For those students who are receiving the results of their A-level today, it is a significant moment in their lives – probably the most important event so far. It is possible that there will be other events in the future that may well be just as important or even more so, but the significance of the A-level results cannot be over emphasised, as they are likely to shape the future for all the young people involved.
I would argue that the A-level is the most important achievement, as it decides which university one goes to and what follows afterwards. I am of the view that the university from which a degree is obtained is more important than the course one studies there. There are a few exceptions, such as Medicine, which is a course offered only by the most reputable of universities. Considering that the vast majority of people do not work in a profession where they use their degree, while the nature of the degree course itself can be useful in getting a job, the top employers tend to look first at the university from which the degree was obtained and, perhaps, the class of the degree.
For a young person who has just received their result, it is a pivotal moment in their life and they are about to make the biggest decision they have ever made. Below are a few recommended pointers:
- Go for the best university that you can get into, with the A-level result you have obtained
- Second in order of importance is the course you study at university – (see ‘5’ below)
- Do not be tempted by a less reputable university offering you a financial incentive to study with them. Go for the most reputable university and you can use the university ranking table to make a decision
- The notion that certain universities specialise in a particular course that interests you does not matter hugely
- For example, I do not recommend going to study Robotics or Game Design or something related at Bournemouth University or London Met if you have good enough grades to study a more general course, such as Engineering (any Engineering) or Mathematics at Nottingham or Warwick. Don’t worry too much about specialising too early. You probably need a masters degree anyway and, after a bachelors degree in a more general Engineering course or even just Mathematics, you can always do your masters in a specific field of engineering – again at a reputable university
- For Arts-oriented people, a degree in History, English or a Modern or Classical Language from a reputable university is more useful than a degree in Media Studies, Sociology or Film Studies
- If you want to be an Accountant, you are better off studying Maths, with Finance if you are mathematically-minded, or perhaps Economics, as your first degree. A degree in Accountancy is not as useful for future high-level management positions as a first in Economics. You need ACA or ACCA to be a Chartered Accountant anyway, as a degree in Accountancy or Accounting will not, in itself, make you a Chartered Accountant. Go for something more broad to start with
- Check out clearing to see if you can get into an even better university than the one from which you have accepted a place. Be very careful in making a decision – do things on time, but don’t rush more than necessary
- It’s worth taking a gap year; but only if you are guaranteed to go to a good university the following year. Otherwise, make the best of what you’ve got
- Do your research before making the most important decision of your life, as there is abundant information available these days.
Whatever A-level results you have achieved, be grateful, celebrate your achievement and look forward with optimism to the future. What you are as a person, in terms of how determined you are, is more likely to make you successful than the qualifications you have. Yes, the qualifications help, but it’s what you are made of that matters most. Study the most successful people in the world, such as Steve Jobs, Anita Roddick (the founder of Body Shop), Bill Gates and Richard Branson – none of whom were university graduates. You may also be surprised to learn that people like John Humphrys and Jeremy Clarkson do not have a degree or even A-level!
Yes, it’s worth getting into debt for a university education; however, do your research carefully and understand that a university education these days does not guarantee you a graduate-level job at the end – at least not to start with. There are university graduates who work in a job where they are flipping burgers – the McJob kind of thing! I used to clean dishes at Pizza Hut when I was in the sixth form before I started university and I saw it as a great learning experience – which I would recommend for everyone. However, I’m not so sure how I’d feel if I had a degree and was still cleaning dishes or flipping burgers! I probably wouldn’t mind so much, as being educated for the sake of it is a worthwhile endeavour, but not everyone wants that. There are various alternative options to a university degree, such as apprentice, a job with in-house training and starting your own business. I still recommend a university education though!
Lastly, have fun and enjoy university and the rest of your life. Aim high, be curious and adventurous; be hungry and have fun in life.
What will make you succeed are: Desire, Action and Behaviour. Wanting something badly enough is insufficient, as everyone wants good things, but only a few people are prepared to do what is necessary to achieve all the things they want. You need to have an unrelenting desire, take persistent action and adopt the behaviours that are congruent to the ascension.
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