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Schools subjects advice

Getting the most out of internships

By | Career coaching, Schools subjects advice | No Comments

From about the age of 15, it is important to start accruing some work experience. Work experience can be for any length of time, from one day to several months. Work experience serves several functions. Firstly, it gives you first-hand knowledge of the working environment such as the importance of turning up for work on time, developing new skills and professional relationships and strengthening your CV. Most importantly, it gives you an idea of what type of work suits you in terms of your interests and abilities and also the working environment. Your placement may help you realise that this is not the field for you, or conversely, it may confirm that this is the sector you want to enter.  For this reason, it is a good idea to have carried out varied work experience, to have reflected on it and to maximise the learning potential from each placement.

Getting the most out of your placement or internship begins with researching the organisation and what they are offering thoroughly.  Look at their website – see what type of work they do and if they offer work experience. You may have to fill out a form and go for an interview. However, you don’t just have to apply for advertised internships. Approaching organisations ‘cold’, or even better, if you know someone who works there, is a good idea and shows you have initiative. Remember, if you ring up the organisation you will either speak to a receptionist, or get put through to Human Resources.  Make sure that whoever answers the phone knows you are appreciative of their time and their help to get you to the right person.  You can get work experience at any type of organisation – large or small. At a large company, you may have a more structured experience and be with other interns. At a small company you may well get more hands-on experience.  You can even ask for virtual work experience – completing projects at home to fit around your studies. This will save the organisation finding you desk space but you can still get feedback and attend meetings.

Be clear how long the internship is for and what hours you are expected to work. What type of work is involved and what new skills will you learn? Is it paid? It is reasonable to ask for expenses and they may give you lunch tokens, pay for travel or offer other perks. Whether you are willing to work for free depends on where you are in your career. As a 15 year old, you are after any experience, but if you have more qualifications, remember you are supplying them with skilled labour. Are you assigned a mentor? Even if you are not, try to speak to the person who is supervising you for five minutes every week, and ask what you are doing right, how can you improve and what you can do to help them further. Find out what it is they are looking for in an employee and live up to that – it may be that they offer you further internships or a job! Make yourself as useful as possible which might include suggesting work you could do for them (if you can tailor it to your interests and skills, you may find it more rewarding).

Be prepared to be taken to meetings and make sure you network – meeting many different people who you may approach in the future for work or other internships. Add them to your LinkedIn account (and if you haven’t got one – sign up for one – it is a useful way of keeping track of the people you meet professionally).

Take time to reflect on your experience each week. Ask yourself what you have gained from the last week, and what specific skills you have enjoyed cultivating and using. Do you see yourself in this job in the future? If you do, how can you increase your chances of employment? Are their specific qualifications that you need? Ask your colleagues what path they took to secure their jobs. What other jobs use these same skills? Can you try these out? If you are not learning anything and not enjoying the internship, then consider leaving. Remember – this is cheap or free labour for the organisation but a learning experience for you. Even if you leave, you have learned something valuable – this type of work is not for you.  Finally, at the end of each week, set yourself some learning objectives for the following week and review these at regular intervals.

When the internship is over, write an email or letter to thank all the people who helped you in the organisation, giving them your contact details. Make sure you note down their contact details for future reference. Ask your supervisor or Human Resources for a reference that you can keep on file. This might be useful when you apply for other internships or jobs, and can be incorporated into your reference for university applications. Remember to add the work experience to your CV together with a brief description of your duties and responsibilities at the organisation.


Natalie is a career coach and can help with all aspects of the job and internship application process, including writing CVs and covering letters. She also offers one-to-one practice interview sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.natalielancer.com


 

Maximising your success in Years 10-13

By | Schools subjects advice, Study advice, University advice, University student's advice

Success at GCSEs and A-levels is important as it will give you a wide choice in your next level of education. School starts to get more serious when you are preparing for these Public Examinations, and so you may be entering Years 11-13 with some trepidation. In order to maximise your success, Natalie Lancer, from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication offers some advice.

Preparation for public examinations is a marathon, not a sprint. This is especially true for students commencing the new linear A-levels, where you are assessed on the whole course at the end of the two years, rather than at the end of Year 12. Therefore, it is important to work consistently from the beginning, making sure you understand each topic as you go along. Take time at the end of each week to reread your notes and arrange to see your teacher to go over anything you do not understand. Then, make new notes based on your new understanding which you will be able to reread as you near revision. You want to be able to revise topics that you already understand (and have the notes for) rather than learning something afresh, as this will take up valuable time. Make sure your keep your notes in order with clear divisions between topics so that you can refer to them easily – perhaps in a lever arch file or on your computer – and so that you do not waste time organising your notes when you revise.

