What course is the course for you? You go to uni to do a degree. But which one?
There’s over 17,000 different subjects you can study and more than 70,000 individual courses. You can start with what you want to do as a career. To be a doctor, you have to study medicine, for instance — which most people would agree is better than having people doing surgery just because they studied needlework.
There are some other careers where you have to study something in particular — to be an architect or vet, for instance — but they’re the exception. For some others — like law or social work — it’s not a career killer to start out by studying something else and getting the right qualifications after a first degree in something else, but studying the relevant subject is definitely the equivalent of choosing trainers instead of flip flops when you’re running the hurdles.
Then there are other careers that don’t require you to study anything in particular. In fact, here we’re talking about most careers. Sure, some subjects may give you a headstart, but getting that job will be more down to you being the right person than your course being the right one.
Some courses may look like they’re the passport for a particular career, when actually, your best route in might be something entirely different. For example, chemistry is generally at least as good a qualification to become a forensic scientist as forensic science itself.
Similarly, politics, English or languages may well get you into a job in media or journalism more directly than media studies.
However, most of us don’t have a career, a family, a mortgage, a pension and a funeral plan all sorted. That’s not a problem. All in good time. In that case, study what you love. At uni, you’ll need to be devoted to your studies to give them your best shot.
No one will be giving you a good talking to for not turning up to lectures or putting you in detention for a late essay. It’s down to you to succeed, so it really helps to study something that really shakes your pineapple. You'll study harder, study better and probably get a better result and in the end.
Best of all, you'll find yourself qualified for a career you like.
That applies even if you want to be a doctor. If you don’t enjoy studying medicine, being a doctor for the next 45 years is going to be a total splat. Choose a course you love because if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.
Having decided on the right course for you, here are three quick tips:
1. If you’re thinking of doing a course which asks for a portfolio or examples of your work, now's the prime time to make sure you’re going to have a good selection to show.
2. Every uni wants students who're dedicated to their subject. Show your commitment by doing some volunteering or work experience placements that are relevant to your studies. Or at the very least, some reading.
3. If you've got questions about a course, phone the uni department to ask. Not only is it a good way to get the answer, it's a chance to show your enthusiasm.
If you’re still drawing a blank on what exactly you might want to do, take a look at bestCourse4me which will give you all the info you need on what job certain degrees might lead to and what kind of money you could expect to make. Alternatively, if you know what job you want, but you're not sure how you can get there, bestCourse4me can help with that too.
Once you’ve got your course down, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to a site like Which? Uni which has everything you need to help you decide where might be best for you to study based on all kinds of wonderful things like location, grades, living costs and the social scene.
What about apprenticeships?...
From this April, big firms are going to have to put a whole heap of cash into apprenticeships, so many people predict a volcanic boom in what’s on offer and how they’re regarded by employers and the public.
Some employers and unis have even teamed up to offer apprenticeships where you get a degree at the same time. (They're helpfully called Degree Apprenticeships.) You study some of the time, but you also work and even earn money on the job.
There are apprenticeships all over the UK (especially England). They range from working in the RAF, training in accountancy to work in many of the main banks in this country.
We even found some that you might not expect to see. How about being an Aerospace Engineer, building and maintaining vehicles or satellites in space? Or a Fashion Studio Assistant or working on video games to check and fix them before they go live?
Even if you’ve decided uni's not for you, but you like the idea of moving away, apprenticeships in larger cities like London, Manchester, Leeds or Bristol might be a chance to get away. You get all the same perks of leaving home, just without the student debt.
Remember, though, you'll be paying rent which is a big cut out of your first pay cheque, which, when you’re on an apprenticeship may not be huge to start with.
The ball is finally in your court.
This month you’ll probably be getting some offers from universities. You may have some already. It can be exciting — like getting several Valentine cards all at once. It can also be unnerving: frantically hitting refresh on the UCAS website for hours on end and feeling like the only Valentine you’ll get might be from your mum. It doesn’t have to be stressful:
If you haven’t heard back yet, calm down. Unis are supposed to let you know by March 31st, though they may take a little bit longer in some cases. Delay is not necessarily a bad sign.
You don’t have to tell UCAS what you want to do until May 5th, so if you've got offers, don’t rush. That said, like all deadlines it’s probably better to know what you’re doing as far in advance as possible. Once you have made your choices, whatever they are, let UCAS know.
An Extra option: If you don’t get any offers from universities or you’re having second thoughts about the subjects you’ve applied for, you don’t necessarily have to wait another year to go again.
By registering with UCAS Extra you can apply to courses that still have spaces left. The choice will be more limited, so only pick a course through Extra if it’s something that you really want to do. It might make more sense to re-apply next year, rather than study a course you don’t want to, just for the sake of it.
Making the call: Once all your offers are in, UCAS will send you a summary and ask you to accept two offers (one firm and one insurance) and reject the rest. Don’t worry, they won’t be offended. A firm acceptance should be your dream uni, the place you’ll be happy to call home if your grades meet what they’ve offered.
Your insurance choice should be a course and university that you’d still be very happy with, but — and this is important, so listen up — it should be asking for lower grades.
It's just in case your exams don’t go the way you hope.
Are grades everything? Just because a degree has high grade requirements, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better or the perfect course for you. If there is a course that you want, at a uni that you’ll love, then put it as your firm option.
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