University – a foundation for life

Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the view of careers adviser ANN STARKIE, of AS Careers, on applying to university. And despite the cost she still advises people to put it high on their list of life choices - for a host of good reasons.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the view of careers adviser ANN STARKIE, of AS Careers, on applying to university. And despite the cost she still advises people to put it high on their list of life choices - for a host of good reasons

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Over the next few months, tens of thousands of students will be applying for their place at university. This year the numbers fell. UCAS figures showed a 3.5 per cent decrease in applications for 2006. Some 469,731 students applied to study compared with 486,915 last year.

In addition, the gender gap is growing with men accounting for less than 45 per cent of applicants.


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There is some good news, with more applications for science subjects including chemistry, engineering and mathematics. Foundation degree applications were up 21.5 per cent to 40,136.

The National Union of Students claims students are being put off studying because of the introduction of top-up fees and the large levels of debt students are graduating with.

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So as you look to fill in your UCAS form should you be worried? Is a degree still worth the time and the thousands of pounds you are likely to have to repay in loans?

From this year universities will be able to charge students up to £3,000 a year in fees, although they will not be recoupable until you are earning at least £15,000 a year.

There are two positive reasons to consider university.

First the money.

The evidence suggests graduates earn 50 per cent more over a lifetime than non-graduates, with an average starting salary of £23,011, and a lower unemployment rate than non-graduates.

Secondly the experience.

There is the chance to study something of interest, and the opportunity to open up interests and opportunities you have never had before. But prospective students are thinking harder about what degree they wish to study. They are thinking about the outcome as well as the journey.

And that is a good thing. As a careers adviser I know well the adage “study what you like and are good at” which of course still holds true.

But there are some pieces of advice that prospective applicants can follow to make the right choice. You should study carefully the individual aspects of the courses you are thinking of taking. Does one institution have something you particularly like? Check this through

Seek advice from a qualified careers adviser to make sure you are right for a particular course. Make sure you are applying for a course at the points level you are likely to achieve. Getting it wrong means possibly having to navigate clearing or retaking qualifications.

Research the employment success rate of graduates on your favoured course. University course departments and careers services have this information.

General outcomes for graduates can be obtained from www.prospects.ac.uk

Pay attention to what employers are saying about the graduate market, especially if you have chosen a particular professional field. If you are not sure how well respected a particular degrees is, talk to local employers.

Consider getting additional employability skills in a gap year or during the holidays. Research by KT Associates this year has shown graduates would be more employable if they had extra work-related skills.

But with some courses a gap year might not been seen favourably so check before applying for deferred entry.

Keep up to date with news in your subject area by reading relevant newspapers and journals.

On a final note - would I have still gone to university? Yes absolutely. It gave me a foundation for life and my career, as well as being a fantastic experience that left me with friends for life. If you are venturing into higher education do so with as much knowledge, research and professional advice you can get.

Make sure it is your gain.

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ANN STARKIE is an independent careers adviser operating across Norfolk. For further details of services offered including help preparing UCAS forms and one-to-one careers interviews call (07770) 786846, log onto or e-mail ann@ascareers.co.uk

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