To Uni or Not to Uni: British parents reassess the merits of university in the wake of the pandemic

Image Shows: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson presenting Cadets with their Class 1 badges. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has visited Aston University Engineering Academy on Friday 28 September to discuss a new report looking at the benefits being a cadet can bring to individuals and their local community. He also announced the latest round of approvals for the Cadet Expansion Programme and witnessed a cadet unit exercise. Photographer: Corporal Tom Evans (RLC) / MoD Crown

As the UK enters UCAS application season, students at Sixth Form and even GCSE level will be questioning what path they want to take after school. These range from university, apprenticeships to internships and entering the world of work. Leading EdTech platform MyTutor has unveiled research that has been examining the nation’s attitudes towards further education. The landmark research shows that 43% of parents agree that their child’s self-esteem is linked to the grades they achieve at school and university. However, university is not the only route that will lead teens onto a successful career in the future. MyTutor also found that nearly two thirds – 62% – of parents say university is not the only path they are recommending to their child after their school career, as it is not essential for them to get a good job.

In light of this, MyTutor partnered with Springpod – a platform which helps young people to experience the world of work and university before they apply – in hosting a week-long online careers festival. Specifically, one webinar titled: ‘Why I chose University’, which can now be found on YouTube, delves into the various routes that led young people to apply to university, and offers guidance on how to go about doing so. Another webinar focussed on apprenticeships and looked at the ‘What, Why & How’ to get there.
An overview of the key pieces of advice shared by recent graduates and apprenticeship students from the webinars can be found below:

1. Take time to think about your interests and skills

What was really highlighted throughout the webinars was to ensure that no decision is rushed. When looking at options and making decisions on the next steps in a career journey, it is important to weigh up all possible options before making any final decisions.

2. Research, research and research more!
Whether debating going down the university route or considering embarking on an apprenticeship it is important that one makes extensive use of the resources available. Generally, university websites offer a good insight into what is involved in a certain course, and it is helpful to scroll through what modules are included to get a feel for what topics will be covered. Not every university covers the same content so it’s good to have a look at what each course has to offer. One graduate found it helpful to locate the course most suited to them prior to selecting the university or location. Similarly, in choosing which apprenticeship to sign up for, individuals reinforced making full use of company websites and the requirements expected to be eligible. Calling up local providers and asking what they have available also goes a long way; make yourself known and show your interest. If deciding between the two, the mentors recommended weighing up the outcomes of both courses and assessing which best align to personal and professional goals.

3. Attend open days and career talks

Events about careers, uni and apprenticeships can show young people the variety of options they have, and really inspire them when thinking about their future. These can typically be found online, or on university and school websites. Specifically, existing students recommended attending specific course open days so that the prospective student gets introduced to the professors, and get a sneak peak into what lectures might look like. Whilst visiting, it is also beneficial to get the opinions of existing students who can offer more realistic insight into uni-life. If contemplating the apprenticeship, MyTutor and fellow apprentices recommend exploring the Multiverse platform, which shows the amazing range of apprenticeships that are out there – from Google to Rolls Royce to the UN.

3. It’s always good to get a head start

The earlier you to think about your future, the easier it’ll be to take steps towards achieving your goals. A head start means you can check out entry requirements for the desired job, and start building your CV and profiles. If in need of a bit more confidence, it is useful to find a mentor, or someone close in age who can walk you through the various steps. If you’re lucky and know what you want to do early on, it’s great to reach out to people who are already working in the industry and gain tips on what experience is valuable. However, no one is expected to know their dream job. Therefore, at the webinar, MyTutor representatives encouraged people to reflect on what they enjoy rather than what they’re good at. This may not necessarily be a subject, but a hobby that you’re interested in. It’s good to consider all of your potential!

4. Get involved with volunteering opportunities to gain experience

In the webinars, those who wanted to get ahead of their applications took it upon themselves to get involved with various volunteering and shadowing opportunities. We all know people who have been told ‘not enough experience’ when entering the world of work, that is why volunteer work has become increasingly more valuable and appealing to employers, and enhances your university applications. Not only this, but the experience is most beneficial to the person individually. It gives you the chance to experiment if this career path is what you actually want to do.

5. Utilise your connections
It’s really helpful to speak to someone who’s already worked in the profession of interest. By reaching out to friends, family members, neighbours or friends’ parents about careers is one of the most cost and time efficient ways of maximising your resources, and getting the inside scoop. As one graduate stated: “Making use of connections is a smart thing to do to get ahead of the curb. Now more than ever you should make use of all the resources you already have but also the resources your establishments have”. The more people you speak with, the more connections you form and thus, the more opportunities become available.

6. Keep having conversations with academic advisors, parents and friends
If you’re ever unsure about what to do after school, the webinars highlighted the importance of having conversations with those who know you. Whether that be your teacher, your best friend or your parent it’s always good to start having conversations early to map out ideas and know what is out there. The journey to your career is scarcely going to be linear, so it’s helpful to share the experience with people going through it as well or people who have previously gone through it. By talking about your interests and ideas, different perspectives can give rise to different opportunities.

Bertie Hubbard, co-founder of MyTutor, comments on the pastoral care the platform can provide:

“Teens are in more need than ever for some support and reassurance with their studies, and that’s exactly what our tutors offer. Our tutors are all from UK universities, and because they’re just a few years older they can easily relate to what teens are going through. With their dedicated one-to-one support, teens get some much-needed reassurance and come out with a stronger self-belief – 88% say that lessons made them feel more confident.

Rather than replacing teachers with robots, the biggest power of EdTech lies in enhancing person-to-person learning. At MyTutor, we provide online tuition that raises kids’ grades, boosts confidence and helps them fulfil their potential in life. Because it’s online, kids get access to amazing tutors from across the country, rather than whoever’s nearby. As there’s no travel for the student or the tutors, it also saves time and money travelling – reducing the cost and stress involved for parents.”

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