Congratulations to all of you who have just received your GCSE results! Take some time to relax, catch your breath, and celebrate. You definitely deserve it.
A-levels are right around the corner – it might feel like you’re straight out of the frying pan and into the fire, but don’t fret. Your A-level choices are important so it’s vital to make your decision carefully, but with our top tips below you should be well on your way.
WHAT SUBJECTS SHOULD I STUDY?
What you study at the next level of education has a direct impact on the options available to you at University afterwards. If you’re looking at specific degrees – the sciences in particular – you want to make sure you’re not getting shut out of your preferred University because you haven’t studied a particular discipline.
Start by skipping the A-level step entirely and look at University courses you might like. Check the entry requirements for each course, and make a note of what A-levels they’re looking for. Some may only look for one particular A-level or grade, whereas others may ask for up to three or four specific A-levels before they’ll consider your application.
Once you’ve made your shortlist, compare the requirements for each – you’re sure to see a trend in what subjects you need to study to move on to the degree you want.
WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT DEGREE I WANT TO DO?
Many students have no idea what they want to do at University and beyond. If this is the case for you, it’s best to keep your options open. Some A-level subjects will leave you with a broader spectrum of degree choices; these are known as ‘facilitating subjects’, and they make great choices for students who are undecided on their degree:
• Chemistry, Biology or Physics
• Modern and Classical Languages
The more of these subjects you take at A-level (for example, if you chose to do A-levels in English, Maths, Biology and History) the more options there will be available to you at University. Alternatively, if you have a particular talent for something, such as art, sports or music, it is a good idea to take that subject as it will be useful and desirable for degrees relevant to your passion.
HOW MANY A-LEVELS SHOULD I TAKE?
The simple answer is four. Most students take four A-levels in their first year, and many drop one in their second year to concentrate on the other three. Some schools have General Studies as a compulsory fifth subject, but this will not count towards your university admission.
DON’T TAKE COURSES THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR
Variety is the spice of life, and also the key to a strong University application. Try not to choose multiple courses that are very similar to one another – such as Film Studies and Media Studies.
The three main Sciences are an exception to this rule, as many science courses require at least two of the three to be studied at A-level. However you should still avoid variations of the same subject if they are available to you, such as Biology and Human Biology.
WATCH OUT FOR SUBJECTS THAT AREN’T ACCEPTED
Some University courses have lists of ‘non-preferred’ subjects too, that they’d rather not see on your application. It’s a little cheeky, but Universities are looking for a specific set of skills for their courses most of the time so may choose to overlook certain candidates based on other unrelated subjects they’ve studied.
Don’t let this put you off studying something at A-level that you’re extremely interested in – a ‘non-preferred’ subject shouldn’t be an issue if studied in conjunction with a facilitating subject or two from the list above.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS ARE A GREY AREA
Although they should be taken at face value, Entry Requirements are not gospel. Every University will consider you an individual when you apply, and if your subject choices don’t match up perfectly to your chosen degree, it’s not the end of the world. Personal statement, interview, work experience, personal interests and portfolio all play a part in whether or not you are offered a place on a degree course and Universities are known to be somewhat flexible. Being prepared in advance is always the best course of action, but speaking to the course leaders at the University and showing your enthusiasm is always a back-up plan if you later find out a grade has fallen short or you’re missing a subject you wish you’d taken but didn’t know you’d need.
Look out for words like ‘Essential’ and ‘Preferred’ too – they mean just that. You may still get onto a University course without a ‘Preferred’ A-level subject in your repertoire.
A-LEVELS ARE A BIG STEP UP FROM GCSES
The reason you take such a small number of A-levels is because they are studied in-depth and extensively. Be prepared for a big jump in difficulty, as well as what is expected of you, and the way you are taught. Self-motivation and independent study will play a much larger part in the next two years of your education, so whatever you choose, be sure it’s something that will hold your interest and not a fleeting fancy.
REMEMBER THAT A-LEVELS AREN’T THE ONLY WAY
There are other options available to you, such as the IB Diploma. Vocational qualifications and BTECs are growing increasingly common too and are accepted by many Universities.
If you’re still unsure or anxious about your A-level choices, speaking with an Education Consultant can help clear up any concerns you might have. The Independent Education Consultants have a team of experts on hand, ready to give you the advice you need to make the right choices and get on those tricky pathways to Higher Education and future careers. Why not give us a call on 01865 522066 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today?
This post by Lauren Bowman.