There are more ways of going into higher education than ever before and many different ways of studying. There's also a range of qualifications on offer. (Check out the 'Qualifications' link on the sidebar to your left.) Then there are new options to think about such as 2-year, 'fast track' degrees and private sector universities.
It can all seem a bit bewildering so it might help to start with two questions:
- What do you want to study?
- Where do you want to study?
What to study?
There are more than 37,000 courses on offer and you normally have to narrow this down to no more than 5 choices! One of the first decisions to make is whether you'd prefer an academic or vocational course.
An academic course involves studying a subject in a theoretical rather than a practical way. Courses may be single subject or joint (two subjects or more) or multi-disciplinary which may include a mix of sciences, arts and social sciences.
Vocational (also called ‘applied’ or ‘work related’) courses involve using your knowledge of a subject to solve problems – often in a work setting. It may prepare you for a specific career (e.g. nursing) or for a broad work sector (e.g. marketing). Some courses include work placements and are often known as sandwich courses.
Bear in mind:
- You can’t always tell from the title whether a course is academic or vocational e.g. some courses in media studies are very practical whereas others are mostly academic. You need to check the content of every course.
- You can combine both types of course e.g. French with accountancy.
- Many vocational courses e.g. in teaching, nursing or medicine, expect you to have work experience when you apply.
Opportunities for work experience
It's worth checking whether the course or university offers any chance of work experience. It's been said that without it, most graduates have little chance of finding employment. Most students have part-time jobs but you may also need some experience that's relevant to your career interests. Many university careers services can help with this e.g. by offering internships.
Where to study?
You’re not only choosing a course, you’re deciding where to spend the next three or four years of your life. Don't even think of applying without first going to open days!
Home or away?
Sheffield has two great universities and lots of students now stay in their local area. You’ll probably find that living at home is a lot cheaper although bear in mind that you'd get a lower student loan.
On the other hand, studying away from home can be a great experience. It may also give you more choice of courses. There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s your decision!
There isn't only full-time study available. Many universities and colleges run part-time courses or distance learning which can sometimes fit in better with work or family commitments.
There are opportunities to study almost anywhere in the world. This can bring all kinds of benefits, such as:
- Experiencing a new culture.
- Greater independence.
- An extra edge in a highly competitive and global job market.
- The chance to learn at some of the best universities in the world.
Students from the UK can study anywhere in the EU and pay the same tuition fee as a student national of that country. This may mean paying much lower fees (e.g. in The Netherlands) or no fee at all (e.g. in Denmark). On the other hand, you would not normally be entitled to a student loan and the cost of living in that country may be higher.
If you don't want to be based overseas all the time, there are courses at UK universities that include time abroad. There are also schemes such as the Socrates-Erasmus programme.
Want to know more?
For more information and help, try these websites:
www.ucas.com – Anything to do with choosing and applying for higher education.
www.prospects.ac.uk – Really useful information on where different degree subjects can lead.
www.studyineurope.eu - More about studying in Europe.
ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/index_en.htm - The Socrates-Erasmus programme.