It is important to get the most out of your lessons. This means that you need to actively participate and engage with your teacher and classmates. Make sure you ask questions in class if you want clarification – you will not look silly! – chances are your classmates will want to know the answer too.

Equip yourself with the correct stationery (folders, highlighters etc) and also invest in some exam board-specific revision guides and text books. These books have been written specifically for your syllabus and so you can be confident that the information they contain will be relevant. It is very helpful to consult different books as you go along – some books are better than others at explaining different topics. Furthermore, revision guides are concise and useful if you want to read ahead so that you can get the most out of your lessons. However, for revision, use these in conjunction with your own class notes and other text books as they are not detailed enough on their own.

Make sure you revise actively by writing out flashcards and reading notes with a pen in your hand – underlining key concepts. Above all, practise past or specimen exam papers (you can download them from the exam board’s website). Use the mark schemes to assess your knowledge and, just as importantly, to see how the examiners expect you to express that knowledge. You could also try working with your classmates. Each member of your revision group should research their allocated topic and then teach it to the rest of the group, perhaps swapping detailed notes.  Explaining the topic and discussing it with someone else will enrich your understanding.

The significance of Years 10-13 in terms of exams may make you feel stressed and it is important to nip this in the bud. Air any concerns with your teachers or Head of Year who will help you manage your workload and give you strategies to reduce stress. One way of doing this is to make sure that you have things to focus on other than work – get involved in clubs and societies, sports, music, volunteering or leadership programmes, both in and out of school. Not only will this provide a welcome break but you will learn new skills and get to know and interact with different people. These skills are just as important for your career and development as your academic work.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can help you create a winning CV and cover letter and give you expert guidance on your A-level choice, university applications, Personal Statement, interviews and dissertations. She also offers personal development sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on maximising your success in Years 10-13:

  • Make sure you understand each topic as you go along and don’t be afraid to ask your teachers for help
  • Keep your notes in an organised fashion from the beginning
  • Buy exam-board specific study guides so that you can get a different perspective on topics you don’t understand
  • Experiment with different revision techniques, finding the ones that work for you
  • Speak to a professional for tailored advice about studying, careers and your personal development

 

Helping Your Child Cope with Exam Stress

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, Study advice

Stress is an inevitable part of preparing for exams – indeed an optimum amount of stress will propel your child to study harder and be enabled to write and think faster in the actual exam.  The key, as a parent, is for you to remain calm and to support your child through this period by encouragement – and definitely not to add unnecessary stress (even if you are stressed by their exams).

Some basic ways to support your child include allocating a specific quiet and light space for them to work in. Keep other siblings away from them and don’t burden them with household chores (the state of their bedroom is not a relevant topic of conversation during exam season).  Make sure you provide healthy meals for them. Every couple of hours you could bring a drink and snack to your child.

Remember these are your child’s exams – not yours. You do not have to micromanage them and such an approach will not help develop your child’s revision abilities. Of course, do take an interest in their exams, for example , make sure you know what exam is on which day, and offer your child a lift if possible.

Stress is generated from a feeling of a lack of control and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. Confidence grows by being able to see that one is succeeding. A successful day of revision will breed another successful day of revision, so put in place these strategies early – six months before the exam season. You can help your child feel in control of their revision by suggesting that they construct a revision timetable – mapping out the number of days until the exam season which can be realistically used for revision, and dividing each two hour block into a segment of revision of a specific topic e.g. French irregular verbs, rather than a generic “French”. Ensure all topics are covered – use the syllabus which can be found on line and tick off the topics as they are allocated. You can keep a copy of your child’s revision timetable and ask how the revision of a specific topic is going every so often (no more than three times a week!). Furthermore, in advance of revision time, make sure your child is well-stocked with stationery such as highlighters, paper and files. Ask your child if they would like you to buy revision guides for them (a summary book of the main topics, often written by examiners for the specific exam board). Offer to print off past papers and mark schemes which can all be found on-line – working through these is an invaluable source of revision. It is not cheating to look at mark schemes – indeed it is important to know how the examiners “want” the question to be answered. It is important that your child is aware of the structure of each exam – how many questions need to be answered, how many minutes they should allocate to each question, whether there is a choice of questions and so on. You can help your child to work out these logistics.

