Supporting decisions at schools

When your child begins secondary school, university might seem a long way in the future – but making the right choices in earlier years can improve options for further education and employment.

Years 8 and 9

In Year 8 and 9, students usually choose what they want to study at GCSE and this can affect their options for study post-16. Whilst core subjects (typically English, maths and science) are compulsory, students are able to choose the additional subjects they would like to continue to study.

At this age, students usually pick the subjects they enjoy most; however as a parent, you can help your son/daughter think this decision through carefully to ensure they are not limited later down the line. For example, if they want to go on to study science at a higher level and have the opportunity to take three separate science GCSEs (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) then this may be a good choice.

 In Year 9, students usually choose what they’d like to study in years 10 and 11. Their GCSE subjects and results will influence A-level choices; which in turn will affect options for further education. Even if they decide not to study at university straight after school, a good set of GCSE qualifications can also open doors elsewhere and help them choose a job or career further into the future.

Years 10 and 11

Performance in GCSE exams can affect future options for study at university. For example, many medical courses will expect students to have very good grades (7/8) in English, maths and science. For some degrees, including business and psychology, a grade 6 in maths is often required. So students need to be reminded that GCSEs really matter!

In Years 10 and 11, students will also be deciding which subjects they’d like to study at sixth form/college. The decisions they make here may impact what they are able to study at university. Generally, the usual university requirements are three A-level qualifications but this may vary depending on the course and the university. BTECs, International Baccalaureate (IB) and vocational qualifications are just a few of the alternative qualifications that can be accepted. 

If you are based in the West Midlands, your son/daughter may be eligible to attend events, courses and summer programmes hosted by the University of Birmingham. These experiences, such as the well-established Your Future Your Choice Year 10 Summer Residential, are available free of charge and will introduce students to the world of higher education, help them decide on the best route for their future and provide additional support in reaching their academic goals. 

If your child has a career in mind...

  • Research if a university degree is necessary for their proposed career path. The government’s National Careers Service job profiles are very useful for this.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Find out which A-Levels (subjects and grades) are required to join that university course by looking at course entry requirements on university websites.                                                                           

If your child hasn't yet decided...

  • Choose subjects that they enjoy and are good at.

  • Choose subjects that will keep their options open. 

  • Research the breadth of university courses available – there are over 39,000 courses offered by 370 higher education providers. Your son/daughter may become interested in a profession that they had not have previously considered.