A-Level Results Day: Advice to students weighing up options

Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level

If A-Level results are better or worse than expected, students will be weighing up their options.

These are some of the most important career decisions they will make. Taking the time to research thoroughly will be worth its weight in gold further down the line.

There are two obvious routes. One option is to go to university and undertake an undergraduate degree. The other is to move onto a school-leaver programme, which is most commonly an apprenticeship.

While university is the right choice for many, it doesn’t work for everyone. Careers that were once only accessible through higher education are now viable routes for those who want to do an apprenticeship. For example, degree apprenticeships offer an alternative way of accessing higher education while also gaining valuable work experience and earning money.

Here are some tips for students weighing up their options.

Get a realistic perspective

Prospects Early Careers Survey showed that 39% of school and college students think that a degree has a better reputation than an apprenticeship and one in ten said their parents are against the apprentice route. This is possibly due to the persistence of stereotypical views of apprenticeships that regard them as being a less worthy route into employment than a degree.

In fact, modern apprenticeships are very different proposition to when many parents were at school and the fusing of work and education provides a great opportunity for a young person to develop and grow with an employer. It’s important to get a really honest and realistic perspective on what an apprenticeship today is like. Seeking professional guidance is vital to this.

Get professional careers advice

Prospects Early Careers Survey highlighted the significant influence family members have on young people when they are making important decisions about their careers. The survey found that school students were particularly reliant on their families for careers advice (65%), compared to teachers (57%) and careers professionals (35%).

Talking to parents and friends is part of decision-making as they will be people who know you the best. However, it’s important to supplement this with professional advice to ensure the next steps are the right ones.  In addition to looking at the advice on Prospects.ac.uk, which is written by professional career advisors, students should look at the National Careers Service website. Employer websites can also be helpful as well as talking to teachers and advisers at school or college.

Research thoroughly

Information about going to university is widespread, so take your time to consider what you’d like to study and where you’d like to go. As many of the apprenticeship opportunities are relatively new in comparison you may have to work a bit harder to get a good handle on the options available.

There is a raft of apprenticeships to explore and think about and they cover the full range of sectors from law to IT. The system can be a little more complex to navigate with different levels and opportunities offered by both employers and educators, but there is lots of information available if you look. Government information about becoming an apprentice is a good place to start. Prospects.ac.uk also explains the different types of apprenticeships with information on decision-making.

Chris ReaAbout the author

Chris Rea is a careers expert for Prospects at Jisc.

Chris has worked at Prospects, now part of Jisc, for more than 25 years. He has taken on various roles including Head of Higher Education Services where he led the Hedd degree fraud service.

Chris currently leads Prospects’ income-generating activities, including recruitment campaigns for postgraduate course providers and graduate employers and Hedd.

A regular speaker at conferences and events, Chris’ areas of expertise are postgraduate funding, graduate careers and employability, degree fraud, internships and social mobility.

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