.
  • One campus? Multi-sites? – A campus university is where everything is on one site.  It is where you live, learn, study & socialise.  Does this appeal?
  • New or old? – Is this important to you?  Do you like somewhere with a bit of history or do you want brand new, modern buildings?
  • Equipment and facilities? – Labs, Studio spaces, recording rooms, IT suites, sporting facilities.  Just a few things you may wish to consider
  • Student union & entertainment provision? – Some universities have top name bands/comedians playing and a very vibrant social program.  Whilst this makes up a big part of student life, it shouldn’t be the main reason you go.

Advantages of going to University

Going to university can be a life changing experience for many.   Never again will you be with a group of like-minded people who have all chosen to study the same thing. It can be the opportunity to be brave, live away from home in a new place and study something new.  You will become independent very quickly, especially if you do move away from home as you will have to learn to cook for yourself, wash your own clothes, manage your money and make friends. You will often have the opportunity to travel, get industry experience and volunteer.  All of which enhance your personal skills and qualities which you can easily transfer into the workplace at the end of your degree.  Statistics also show that, on average, you can expect to earn more in your lifetime than someone who didn’t go to university.

How to find out more about HE

RESEARCH. Go online.  UCAS website is a really good starting to point to find out about courses, which universities offer them and what the entry requirements are.  There are also university surveys such as the National Student Survey where you can find out how they score on different aspects of university life

ASK QUESTIONS. Speak to you teachers/tutors as it is very likely that they will all have been to university.  Do you have any friends, cousins who are at university?  What do they think?

OPEN DAYS.  Attend open days whether that is in real life or virtually.  Here you can get a feel for the university and see if you could see yourself studying there and potentially living there.  You also have the opportunity to speak to academics about the courses, support staff about what is offered and current students to see what they think about studying at that university.

If you do all of this, you can be sure to make the decision that is right for you.  Good luck!

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