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Choices at 18

What would university offer and should my child go?

Going to university can be a wonderful opportunity for many, but it is not always the right option for every student at 18 and there are alternatives available. 

For some it is the chance to study a subject that is of particular interest to them, whilst for others, it is essential that they go to university and gain a degree, as they need it for their chosen career.

How degrees develop academic and employability skills

Even if your child isn’t clear about their career plans, gaining a degree will enable them to develop their employability skills to a higher level. Skills such as the ability to make effective presentations, to conduct research or to work effectively in a team. The combination of their degree (in any subject), their higher-level employability skills, work experience and involvement in university life,  can make them very attractive to employers.

Many degrees now offer placements as part of the course, to help students understand the workplace and develop employability skills. Some courses offer a four year course where one year is spent on placement in a relevant work environment.

For many graduates it is the other opportunities available at university, in addition to their academic study, which they really value – making life-long friends, studying abroad as part of their degree, the opportunity to have graduate level work experience, networking with prospective employers or the vast number of opportunities available through the social life and the various clubs and societies on offer.

Should your child go - things to consider?

Perhaps it would be helpful for you to help your child consider the following questions.

  • Do they want to go? Find out their reasons for wanting to go. Have they really given it careful research and thought it through? Whilst university can be a great experience, it does involve more study and are they prepared to put in the effort required to get a good grade? 
  • Do they need to go? If they have a specific career in mind, they may need to gain a degree to get the job they want, but if they are not sure about the university route it may be possible to achieve their career goals through one of the other pathways open to them at 18. You can find out about the other available choices at 18 in Careerpilot.
  • Are they ready to go? Many students take time out to consider their plans with a gap year. Careerpilot has a section on gap year information.
  • Do they understand that going to university and gaining higher-level qualifications can certainly help get a job but students also need to show their employability skills? Many degree courses will help students develop these skills while they are studying (placements are great for this). Employability skills can also be developed while at university through part time jobs, other activities at university or through memberships of clubs and societies. This article from Which Uni gives you some good ideas.

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