It can be overwhelming for students when they choose their A levels, Scottish Highers, or other post-16 qualifications, especially as it affects the choices available to them at university and in the jobs market. This guide will help you to support your child in making informed choices that are right for them.
Whilst some students may know from an early age what they want to be when they grow up, other students find it difficult to choose exactly what they want to do – and that’s absolutely fine! People can have a number of different types of jobs across their careers, and many jobs have transferable skills that students will build in their Level 3 courses. So this choice is just as important for those who do know what they want to do as those who don’t.
Some university degrees and apprenticeships have mandatory or recommended entry requirements. For example, medical degrees usually need biology and chemistry at A level, whereas a T Level in Building Services Engineering for Construction could help to secure an Electrician apprenticeship.
Encourage your child to see if there are any required or recommended subjects for the degrees or careers they may be interested in. However, keep in mind that they might not be able to study all of the subjects they want to – for example, if their school or college timetable schedules computer science and economics classes at the same time, your child will need to choose one or the other. School timetables are usually dependent on the availability of teachers so it is unlikely that they will be changed.
Ask the experts
Encourage your child to talk to teachers and careers advisers to find out what a Level 3 course will actually be like. A subject may sound really interesting but turn out not to be what your child had in mind. For example, studying for an A level in PE is often less about playing sport and much more about the science of sport.
Most schools offer an ‘options evening’ where you and your child can talk to teachers about their subject. Creating a list of questions with your child to ask their teachers will help them to make sure that they fully understand what the course entails. You should ask how the subject is assessed, what the workload is like, and what topics will be covered. Make sure your child reads through the syllabuses of subjects they are considering before attending these events so they can find out more about them.
If possible, talk to students that are currently taking the course your child is considering. Asking older students what they like and dislike about the course, and if it was what they expected, could provide your child with helpful information as they make their decision.
Your child will likely have a good idea of their academic strengths, so be sure to ask them how they think they will find the courses based on their skills, knowledge, and interests.
Keep an open mind
As a parent or caregiver, you might be concerned about making sure that your child has ‘good’ job prospects. This may lead to families encouraging students to choose more familiar or traditional subjects like maths and science. However, students should choose options that they enjoy and that they believe they can do well in. All Level 3 courses are challenging, and it is difficult to motivate yourself to do something that you don’t enjoy for two years!
The job market is constantly changing and subjects that may not have seemed relevant or even existed in the past could be the pathway to the future. Give your child space to pursue their passions – it will pay off in the long run!
Remember who this is for
It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and encourage children to choose subjects that you wish you had taken or that you think would be best for them. While it might seem helpful, in the long term they may end up having to take more courses to get into the job, apprenticeship, or university they want to because they haven’t built the right skillset or knowledge base.
Be there as a sounding board for your child rather than a decision maker, and try to be open to all their ideas even if they aren’t what you would choose for yourself.