Keeping your Options Open

Monday, May 20, 2013 12:00 AM

Anna Vignoles, Professor of Education at Cambridge and a big help to us at bestCourse4me, has some very useful advice for choosing A levels.

Choosing your A levels can be a nerve-racking experience. The choices you make at A level will make a big difference to what university courses you are able to get into, but it is not always clear how you should make such an important decision.

If You Know What You Want To Study

You may be one of the lucky ones who already have a passion for a particular subject or a clear view of what career you want to eventually get into. If you do, you may think that the options at A level are pretty obvious.

But it is still important that you check that your chosen A levels are the best ones to get you onto the course you want.

For example, if you want to study economics at university it is often more important to have a mathematics A level than it is to have an economics A level. This kind of information is available from university websites but you can also check out bestCourse4me and see what A levels other students taking that course have.

If You Don't Know What You Want to Study Yet

Many of you are probably still be in the dark about the subject you want to study at university. So if you are undecided, how should you choose your A level subjects? The answer is: keep your options open! Take subjects that do not close doors for you. For example, you can still read economics or indeed sociology and a range of other social science subjects if you take mathematics, physics and chemistry at A level. If you take P.E., Drama and Art it is most unlikely (though not impossible) that you will be able to study these subjects at degree level.

Do Your Maths

My research has shown that employers particularly like workers who have good mathematical skills. Even basic maths skills can help you earn more in the labour market. Graduates with mathematics A level have earned considerably more than those who do not. Many mathematical and scientific degrees lead to higher earnings than degrees in the arts and humanities. One might also imagine that mathematics is only useful if you are going to study mathematics or sciences at university. However we need more people to have good mathematics skills in social science. Admissions tutors in the social sciences will increasingly be on the lookout for students who come with good mathematics. An A level in the subject is likely to be a valuable asset. This does not mean that you should not follow your passion for English or drama. However, if you are unsure of your future path remember that getting a job may be easier if you have good analytical and numerical skill.

Do Your Research

Most importantly, remember that different degrees lead to quite different occupations and often different salary levels. It is worth taking the time to know as much as possible about the options open to you. Whatever you do, don't assume that all degrees from all institutions are alike, in terms of what they can do for you in the job market.

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