Higher education at 18/19 or later
Choosing a course
Many 18 or 19 year olds do choose to go on to university (higher education) after school or college. The proportion of young people going onto higher education has increased from one in eight in 1980 to well over one in three now. And although there was a dip in applications following the increase in fees, the number of applicants is on the rise again.
For 18/19 year olds the route to higher education requires a Level 3 qualification, such as A levels, BTEC or Cambridge Nationals or Advanced Apprenticeships.
Even if you don’t have the qualifications listed in the entry requirements it’s worth talking to the university or college to discuss your suitability and options.
If you are thinking of higher education when you are older, although a lot of mature students will have traditional qualifications, some universities and colleges will consider a range of other qualifications and learning credits as well as work experience and informal learning - you might not even need a Level 3 qualification.
What are the choices of HE at 18/19?
There is a wide range of higher education level courses available including degrees, diplomas or Foundation Degrees. Find out more about the different types of higher level courses here.
Money and all that!
As you will have heard, students have to apply for a government loan to pay for tuition fees (up to £9,000 a year for some courses). Although this is a lot of money your loan does not have to be paid back until you have finished your course and are earning more than £21,000. The rate of payback depends on your earnings but, as an example, if you are earning £22,000 you will only pay back £7.50 a month. Read more about loans and financial support for HE here.
If the are worried about taking out a loan for your uni. course, then there are other ways to get a degree, without taking out a loan, through a employer sponsored degree, a Higher Apprenticeship or with reduced fees through The Open University, where you can study part-time alongside work.
Choosing specific or general course:
I know what course or career I want to do in the future.
You might already have a future career in mind, which can make choosing a uni level course easier.
However, do check out what qualifications you need for a specific career as some which are very focused on a job, such as architecture, dentistry, nursing, etc. require a specific degree to get started.
The National Careers Service is a good place to check out your ideas as they show job profiles which include routes into the career and the qualifications needed.
I don't have a clear idea yet of the course or career I want to do.
Many young people are not sure what their career plans are for the future. That's okay, as employers are often looking for people who have a degree level qualification and can be less concerned about the specific subject. That means that any sort of degree can lead to a professional and managerial opportunity.
Ideas to help you choose a course:
- Think about what you like at school or college. What do you enjoy studying? What do you not enjoy studying?
- Think whether you would like to study a subject you are familiar with or a completely new subject?
- Think about what you like to do in your leisure time, is there a course to match your interests?
- Talk to your parents/carers, friends and teachers they can help you to think through your plans.
- If you have a career or a job sector you are even vaguely interested in find out more about it - the jobs available, the qualifications they are looking for, etc. Look at 'Find out more about a job sector'.
- Make sure you are making realistic choices both in terms of what you like and your target grades.
- Read this, which shows the steps to choosing a uni course – and this link to UCAS gives you further ideas.
What you choose, and the way you study, will depend on what you want and need from a qualification. You will also need to think about where you want to study, at home or away and what type of university you want to go to e.g. city, campus, Russell Group, etc. They are all quite different, so take a look at their websites.
Websites to help you choose a course
If you have no idea what you might like to study explore www.ukcoursefinder.com which has a subjects/interests questionnaire which provides degree subject suggestions based on your answers. You'll then be able to search for university courses relating to these subjects. This site also allows you to search courses by predicted UCAS points.
The Unistats site compares courses from different universities. You can see; what students thought of the course (through the National Students Survey); the average salaries after finishing; how many students go into managerial or professional level work; how much teaching time you can expect on the course... and much more. Unistats is a government website so you get the facts , without the spin!
The Which? university guide has lots of information and filters to help you find a course to suit your needs. It also has information on how competitive many applicants apply to different courses.
The Guardian's list of degree courses shows what you will learn from different degree subjects and what jobs you might get after the course.
The Prospects site will show you what jobs you could do with different degree subjects.
The bestCourse4me app allows you to check the most popular A-levels and the grades achieved by previous students for specific courses at specific universities, see the most popular degrees that specific A-level subjects lead to, search the universities that offer the degree you are interested in and find the courses that lead to the career you are interested in.
Getting in has lots of information about searching and applying for university, including dates for open days (it also has revision materials for A Levels and GCSEs).
Print a list of free, useful websites:
Go and visit
Attend open days and make the most of them. Opendays.com has all the dates and advice on what to do to get the best out of them or take a look at the link on UCAS Visiting universities is a costly affair, but really important – you could be spending 3 years of your life there, so you need to make sure you like it!
You could also:
- Complete the 'Level up! 'Profile Builder to start your thinking about what is important to you.
- Look at the Progression Planner to see what level your current qualifications are, what qualifications you could do next and to find out more about what's involved in different qualifications.
- Find out what jobs are available for graduates