Degree Choice: Do we choose for Passion or Necessity?

Years ago, students used to choose degrees they were most passionate about.Degrees they like and enjoyed learning. And because they had chosen from the bottom of their hearts, they did put all their energy and focus towards achieving their set goals.
Back then, most employers didn’t worry much about the degrees taken. Their assumption was, so long as a matured-minded graduate joins their workforce, they will be molded to do the job.
But then, those were the days were graduates were fewer and jobs readily available. This was a win-win situation, with graduates getting the best of both worlds.
But alas, this seems a distant dream now! With often one job being chased by more than 70 candidates, employers’ expectations have soared.They are now not only looking for a degree relevant to the job advertised but also more skills to match. They are more picky in their choices of candidates. Skills like good communication, attention to detail, reliability and an ability to work in a team are at the forefront.
The world is moving. In order not to fall sideways, we need to move in par with it. Not willing to be left behind, most forward thinking students have now learned to mold their degree choices in a career-focused way while still at secondary schools. They are more realistic – they take time to look around the job market and ensure that they pick a useful degree which is marketable.

University Students

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There are some students who remain wedded to learning for its own sake. That is, taking degrees they passionately like. With no planned career in mind, they sometimes find themselves with degrees which don’t match with the advertised jobs. This often leads to a period of unemployment and a great frustration to many. With no luxury enjoyed in the past years for free university education, most students find it even harder to afford another degree after the unsuccessful first time round.
Understandably, Academics are worried about this shift towards career-inspired study. They argue that with non-monetary values displaced from universities, most courses will continue to wither and get lost in the abysses of space and time, instead of producing real creativity and encouraging open-ended curiosity.
But with university fees constantly on the rise, no one can blame these enlightened students for making a u-turn. They are becoming wiser by ensuring that they choose degrees which match with the jobs markets.

Universities which are struggling to recruit will have to thoroughly examine their courses and make cuts on those degree courses which don’t offer value in the job market. As students are now most likely to choose degrees which are likely to deliver high salaries, some argue that slowly the universities are being transformed from centres of academic teaching to new kind of employment agencies.

Finally students are coming to their senses as they realise the difference between choosing
‘What they are passionately about and what is needed to secure a better future ’

The choice of Secondary School: Does it go beyond what we think?

Choosing a secondary school for our children might seem a straight forward process, but its repercussion could stretch further than we expect.

Do we really choose a school for our children or does a school choose your child? Well, maybe a bit of both; because it’s up to you and your child to decide which school you will be applying for, and it’s up to the school to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the application.

Obviously, you and your child may have different reasons for picking a school but it’s important to discuss these reasons together and do some discussing.

Student in a labStudent in class

For some, choosing a school which is a walking distance from the house might be a deciding factor. While this decision might have been done in good faith, it might not necessarily be a wise choice. A friend once commented on how her son would invite a group of classmates from his local comprehensive immediately the school closed for the day. Once in the house, they would play music and video games for hours long without remembering the homework they ought to be doing. This created a lot of inconvenience and a source of frequent quarrels in the house. My friend confided that with hindsight, choosing a school with a good travelling distance from her house would have deterred her son from bringing in classmates as almost everyone would be rushing to reach home early after the school closes for the day.

Choosing Grammar schools (which often don’t apply catchment areas), might be a solution for some. It is quite normal for pupils there to get up to 3 pieces of homework per day, which makes it difficult for pupils to muck about after school hours. These schools apply a selection criteria, where pupils have to pass exams before being selected. Daunting as it might sound, through careful preparation beforehand, your child can stand a chance of being selected. There are lots of resources where you can get information on how to go about doing this e.g through the website on this link:

I hear someone asking, ‘what if my child doesn’t get selected even after a thorough preparation?’ The answer is simple; because your child will be used to working beyond the homework already given at school, it will be easier for them to keep the momentum of working above and beyond what is expected. This will enable them to shine and succeed even at a comprehensive school.