The time to be firm is when it comes to using the computer or mobile phones. I suggest removing these from your child while they are revising. Your child should focus on revision for 40 minutes at a time and then have a 15 minute break. Encourage them to get some fresh air during their break and give their phone back for them to catch up on Instagram or Facebook, but then take it away again during the next 40 minutes. Allow your child to go out once a week for a couple of hours, eg to the cinema, but this is not the time for partying and sleepovers. By discussing these ground rules in advance, you can establish what will work for your child together and help them feel in control and understand that you are supporting them.

Above all, remind your child (and yourself) that exams are not the be all and end all. Tell your child that you will love them no matter what the result, and that all you ask is that they do the best they can. In return, you will do the best you can to support them. It is beneficial to sit down with your child to explain why doing the best they can in these exams is important – such as increased career prospects in later years. Your child has nothing to lose by revising, and everything to gain. The revision and exam period is finite, and remind your child it will soon be over, and all the things they were not able to do – such as see friends as much – they can do in abundance in the summer holidays.

Natalie Lancer is an education expert and founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can give you expert guidance on revision strategies and study skills, A-level choice, university applications and the Personal Statement. She also offers personal development sessions for adults. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on managing exam stress

  • Help your child construct a revision timetable so they are in control of their revision
  • Buy study guides and print out past papers and mark schemes for your child
  • Don’t keep asking them how revision is going – limit this to three times a week
  • Make healthy meals and snacks for your child, exempt them from any chores and keep other children away
  • Speak to a revision specialist for practical advice on study skills and supporting your child

 


The Importance of Extra-Curricular Activities

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, Study advice | No Comments

Extra-curricular activities have been an integral part of school for a long time. As well as helping children develop life-long interests in the activities themselves, they also foster important soft skills, for example, taking part in sports may promote perseverance, resilience and grit as well as team-work. These soft skills are highly prized by businesses and also by universities, as exemplified by the selection criteria to study Medicine at the University of Oxford, which includes “ability to work with others”, “communication” and “empathy” as personal characteristics that are sought in applicants. These activities and skills should be showcased in the Personal Statement and Reference, parts of the university application, as well as your CV or, perhaps, an e-portfolio.

Different university courses require different skills, as well as specific grades in A-level subjects. The non-academic requirements for undergraduate Law at King’s College London state that the admissions tutors are looking for “applicants who have participated as fully as possible in school, college or community life, making the most of the opportunities available to them and also demonstrated some experience of society beyond their immediate environment”. There are many reasons why universities like to recruit students who excel in the extra-curricular: they hope that the candidate will contribute to the life of the university, the student has already demonstrated commitment and tenacity – skills that can be transferred to their course and they make for more interesting students to teach.

From a school’s perspective, a child’s whole education is important and extra-curricular activities are a way of allowing students of all abilities to develop and explore their interests: a vital part of their personal growth. It is during their formative years, that children’s inner template of the world develops, and encouraging students to volunteer in the community during their school years, for example, will imbue them with the value of such activities in later life. At the more instrumental part of the spectrum, in this competitive world, if two candidates have the same grades at A-level or degree level, extra-curricular involvement can be a way to distinguish between the two candidates and can also contribute to the student’s USP (Unique Selling Point) i.e. why they should be chosen and how they can add value to the organisation.

There are many activities in which students can get involved, both in and out of school: the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Young Enterprise, volunteering (there are numerous organisations that can facilitate this such as the Jewish Volunteering Network and Do-it) at local old age homes, St John Ambulance, work experience, mentoring younger students, language exchanges, school clubs and societies, such as Debating, and youth groups to name but a few. Furthermore, to demonstrate initiative, the student can set up their own club or society, such as starting a school newspaper or organising a fundraising event.

Of course, there is a danger in taking on too much – it is just as important not to “burn out” and to make time for leisure. Also, make sure enough time is made for academic studies, the results of which also open the doors to employment and university. In order to get the balance right, it may be a good idea to have “personal development” conversations with your children to both encourage them to participate but also to prioritise which skills they would like to develop, so that their extra-curricular engagement is focussed. Possible skills to develop include initiative, creativity, interpersonal and organisational skills, leadership, sense of responsibility, teamwork, public speaking, time management and research.  You might want to work backwards and consider which skills are vital to demonstrate for a particular university or employment route.  Alternatively, if career plans are vague, just encourage your child to try out a variety of activities to find out where their strengths lie, which may result in clearer career ideas.

