Applications – Cambridge News

Stuart Nicholson, Principal of Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies
Stuart Nicholson, Principal of Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies

For many sixth-formers this is university application season: the time when they decide what and where they want to study. While it might be for only three or four years, this is a decision that
will have a huge impact on their future careers and lives.

For that reason I’d advise any students, whatever they’re thinking of studying, to resist being influenced by an increasing number of universities using financial inducements to attract the best candidates. These range from free gym memberships to £3,000-a-year scholarships, and while these might seem very tempting in the short term, the comparative value of these, in the long term, is actually very low. This trend seems to have started as a result of universities being allowed to recruit as many students with A-level grades of at least ABB as they want. This, combined with a number of universities expanding and some A-level grades falling, has led to an intense battle for the top students.

So if you’re a student, or the parent of a student, currently thinking about university options, don’t be tempted to choose one as you would a new mobile phone contract, but rather think carefully about the course and how it will impact on your future career options. After all, you can change your phone after a few months, but changing university is both disruptive and costly.

I would suggest starting off the process by taking careers advice. Careers advice for many is lacking. However, if you do have the chance to get some good advice, take it: not just from trained professionals, but try also to talk to someone who is successful in the career/sector that you’re considering.

Next, think about your interests. Don’t just choose something because you’re good at it; you need to enjoy it too and relish the challenges the course will present. Then research which universities offer the subject(s). This information is easy to find online and many will also welcome students to open days. Don’t be dogmatic about where it is in the country, nor about whether it’s campus or city, or even its rankings in any league table.

While this information, which these days includes student feedback and numbers in employment after six months, is useful, it isn’t the whole picture. If you’re interested in future earnings the very useful website has a league table of subjects ordered by the ‘professional premium’, the difference between starting salaries in graduate-type jobs and other employment. Top of this is Chemical Engineering at the Cambridge, which has a premium of £12,500 and undoubtedly doesn’t need to offer anything extra to attract students.

Choosing the right course, thriving in your degree studies and securing a good job afterwards far outweighs the inducements that universities might be offering in the short term.

Principal Stuart Nicholson

Where to look next:

  • To find out more about our A Level and GCSE courses, click here
  • We have possibly the best boarding in the UK – have a look at boarding at CCSS
  • Our student profiles give you an insight into what life is like for students at CCSS
  • If you’re interested in seeing which universities our students go to, click here.

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