Image of a road sign pointing in different directions

 by David Handy
, posted On 1 Jun '22
 By David Handy, Head of Admissions at King Edward VI College Stourbridge (Previously Senior Student Recruitment Manager at Newman University)

How to support your students to make option choices with university in mind

As students progress through Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, they will be exploring lots of different opportunities in the wider world. Through their exposure to colleges, higher education institutions, apprenticeship providers, employers and other opportunities, they will have a myriad of choices to navigate.

As teachers and advisors, you will have signposted them to potential futures, whilst as part of your programmes (and through the Gatsby Benchmarks) they will have had their eyes opened to them. It is important that we are guiding students through the process, making sure they have an ambitious but also a realistic vision for the future.

GCSE pre-requisites

English Language and Mathematics at GCSE are imperative for students who are looking to progress to higher education. It is important that you reinforce the significance in achieving a Grade 4 or above for them to progress onto both Level 3 and higher education provision.

For some courses GCSE Science will also be very important, particularly if your student is thinking of studying courses such as Science (including Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Psychology and Veterinary Science).

Level 3 course selection

When students are investigating their Level 3 post-16 courses, I would recommend that they always have one eye on their next steps and to make sure that the courses they are selecting are going to enable them to progress to it.

Some students will have ideas that are potentially going to prove challenging for them in terms of their academic abilities and you will no doubt have to spend time steering them towards appropriate opportunities.

It is important that whilst a student may not be able to progress towards a Medicine degree, there may be other opportunities within the NHS or healthcare sector that they could explore. It may be that you show the different pathways to both the students and their families, in order to demonstrate that you are suggesting good alternatives looking ahead to their future.

Entry requirements

It is important that throughout the process your students are guided to review entry requirements for both their Level 3 and higher education options. I would recommend they take time to review sixth form/college prospectuses to find out what would be required to move onto their chosen Level 3 courses.

Alongside this, it is also important for them to closely look at university prospectuses and websites to ensure they are considering making the right option choices for the higher education course they may wish to pursue in the future. Certain university courses will need students to have completed particular post- 16 subjects, and it is important students are aware of this.



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Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities and higher education institutions throughout the UK. On topics covering how to support students with their university decisions, university events, widening participation & fair access, UCAS applications (including writing school references) and more. It also includes the key student finance facts from Martin Lewis.


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