So, you have decided to apply to UK universities – great stuff! – and you know what you would like to study, and where. But should you go straight to university or take a gap year, and should you aim for a three-year course or consider a sandwich course, where you have a year in industry?
Firstly, gap years – beloved by students, often less so by parents! What are the key advantages and disadvantages of heading straight to uni, and what considerations need thinking about before reaching your decision? Applying to university while still studying for your IB/A-levels means you apply with predicted grades- meaning an often nerve-wracking wait until results day to see if you have met your offer conditions. If you apply for deferred entry, you will also apply with predicted grades, but will have another cycle in which to apply should you not meet the conditions of your Firm and Insurance offers. However, if you apply during your gap year you will already have completed your previous qualifications, and will have your actual grades, making you a safe bet for universities to count on when making offers. However, many of your friends and peers may be heading off to uni straight away, making it difficult to decide to wait another year. Further, funding a gap year can be difficult- you may want to fit in some travelling, learn a new language, or simply have a really good time, but entering the jobs market with little experience and with your departure to university impending can be a little tricky. Having specific goals in mind (sitting on the beach in Bali?) can help to make the daily grind seem more meaningful on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in November. Whether you always planned to take a gap year, or should circumstances mean you opt to take a year out once your results are released, make sure you have fun, do good, and keep up on your subject, so that you can get the most of your year before university.
Year in Industry – With the exception of the Scottish universities, many UK universities offer three-year degrees as standard for undergraduates, but increasingly universities are permitting their students to spend their third year working in a related industry, before returning to complete their studies in a fourth year. In the context of increased focus on career prospects after graduation, giving students the opportunity to test out the working world for a defined time period and in a placement approved by their university has proven popular. However, sandwich courses are not the only way to increase the probability of securing employment immediately after graduating- your university may have very strong links to industry, or you can take on internships during the summer breaks. Do also make sure to attend as many careers fairs as you can, as a career you may never have considered might catch your interest!