What are alternative pathways to university?

More than ever in recent history, students across the UK are considering their pathway to university and questioning if higher education is the right place for them.

Research shows one in five young adults are re-evaluating attending university due to the cost of living crisis, especially as government support for students has decreased, leading 38 per cent to say they have had to rely on financial help from family and friends to get through.

King’s InterHigh recently held a webinar to support young people and their families seeking support in applying for university, while also exploring the alternatives to university.

The panel of experts included:

  • Alessandro Capozzi, Head of Sixth Form and King’s InterHigh
  • Joseph Davies, UK and International University consultant
  • Maria Delado, King’s InterHigh International Baccalaureate Diploma student from Spain
  • Sioned Davies, King’s InterHigh alumni and current Masters student in statistics
  • Emily Vaandrager, King’s InterHIgh alumni and second-year International Relations student in Paris

These speakers offered the following advice and tips for anyone worried about applying to university.

Focus on what you enjoy

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of deciding what you want to study at university and beyond. It can feel like your whole future depends on this decision. In fact, a recent study showed a fifth of people with anxiety said mental health barriers were putting them off applying altogether and 40 per cent said the process of applying was making their anxiety worse than ever.

To help overcome this feeling, try to focus on things you can control. You can’t possibly know what your future holds, or what jobs you’ll eventually want to pursue. Instead, focus on what you enjoy studying today and see what degrees align with the reasons you currently love your favourite subjects. This will boost the likelihood you will enjoy your studies at university and the jobs your degree may lead to.

Make sure your application is personal

Once you’ve found the degree you want to apply for, make sure your application is as personal as possible. While it may help to look at a  personal statement template for reference, it’s important you inject as much of your personality and real experiences as possible.

To achieve this, you might want to tell a story about what ignited your passion for your subject, what extra reading you’ve been doing, what pioneers in your field you’re inspired by, and what you hope to gain by reading your subject. This will show admissions counsellors that you not only have the motivation and drive to achieve a degree, but also that you have the vision to apply your studies to the wider world upon graduation, which is something universities are always looking for.

Don’t be afraid to contact universities if you’re unsure

If you’re ever unsure about anything a university offers, do not be afraid to contact the support team. Your question may be about a particular module the institution offers, or whether you could dip into another department to pursue an interest connected to your central subject, but it is always worthwhile to ask

In addition, if you fall in love with a particular course but you are predicted to receive slightly lower grades than they’re looking for, it’s always worth emailing the university to see if you are still eligible to apply. This will demonstrate your commitment to the university and will increase your chances of success in gaining an offer.

International Baccalaureate vs A-Levels

The International Baccalaureate (IB) and A-Levels are two well-recognised routes to university which offer different benefits and drawbacks.

For example, while A-Levels allow you to reduce the number of subjects you read and focus on in-depth analysis, the IB allows students to continue to read a mixture of subjects and keep their options open. So, if you are confident in three to four subjects you love most, A-Levels may be best suited to you, but if your interest at school is broader and more far-reaching, you may benefit from the breadth of the IB.

The focus of the IB also differs from A-Levels. As its name indicates, the former explores subjects from an international perspective, while A-Levels are arguably more Anglocentric. For this reason, the IB may be the most popular qualification held by students at universities across continental Europe.

Consider your vision for the future

Make sure you base your decision on your unique vision for your future. Rather than applying for courses or universities your friends are applying to, or what league tables dictate, try to think about what will make you happy as an individual.

To help you determine this, you can ask yourself the following questions: what country do you want to study in? What skills do you want to develop? What kind of extracurricular clubs do you want to be part of? What kind of culture will you thrive in best?

Then, reflect on your options and see which ones most closely align with the answers you provide to the above questions. This might help you think clearly about what university option will best suit and benefit you.

This webinar was designed to equip students and families with the tools they need to pursue the right pathway for them to university and beyond.

Written by

King's InterHigh

King's InterHigh

King’s InterHigh is an independent British international online school. Offering Primary, Secondary and Sixth Form education, we cater to students from age 7 – 18 who are looking for a high-quality British education, working towards International GCSEs and A Levels, delivered in a way that revolves around their needs and interests. All with the backing of Inspired, the world’s leading education group.

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