It is never too early to start thinking about what you would like to do after school or college – we hope you find these useful hints and tips helpful when deciding on the next step of your journey.
Robyn Langdon, Outreach Events Team Leader
Start your research early
Taking notes during your first lecture as a first-year university student may seem a lifetime away and it may even feel too early to start your research. However, things begin to move quickly in the build up to your university application so it's worth making every effort to start your research early and begin take control of your future.
While you may have an idea of a job, profession, career or industry that you're aspiring towards, there is a high chance that you won't be too sure on what you want to do – and that's perfectly okay.
“From studying ten GCSEs to choosing four A levels, how am I supposed to pick one course from thousands of options?”
Given the nature of selecting subjects at school, you have to get used to specialising your subject interests pretty quickly and that can lead to some hard decisions that shouldn't be taken lightly. Don't worry if you didn't have an idea of what course you were interested in when choosing your A level subjects – hopefully you'll achieve a strong set of grades across a healthy range of subjects to help maximise your options.
There are many things to think about when selecting a course to study at undergraduate level and there may also be study options you hadn't previously considered such as courses with foundation years or degree apprenticeships.Visit our guide on choosing school subjects if you're yet to choose your school subjects and want to know more about how these choices affect your next steps.
Useful things to know before you start your research
Working out the answers to these questions can provide a good starting point for conducting course research:
- What subjects have you performed well in at school?
- What subjects do you have passion for and want to investigate further?
- What ways do you learn best – do you prefer practical work or written assignments?
- Are you looking for courses with fieldwork or placement opportunities?
- Do you have a future job or career in mind driving your decisions?
Use online tools like Careerpilot
Careerpilot is a website that has been developed and aimed towards 13–19 year olds to aid the progression into higher education level study through providing impartial information and support. The website allows you to map and track your progress through key stages at school as well as offering clear guidance about the important steps towards higher education study.
“I have an idea of a course I'd like to study and it's offered at loads of universities – how do I work out which option to choose?”
If you're at the point where you've got a firm idea of the course title you'd like to study and it's now a case of comparing the same course across several institutions.
The important thing to remember is that even courses that have the same title will contain different content and may be taught differently at different institutions. By looking into the course module descriptions via university course pages you'll begin to build a picture of where the subtle differences lie, and you can start to favour one option over another.
Shortlist your options
One method which could be a useful way to differentiate between your options is to build a 'pros and cons' spreadsheet including each course you're thinking of studying. Comparing the course content, structure and facilities, as well as the institutions and locations themselves are all good things to be considering when you are comparing one option to another.
You may find that once you've weighed up the pros and cons of several courses taught at multiple institutions there is one clear candidate that jumps out to you. Equally, seeing the differences in this clear way may help you to rule out two or three options and focus in on the right course for you.
Already have an idea of a career?
It's great if you have a specific career path that you are already thinking about working towards – this can certainly help you in your quest for the right university course.
It may be beneficial for you to work backwards from your dream job and think about the levels of experience or roles you may need to undertake beforehand. For example, during your research you may find out that you will need to gain experience by completing an internship and by looking into internship options you may start to see which types of degrees will put you in a good position to get your foot into the door of your desired career.