In the time leading up to results day, A-level college students in London and around the UK are likely to be under more pressure than they have ever experienced before. Many will be awaiting grades that determine conditional offers, whilst a select few may be feeling less pressured, having secured unconditional places.
Students have a tendency to fall into three categories; those who have very specific career goals such as medicine, and therefore require specific qualifications; those who know which industry they would like to work in, but are unsure of the capacity; and those who have yet to figure out what they want do. A recent survey conducted by notgoingtouni.co.uk revealed that a quarter of British students aged between 15-18 have no idea what they will do once they finish compulsory education.
In a recent article, The Guardian spoke to several students who were struggling to decide on their next steps. Dan Parkin, a 17-year-old student from Wood Green school sixth form in Witney, spoke of his frustration at the pressure to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life at such a young age. He said: ‘We’re being forced to decide what job to do for the next 50 years when we don’t even know who we are as people yet’. Dan raises a valid point. Are we putting too much pressure on young people to have things all figured out too early on? Are they being provided with enough support when they can’t quite decide?
A-level college students of today have a vast number of options available to them when it comes to post-18 choices. Society tells them that they can be whatever they want to be, and with more courses available than ever before, the world is their oyster. But maybe that is part of the problem. There can be such a thing as too much choice, and for students who are not sure about things, a vast number of choices can be overwhelming. So who is responsible for pointing these students in the right direction?
Those who choose to study A levels at Ashbourne College are offered personal tutoring sessions as a way to offer guidance. Tutors are on hand to advise students on their next steps based on their strengths, but even they cannot make the decisions for them. The Guardian article suggests that there may be a distinct lack of information tailored to this specific age group, and that the government could be doing more to help. Expecting a student to make what the article describes as ‘life-defining decisions’ based on attending a few open days and taster courses is a method that seems unreasonable to the writer of this particular article, but it is how many young people make successful choices. Perhaps things need to go one step further for those who find themselves completely at a loss. Second-year A-level student Barney Martin suggests that career days involving different trades and businesses might be the way to go. Although he admits there is no easy fix, he believes that having the opportunity to get a taste of what different careers have to offer might just narrow things down.
Although having an idea of career goals can be beneficial for A-level college students, it is not the end of the world if they are unsure. Many go on to jobs that are unrelated to their degree choice and flourish, which proves that there are many paths that can lead to fulfilling careers. How a student views a particular industry may change with time, and it is not uncommon for people to change careers later on in life. Students should feel safe in the knowledge that there are people twice their age that don’t have the answers, so they shouldn’t feel too anxious when they don’t have them either.