Students are at an exploratory stage of their life, and they might find that the activity they start does not suit them. It is then possible to discuss either stopping this activity or finding a way to persevere in a positive way, if there is good reason to do so. You may find it difficult to speak to your teenager about their personal development, in which case, call in the services of a professional.

Natalie Lancer is a personal development expert and founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can give you expert guidance on extra-curricular activities, A-level choice, university applications and the Personal Statement. She also offers personal development sessions for adults. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on extra-curricular activities

  • Decide what skills you would like to develop and think about which extra-curricular activities would strengthen these
  • If an activity doesn’t work out, consider if there is a different way to approach it or whether you should stop that one, and take up something else
  • Make time for leisure and studies as well as your extra-curricular activities
  • Start researching universities courses/employment routes early to give yourself enough time to make an informed decision about which skills to evidence
  • Speak to a personal development professional for impartial and current advice

How Israel is enthusing Britain’s teenagers to become the next generation of scientists

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, University advice

Since 2010, I have been providing university advice to students and their parents through my business myuniapplication.com. Before that I was a secondary school teacher, Head of Science and Assistant Headteacher and published author in university guidance. I have advised hundreds of students with their university applications, helping them to choose a course and university and to write the all-important personal statement. I currently hold the post of Director of Higher Education at Immanuel College.

Parents often tell me that they wish their son or daughter to study Management or a business-related course. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) industry, despite massive government investment, has fallen out of favour with some of my clients as a feasible industry in which to work and, ultimately, make money. Although the number of students studying STEM subjects at university, has increased (in 2014 it was 98, 000, an 18% rise since 2003), the number of STEM graduates entering STEM jobs had declined dramatically (from approximately half in 2001 to a third ten years later). However, the STEM industry offers amazing and worthwhile careers and fundamental scientific research has spawned many modern inventions such as the internet and microwaves.

Perhaps the biggest problem in UK STEM today, is the lack of women represented.  Next week  the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) which runs PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) will publish a report which highlights a huge gender gap (13 percentage points compared to an average of one percentage point) in attainment scores between 15 year old British girls’ and boy’s performance in science literacy. This puts the UK in the bottom five of the 67 countries that take part in the assessments. However, various statisticians have questioned the validity of the methodology and analysis of these tests. Comparing Science GCSE results yields a different story: girls outperform boys in Science GCSEs. Whatever measure is used, it is clear that not enough girls do Science A-levels, which means that they do not go on to do STEM degrees, and are therefore not well- represented in the STEM industry. According to various studies, girls’ self-esteem and confidence affects how they view their abilities in Science, affecting their take-up of STEM subjects post-GCSE. Furthermore, there is a persistent image that study of STEM subjects is for boys not girls. Any way to challenge such outdated stereotypes would give a welcome boost to girls’ uptake of STEM A-levels.

I was invited to the Seventh Annual ZF (Zionist Federation) Science Week last month. On 29th January, ZF treated 31 schools (over 660 students) to a free day of Israeli medical science lectures at the Institute of Education in London. The lecture hall was packed with diverse groups of sixth form students. The aim of the day was to highlight the importance of basic research in Science and to demonstrate that Science has no borders. The lectures were based on topics introduced on the A-level Biology syllabus. The first lecture was given by Russian national, Triana Amen, who is researching aging and rejuvenation at the Hebrew University. The second lecture was given by Dr Fahed Hakim, a paediatrician researching the importance of sleep on a biochemical level at the Technion in Haifa. What was notable about these first two speakers was that that they were not Jewish, and how proud they were of their Israeli universities and research teams. The third speaker was Professor Illana Gozes who spoke about the ADNP gene sequence in Alzheimer’s disease, autism and schizophrenia. Most importantly for encouraging girls into STEM, two out of three of the speakers were women and were excellent role models for the sixth formers present.

Of course, you do not have to be female to be inspired by the event. The students were aware of how attending such an event might inform their university choices. One student said they were not sure if they wanted to study Biology or Psychology at university, and this conference helped him explore possibilities. Another student said that she attends numerous lectures and will describe some of them on her UCAS form, when she applies to university, evidencing her interest in her chosen subject. Another student, who does not intend to go to university explained that the lectures helped to contextualise her Biology A-level studies, making them more meaningful to her.

It was truly remarkable to find Israeli scientists giving up their time to visit the UK to enthuse British teenagers of all backgrounds about the wonders of Science and to encourage them to study Science at university. Perhaps, our British scientists, and in particular, our female scientists, can learn a thing or two about marketing their subject from their Israeli colleagues.

