Deciding what to do with your future is a big decision. Some students know exactly what they want to do and others have no idea at all. Don’t worry which category you fit into – we have advice to help you make the best choices for you with our handy Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Does it matter what subjects I pick at A level if I have a particular career in mind?
Yes and no! for some careers you will be unable to study a particular university course without having taken some specific A level subjects (and the grades you achieve in these subjects will be important too!). We make sure we talk students through this when they come to interview and we also have a handy guide on the website too to show you which subjects are essential for particular university degrees. It’s important to note that there are plenty of university courses out there that make no demands on what subjects you have studied at A level. Instead they will be more interested in what grades you achieve, regardless of the subject you have studied.
2. I don’t know what I want to do after College, so how do I know what subjects to pick?
If you don’t know what career you want to pursue, you won’t be the only one – lots of young people fall into this category and there is nothing wrong with not yet knowing. While we can’t advise you on what subjects will bolster your subsequent career aspirations, your choice of subjects is still important. We always advise students to pick subjects that they are good at and which they enjoy. You will do better at subjects you enjoy because you are engaged in what you are learning and getting good grades at A level keeps lots of options open to you.
3. Is it true that taking certain A level subjects opens up more university course options?
As we’ve explained above, while some university courses demand particular subjects at A level, others don’t. However, there are a number of subjects at A level that are known as ‘facilitating’ subjects and that’s because they are often asked for for by a variety of university courses. These subjects include Biology, Chemistry, English, Geography, History, Mathematics, Modern and Classical Languages and Physics. The more of these subjects you choose, the more courses at university will be open to you.
4. Is it true that BTEC won’t get you into university?
No. BTECs are equivalent to A levels and will get you to university. BTECs are available at lots of different levels, but we offer Extended Diplomas; one BTEC Extended Diploma is equivalent to studying 3 A levels. BTECs are a different style of learning to A levels and tend to involve more coursework and less exams, but they are not without exams anymore and they are challenging qualifications. In recent years we have seen BTEC students progress to places like Aston, Birmingham, Durham and Leicester Universities to do exciting degrees like Law, Audiology, Pharmacy, Radiography, Computer Science and many more courses. Some students also get onto highly competitive sponsored degree programmes and advanced apprenticeship programmes too.
5. Is it true that A levels are a lot tougher than GCSEs?
Yes. There is a big step up from GCSE to A level, but we set our entry requirements at the level we do because we know that by achieving the required grades at GCSE you will be more than capable of flourishing at A level too. Tackling A levels is about listening to your teachers and buying into the College’s learning culture. We ask our students to embrace our Aspire learning culture and work towards becoming an independent learner. This does not mean you are left to struggle alone – if you need help, please ask for it – but by taking responsibility for your learning and doing some independent study outside of lessons you can stretch yourself to achieve the higher grades. Not only will you feel an added sense of accomplishment, but it preparing you for university and employment too.
6. What support does the College offer to help me get a university or apprenticeship place after College?
Whether you know exactly what you want to do or you have no idea of the opportunities open to you, College can help. We have a dedicated Careers Adviser at College who can help you determine what you want to do after College and show you the opportunities out there. You will also have an academic coach, who will guide you through the process of applying to university or to your apprenticeship or training place. When it comes to making your UCAS application (for university), your coach will help you to make sure your Personal Statement is the best it can be to impress university admissions tutors. There is also support in preparing students for interviews too, including specialist advice for the high flyers looking to make ambitious applications to Oxford or Cambridge.
7. What else can help me to get a place at university?
Newsflash! It’s not just about getting good grades! Of course your grades are important, but you have to remember that when applying to university or for a job or an advanced apprenticeship programme, you will be up against lots of other young people who are also predicted excellent grades at A level. To give yourself the best possible chance of getting the offers you want, you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd. There are lots of ways you can do this, but one of the best ways we recommend is by way of enrichment. This is an activity that you take part in alongside your studies and it could be taking part in Music or Drama activities or being a part of one of the sports’ teams. These commitments – as well as part time jobs and volunteering outside of College – impress potential universities and employers because they demonstrate team work, commitment and a good work ethic. The College also offers a number of specialist enrichments, there to support students with particular career ambitions. For example, if you want to pursue a career as a doctor, our Pre-Medical School can boost your chances; if you prefer engineering, we have an Engineering Academy; if you want to be a teacher, our Teaching Academy can help you get there. There are lots more academies like this, which you can read about in our Enrichment section.