Choosing a good school which can be a grammar school, faith school or a good comprehensive school will give your child an opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded, focused pupils who often aspire higher in life. It can also act as a place for making useful contacts and links that will last than a lifetime.

It is also too common that most good schools get more funding from the government to cater for a bigger spectrum of subjects such as Latin and classics which won’t be found in normal schools.

Good schools often have tight discipline and behaviour policy which maximise children’s learning. This can be in a form of strict dress code, uniform checks and a list of different types of detentions. Though this might seem a bit regimental, surprisingly it reduces disruption and talking during lessons. With everyone focusing on lessons, such schools usually produce high grades.

Some would argue that in order to avoid what might seem as an ‘overbearing atmosphere’ with sombre-faced children, walking in line, head bowed, students should be allowed to get involved and have ownership in developing school’s behaviour policies. So, instead of imposing a set of rules, pupils are engaged  in drawing up policies which are manageable and motivating.

Parents who take time to choose a good school for their children are often rewarded by a learning environment whereby their children not only achieve good grades, but also where good behaviour becomes second nature. Pupils learn and build respectable relationships with each other and gain discipline, badly needed to succeed in life.


Why we should ‘work back’ when choosing GCSE options

In year 9 most schools in UK allow their children to choose subjects they would like to pursue in year 10 and 11. This is called GCSE options.While this may seem as a straight forward exercise, frankly speaking the subjects they choose now, can affect their future direction or career.

As a parent, your heart might be set on your teen choosing particular subjects or a career which you think will be good for them, based on what you have experienced in life. While this might be thought of with good intentions, it is important that we don’t allow our preferences to override our teen’s. Instead, this can be handled properly through cooperation, thorough discussions and actions, which we shall talk about later on this post.

What exactly should the GCSE options choices be based on?

  • Being good at particular subjects: This will help your teen in managing the subjects’ workload, finish the assignments on time, with good results.
  •  Natural ability in learning the chosen subjects: This will make is easier while learning and gain an in-depth knowledge, which is beneficial when making career choices later.
  •  What your teen enjoys doing: If they enjoy a subject the chances are, they will put effort and get higher grades.

Once this is established, assuming that your teen’s choices is not influenced by friends or by the sheer novelty of a career’s title, this is when the options’ choices needs to be done very carefully. At this stage it is important for your teen to understand which career / careers the chosen subjects will lead to. This is the time when parents’  input is crucial because your teen might want to choose particular subjects without knowing that the chosen subjects / combination of subjects won’t lead to non of the future career. They might be forgiven for being naïve, as frankly speaking most teens at this stage won’t necessarily know much about future careers.

Something needs to be done. A realistic solution needs to be sought, which brings us to adopt a traditional accounting concept of…..

Reconciling GCSE options’ subjects against a career your teen might want to pursue

This is what people call ‘choosing and work back’. Basically it is starting with what your teen would like to choose as a career, then find out which institutions are likely to offer courses on the chosen subjects. Could it be at the University, College or with an apprenticeship? Once established, then work back by looking at the requirements needed for entry.

If your teen wants to take the University route, you might find that most Universities have their set entry requirements and may demand certain subjects at A-level. You might find that your teen may need a GCSE in a subject to study it at A-level or College.

Trades and professional institutions also have some set entry required routes to be taken to qualify and study a chosen field.

So, this is where working backwards towards choosing GCSE options is really really crucial to avoid your teen regretting later after realising that poor or insufficient subjects were chosen . Many years ago when University education was free for all, students chose subjects they like, then years later studied subjects they need for their career . Unfortunately at the moment students don’t have that luxury any more. This is due to the ever increasing costs of tuition and maintenance loans. Students have now come to the realisation that it is important to know what you want from the onset, that is when choosing GCSE options.

Below are some of the many websites which might be useful:

Here you can see what other young teens have experienced while passing through a similar journey. It features lots of online advice threads. The advice come from teens who have already chosen GCSE options, went on doing A-levels, University or a chosen trade / profession. But remember that as always, the final decision is yours.