How the right choices at school can help

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.

Years 8 and 9

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

In year 11, it’s time for students to decide whether to do A-levels – and which ones to choose. A-levels make a big difference to the range of available choices after school or college, while allowingstudents to focus on the subjects they’re most interested in. For university, the usual requirements are four AS-levels and three A2 qualifications – but every degree course is different, so it’s important to check exactly what’s required for each one.

Help with informed choices

Which subjects are best?

If your son or daughter is already interested in a particular career, it’s wise to:

  1. Find out if a university degree is required to do the job they’re interested in. The government’s National Careers Service job profiles are very useful for this.
  2. Find out which A-levels (subjects and grades) are required to join that university course by looking at course entry requirements.

If they’re not yet sure which job or career they’d like to have, they should:

  1. Choose subjects which they like most and feel good at, as it’s likely their future interests and talents will follow a similar path.
  2. Talk to teachers and careers advisers at school and look at online career advice.

Years 12 and 13

In Years 12 and 13 students typically either follow the A Level/IB or vocational pathway (e.g. Btec). Universities will look at predicted results and then consider whether to offer a conditional university place. 

Preparing for university

After exams in year 12, schools and colleges will begin to prepare students for their applications to universities. Every university will hold open days for prospective students, parents and carers, so you can find out more about the process, how to apply and financial support available.

It’s also recommended that you help your son or daughter gain some work experience, particularly if they wish to study a vocational course at university such as medicine, dentistry, law or business.

There’s lots of information for prospective students on our GetU2Uni page, with advice and handy tips about courses, living at university and more.

Financial advice
Helping your son or daughter choose a university
How the right choices at school can help
Student well-being