It will be one of the biggest decisions you ever have to make, and it will shape the rest of your life. So where do you start when it comes to choosing your study path after school?
For teens, if they haven’t heard it yet, they can expect to face the inevitable question sometime soon: “So, what are you going to do when you finish school?”
The current generation of school-leavers is being forced to answer this question in one of the most difficult economic climates the world has ever seen, and the stakes are high. The cost of pursuing higher education seems to be eternally on the increase: universities can name their price for providing the top courses; the cost of living is squeezing the pockets not only of students, but of their parents too; and as jobs become more competitive, more and more academic qualifications are required to ensure that potential candidates stand a chance.
And all of this comes with great risk. There was a time where you would be pretty confident that completing a certain study path successfully, whether it was a degree or a vocational course, would lead you into the career you had set your sights on as you left school. This was probably true for your parents, lucky them! But now, it’s an unfortunate reality that many graduates feel that their degree has not put them ahead of the career game as they had hoped.
However, let’s not lose hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel and this lies in making informed, careful decisions about what path you should take when you leave school. The good news is that as the cost of going down the standard route of further education increases, students are demanding alternative options. New doors to your dream career are always opening up. Once you are armed with the right knowledge about the options available to you, you can be confident that the decisions you make are not only the best for your future, but also carry the fewest risks.
So, how do I find out what options are available to me?
Research, research, research! The internet is, of course, a wonderful resource for finding out this kind of information. Search keywords related to your subjects of interest. Start to create a portfolio of options. Even if all you do to begin with is rule-out impossibilities, this is still time well-spent. But don’t stop there. Talk to as many people as possible. Talk to your parents, your parents’ friends, family members, and teachers. Between them, they have years of experience of study and work, so ask them for advice.
Look into your future career. Yes, it seems far away, but you have to try to imagine yourself there. Even if you have no idea what you want to do, you need to start asking yourself some questions about where you see yourself five or ten years down the line. Reflect on your personality. The answer to questions such as, ‘Can I imagine myself sitting in an office all day, or would that drive me crazy?’ will immediately start to narrow down your options.
Any educational organisation or institution worth looking into is sure to have an easy-to-find and easy-to-use website. Don’t be afraid to email with specific enquiries relating to your circumstances. If the institution you’re interested in is nearby, pay them a visit! Get a ‘feel’ for the people and the place. Ask yourself if you can imagine basing the next one, two, three, or even four years of your life at that place. Establish contact and make yourself known.
Why does this matter anyway? Can’t I just study something I enjoy and take it from there?
Well, in an ideal world, yes. But unfortunately, most people just can’t afford to spend vast amounts of money on something that isn’t going to increase their earning potential in later life. When it comes to degree courses, statistics from the UK and USA show that dropout rates are on the increase. In one UK university, 21.4% of students quit after just one year, and an estimated 45% will fail to complete their full degree. Across the UK, dropout rates have risen by 13% since 2011. In the USA, only 46% of students complete their college courses. Over in Japan, the figures are less alarming: 89% complete their course once they’ve started it. But even so, that’s still 11 out of every 100 students dropping their course before they finish.
So what should I consider in my decision-making?
With increases in tuition fees, particularly in the UK, students may feel forced to choose courses that don’t fit their requirements, simply because they work out cheaper. This is not a wise strategy and, as we now know, there are plenty of alternatives routes of study if your dream course is just too expensive. Other reasons for students dropping out of courses might include: not being able to cope with the demands of academic study, not being prepared for the reality of further education, family or personal reasons, and financial pressures. With all that in mind, it’s easy to see how crucial it is to choose the right course at the right university, which will give you the right opportunities, in order to have the best chance of graduating successfully.
There are many factors to consider, some of which are obvious, and others you may never have thought about. Let’s consider a few:
- Does my course need to be accredited? If, for example, you want to study Engineering with a view to settling in the UK, you’ll need to look into whether your course is approved by the relevant professional bodies in the UK. If not, this could seriously hinder your ability to go on to postgraduate study and work your way up the career ladder.
- Do I want an opportunity to study for a year abroad? Language courses, for example, often offer a 4-year course, with one year being a year-abroad placement. Is this something that excites you? Or is the thought too daunting?
- What type of university am I looking for? Are you intimidated by large universities? Do you prefer cosy places? Do you think you could cope with independently travelling around the city or would you prefer to have everything you need on campus?
- What reputation does the university have? You should look at the reputation as a university, but also for your specific course. You may find a university that loads of people have heard of, but perhaps the course you want to do isn’t very well established.
- What is the cost of living in that area? Some university cities will be cheaper to live in than others. Do your research.
- Is a degree actually my best option? It may not be! Don’t let the expectations of others force you into a course that you don’t think you’ll have the motivation to complete. It’s easy to get swept along with what your friends are doing, but make sure you choose what’s best for you.
The sooner you start to think about this, the better. The decisions you take about your higher education options will effect what choices you have for further education, so you should start your research early. Seek advice, do some research, and don’t be afraid to express your ideas to family and friends.
The English Matters Solution……
If the process seems daunting, and you’d like to know how to take the first steps, we can help. We offer a consultation service that will guide you through the whole process of application to university or further education courses. We’ll do all the hard work for you; from researching your options to editing your application letter. You can rest-assured that you’re making the right decisions and that your application has the best possible chance of acceptance.
Whatever you decide to study, in whichever corner of the globe-enjoy it. This will be your first taste of independence. Yes, further education is challenging and a huge step up from the comfort of high school, but if you approach it with motivation and dedication, you can be sure that you’re about to begin the most exciting time of your life.
Find out more about the English Matters University Application Consultation Service at www.ematters.ae
‘Why college students stop short of a degree’ by Lou Carlozo, www.reuters.com, Mar 27 2012.
‘University drop-out rate soars by 13pc in a year’ by Graeme Paton, www.telegraph.co.uk, 29 Mar 2012.