There are more paths to higher education than just a standard bounce from the sixth form to an undergraduate degree. It all depends on your interests and personal goals. Many people don’t really have a clear vision of what you want to do at university or if they want to go at all. Try exploring alternative routes that could shape your direction and perhaps lead you somewhere unexpected!
Work First: Part-time and Evening Study
There isn’t a rulebook to the uni-career journey. You can work first and study after, or work and study at the same time. Sometimes starting a job will help you see what you don’t want to do or what you need to do to progress it. And let’s face it, not everyone can afford to keep studying. There are many part-time, evening and online courses you can do whilst still working and are usually cheaper than a full-time uni course. Some are great to explore a field you are interested in and some are specifically catered to strengthening a career-based skill. They can add an extra layer to your life and bulk up your CV without having to put you in financial jeopardy.
A common and straightforward path to a UK university degree. If you have an idea about what subject you want to study in higher education, you can pick three or four related A-levels. Universities normally require the highest grade for the one subject you want to pursue. This route is suited for those who want to focus and go in-depth into a field, with the intention to carry this on at uni. A-Levels are less commonly known as Level 3 courses, but they are essentially the same, although Level 3 courses aren’t exclusive to academia, they can also include vocational qualifications.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a qualification considered equivalent to A-levels. It is studied in America, Europe and many international schools in parts of the world. It is suited for those who want a more dispersed and varied learning experience. It consists of six subjects; three majors and three minors. It also includes two extra courses. One called ‘Theory of knowledge’, which is about understanding philosophical ideas and learning techniques from an outside-the-box approach.
The other is a personal project usually in the form of an extended essay on a topic of your choice. You also need to complete a certain level of extra-curricular activities such as volunteering. The IB is a challenging and well-rounded pathway that is designed to prepare you, not just for university, but for your entrance as an engaged individual in society. It’s suited for those who want to do more than the amount at A-level.
Fast Track Courses
There are many specialised college offering ‘top-up’ courses, which means you can essentially skip your first year at university and join just to complete the final years. Some institutes offer tailor-made degree courses with many progression routes at partnering UK universities, for a range of subjects. Completing a certain level means you can choose which year of university you want to enter. For example, HND courses are equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. Some even launch you straight into postgraduate and master’s degrees. This path is great for those who want to hit the ground running earlier on.
Apprenticeships have become a very popular choice nowadays. There is a spectrum of courses to choose from, designed to give a set of invaluable skills related to the job sector, from cybersecurity to health professionals. Most courses launch you straight away into a job or can be studied further at a university for an extra qualification. This route is suited for someone who is focused on a particular career and know what is required to for it. Apprenticeships are usually cheaper and quicker to finish than university degrees, with the added bonus of employment promised after graduation.
Usually, for art and design courses, foundation courses, such as those that are offered by Online Business School, act as a pre-university experience to prepare you for the full-blown experience. Usually lasting year, they are sometimes a prerequisite for many art degrees to help you understand the methods and practices behind the discipline. Doing a course for a short period like a year could also be a great way to see if you can see yourself doing this for longer.
If you are really stuck for life goals, leaving your everyday routine can give you direction and inspiration. Go abroad to study a course, teach or volunteer, see something different and challenge yourself outside your comfort zone. A gap year doesn’t have to be a hugely funded project or even a whole year. Many studies abroad schemes help with boarding and volunteer projects usually keep costs low in exchange for work. You might discover passions you never knew you had and will also give you something extra to put in your university or job applications. Also, remember that university might not necessarily be the path for you, there are plenty of other options out there, for example, have you explored HNC courses or even ELCAS courses if you are ex-military?