New Sixth Former’s Survival Guide

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, Study advice

It is October. New Year 12s have now spent a month in the Sixth Form. Having negotiated their way through the new dress code and enjoyed lounging on the comfy sofas in the Common Room, it’s time to get down to work.

So how can you maximise your potential in the Sixth Form? I interviewed some former pupils to see what gems they could pass on to their successors.

Tamsin highlights the importance of choosing subjects you enjoy. A-levels require so much in-depth study and this will become a slog if you do not have an interest in your subject. Even at this stage, it is not too late to change if you have made a mistake. “I know someone who made quite a big change from Chemistry to English A-level, and they never looked back. In fact, they are going to study English at university”, she says. However, subjects should not be changed on a whim. It is important to speak to the teachers and to look at the textbooks for your proposed subject. Make any changes with an informed approach.

Adam emphasises the ‘jump’ from GCSE to A-level. It may have been possible to get by at GCSE without too much work, but at A-level this approach is untenable. Each A-level syllabus is larger and harder than at GCSE and takes longer to understand and analyse. She advises to “prepare well for your weekly tests as otherwise you will have too much to revise all at once at a later date. The course information simply cannot be crammed.”

Homework can take several hours a night and it is important to plan your week to make sure you do not have an unmanageable work load. Many subjects have a coursework component, which can take the strain off doing examinations, but coursework has its own pitfalls. Often, coursework deadlines for different subjects coincide with each other, making planning a necessity; coursework can represent a major part of your final grade and must not be rushed. If you have a problem meeting your deadlines or feel you are falling behind, Daniel advises approaching your teachers, “They won’t think you weren’t listening if you ask a question, and they want you to do well”, she says.

“Get involved in extra-curricular activities, as not only do they look good on your personal statement (part of the UCAS application form) but they give you a break from academic study”, says Tamar. She also suggests looking into universities and prospective courses early. Tamar continues, “It takes a long time to establish which of the many courses on offer are ideal for you and, for new subjects, you need the time to read up about it in order to know if you are interested in them. It is also a good idea to see a careers adviser if you are stuck. They may suggest things that you didn’t know existed!”.

Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication.com and www.findanonlinecourse.com. She can give you expert guidance on A-level choice, university applications (UK and US) and the Personal Statement.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.myuniapplication.com


Natalie’s top tips for maximising your potential in the Sixth Form

  • Check you know what your chosen A-levels entail by speaking to teachers and reading sections of relevant text books.
  • If you think you have made the wrong choice, seriously consider changing subject – you should maximise your chances of getting good grades
  • Plan your weekly work schedule to make sure you do not rush coursework or test preparation
  • Start researching universities and courses early to give yourself enough time to make an informed decision
  • Speak to a professional about A-level and university subject choices

 

How To Survive A Results Day Surprise

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, University advice

A-level results day is always emotional. For some, excellent grades secure their place at university. For others, unexpected results cause disappointment and a change of plans. However, there is room for negotiation with universities. Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication.com explains UCAS’s processes of ‘clearing’ and ‘adjustment’ and how a setback can be turned into a step forward.

Generally, students who meet their offers from university, go to their conditional firm choice (first choice university). They can, however, choose to get onto a different course through Clearing.  If they exceed their offer, they can choose to try to get on a course requiring higher grades, using UCAS’s Adjustment service, within five days of their first choice university accepting them. However, this is a bit misleading as a course requiring higher grades may not necessarily be a good fit for the student or make them more employable. For example, a typical offer to study Chemistry at the University of Manchester is ABB, whereas an offer to study Psychology is AAB. If a student meets and exceeds the offer of ABB for Chemistry, it does not mean that they should aim for a course with higher grades. Grades needed do not necessarily reflect the prestige or utility of a course. Indeed, the grades required for different subjects change every year, so you cannot be sure that ‘trading up’ in one year, will still be viewed a trade-up in future years. Also, there may not be spaces on a different course.

The golden rule when considering Adjustment is ‘advice and availability’. Do not change course unless if you have talked it through with a careers professional or teacher. Remember you have already spent a lot of time researching your chosen degree and university. If you do want to change to a different degree, you must speak to the university departments directly to see if they have spaces. There is no published list for Adjustment in the way that there is for Clearing, so you have to do a lot of the leg-work yourself. You need to tell them that you are looking for a space via Adjustment and be able to explain why you would like to change to their course and attend their university. This needs to be well-thought out in advance. Think very carefully before accepting a place verbally, as once this has been done, the university will add you to their cohort through UCAS, and your original first choice will be lost.

