Making vital choices for post-sixteen subjects and courses
Most schools and colleges do not offer IB or Pre-U but offer A-level, which is safer and perfectly fine. Almost all the top universities list other courses such as BTEC as acceptable to gain admission but in reality they do not like them, and if a student gains entrance to a top university based on BTEC, the student will usually struggle to cope with the rigour of the course as their courses are designed with A-level in mind.
For younger people who are still in school, they must start to think about their options when they come to do a degree. They may be 14, 15 or 16 at present but in a couple of years they will be looking to make key choices about their future. The subjects they study for A-level and do well in will determine the course they are admitted onto and also the university they attend. The top universities have preference for certain subjects.
Irrespective of which course a student wants to study at university, we suggest they study at least two A-level subjects from the following list, as those are the subjects that are more accepted by the top universities:
- Further Maths
- English Literature
A list of acceptable subjects – listed as A1 and A2 – are available on the website for Cambridge University and there is a link to this at the bottom of this blog. The Cambridge University webpage serves as a general guide, although is not the same for all universities. It is unlikely that you’ll go wrong if you follow the guideline on that webpage.
Although what appears to matter most for lifetime income is the university you attend, the degree course you do at university also matters. There is a balance to be struck between the university you go to and the course you study. The best way is to study a highly sought-after degree course at a top university but there are times when it is ok to study a more marketable course at a slightly less reputable university.
UK universities are world leaders – but not all of them!
The very top universities in the UK are world leaders in many areas and overall the UK has a good reputation for higher education at university level. Universities in the UK are generally of a good standard but some are a lot better than others.
It is fine to follow your passion and study the A-level subjects and the degree course that you are enthusiastic about, you just need to be aware of the potential consequences in terms of the job market and so on. Not everyone goes to university expecting to earn a lot of money after obtaining a degree. It is up to you to decide what is more important for you. It is great to experience university life and to study for the sake of studying but make sure that’s what you really want for yourself.
In our view, a university education is worth borrowing money in the form of a student loan. The average debt accumulated at the end of a degree course is about £44,000. Certain courses studied at certain universities provide you more chances of paying it off than others.
Presentation, perseverance and resilience count
It helps to develop some other interpersonal skills, such as public speaking, the way you present yourself, and the ability to be able to speak confidently and in a manner that will not isolate you in most social groups. There are also other human attributes such as politeness, perseverance, resourcefulness and resilience that can be helpful in getting on in the world.
A young person should try and open their eyes to the world around to reach out to people from all backgrounds, as you can learn from all sorts of people. Everyone should be proud of what they have achieved and try to make the best of their situation. If you are determined enough, regardless of your qualifications, you will be successful in whatever you choose to study and whichever university you attend. There are well-known successful people, such as Richard Branson and Steve jobs, with no university degree. Another one is the former Prime Minister, John Major, who despite not attending a university became very successful in commerce and politics.