Clearing is much more straightforward. UCAS and The Telegraph publish lists of universities with spaces on their programmes, from results day onwards. Again, the universities need to be telephoned directly for you to ask them about the possibility of joining a course. They will ask you lots of questions about your grades, your motivation for study and they will tell you verbally if they will accept you onto the course. You can shop around, look at various potential courses and receive many verbal offers. Once you are sure which one you would like to accept, you have to add the course and university to your UCAS application. It is important that you do not do this unless a verbal offer has been made to you. You are only able to add one course at a time through Clearing so make sure you discuss your choice with a teacher or careers professional.

Be aware that it may be difficult to secure accommodation for courses selected through Clearing and Adjustment and, in some cases, you may decide to take a gap year rather than rush the decision-making process.

Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication.com.  She can guide you with all aspects of your university application and give you expert guidance on personal statements and interview technique.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.myuniapplication.com

 


Natalie’s top tips for A-level Result’s day:

  • Make sure you have access to a quiet area to make telephone calls and use the internet as you will have to spend time talking to the universities if you use Clearing or Adjustment.
  • It is best to be in the country for A-level results days as if you get onto a different course through Clearing or Adjustment you may want to visit the university before committing yourself to spending at least three years there.
  • Before you make your phone calls, make sure you have prepared answers explaining why you want to study their course.
  • Find out if accommodation is available if changing course at this late stage.
  • Talk to a professional adviser such as Natalie Lancer, before making any rash decisions, as university and course choice, can have profound implications on your future.

Choosing GCSEs and A-Levels

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice

Secondary school seems to be full of difficult choices. In Year 9, your child has to choose their GCSEs. Then, two years later, they have to pick A-levels or an equivalent qualification. At each step, there seems to be more at stake. Fortunately, Natalie Lancer, founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication, is here to help make this experience as stress-free as possible.

Perhaps the best way of helping your child plan their academic career is to start backwards. The end goal is probably to go to university and study something that will help them in their career. With that in mind, it is useful, even in Year 9, to start looking at university websites, to see what courses are on offer and what GCSEs and A-levels they require. You will find that the entry requirements for many courses state a minimum grade required for Maths and English GCSE. Sometimes they also state a required grade for the Sciences at GCSE and ‘a good range of subjects with minimum grades of A*- C’.

Some schools dictate that students take a humanity (History, Geography or Religious Studies), a language and a technical or artistic subject (such as Computer Science or Art). Since Maths, English and Science are compulsory at GCSE, there may, in fact, be very little ‘choice’. However, many schools do give students a free choice of subject and do not insist, for example, that they take a language. However, this may be short-sighted, as some universities, for example, UCL, only admit students who studied a language at GCSE. In practice, in order to achieve ‘a good range of subjects’, it is a good idea to choose at least one humanity and one language. Two humanities may prove very time consuming as they are ‘knowledge-rich’ subjects. Beware that this rule of thumb does not suit everyone – to take on a language if you have no aptitude in them could be a bad strategy. Ultimately, universities want to see that you have passed your GCSEs with good grades. Achieving a balance of subjects that demonstrate that you have ability in a wide range of areas and playing to your strengths are important. You may decide to seek professional guidance in order to make an informed decision.

Choosing A-levels may be easier as by the time a student has studied GCSEs, they will have a better idea of which subjects they may want to take further and which subjects to drop. It is more difficult to know whether to take up a subject that they have not studied at GCSE, such as Economics. Encourage your child to borrow a text book and read a few chapters to see if the subject is interesting to them. Having a conversation about possible future careers is pivotal, as some careers require specific degrees and, in turn, some degrees require specific A-levels. Choosing the wrong A-levels would then count your child out of some career paths if care was not taken at this point. Most importantly, subjects should be chosen in which your child can excel.

Natalie is the founder of MyUniApplication.com. She can discuss your career options in one-to-one sessions and give you expert guidance on GCSE and A-level choice, university applications (UK and US) and the Personal Statement.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.myuniapplication.com


 

Natalie’s Top tips for choosing GCSEs and A-levels:

  • Think about your career goals and discuss options with a professional, such as Natalie Lancer.
  • Research the entry requirements for various university courses and check you would be eligible to apply with your potential subjects.
  • Borrow a text book for the A-level course and decide if the subject matter interests you.
  • Play to your strengths – getting good grades is important.
  • Take a ‘good range of subjects’ at GCSE.