Once your teen hits GCSEs, suddenly so much is expected of them. Deciding their A Levels, college, university and what career path to go down – they’re overwhelming thoughts even for adults! Any parent knows that the A Levels or university course you do doesn’t set your future in stone, but they can definitely shape the course of their life for the next few years.
Some teens will actively seek out advice, others might bury their head in the sand while some will stubbornly go down the route they’ve already decided. So what’s the best way to decide on the future? If you don’t want to leave it to a Magic 8 ball, there are some really helpful approaches you can use to rationally work things out.
There’s no single solution that works for everyone, but here are some simple strategies you can use, no matter what stage your child is at.
If your teen’s not sure what subject or subjects to study at the next stage, it’s easy for them to panic as the deadlines loom closer. And with all the possibilities and uncertainties about the future, who can blame them? A really effective way to calm their nerves is to take a systematic approach together. If they’re positive about what they want to do, it’s still useful to double check that their choices fit with that plan. If they’re not sure, it might take a bit more soul-searching. Wherever they’re at, have a go at working through these steps.
Even then, they shouldn’t feel trapped into their decision. Knowing the ways they can change their paths after making decisions can make a big difference in reducing the “what if I’ve made the wrong decision” anxiety. Some schools let kids change their GCSEs or A Levels in the first few weeks of Autumn term, while some universities also have flexible transfer options if they change their mind later.
If they change their mind altogether during their last year of school, they can also take a gap year and reapply in 12 months time.
At this stage, they’ve still got years of school ahead of them, and with an average of nine choices, it’s easy for them to keep lots of doors open. They should keep what they’re best at, what they enjoy, and what keeps their options wide too.
They’ll be happy to be able to drop any compulsory subjects they’ve had to keep until this point. With free rein, now’s the time to think seriously about what they want to do after school. They should stick with what they love most and what they’re best at.
They should also think about the sort of university course they might want to do. It’s wise to check with a teacher what the A Level course module is like, and see if it sounds appealing.
By the last year or so of school, your teen should have some sense of their strengths and passions. With this, it’s a really good idea to have a read of a university prospectus or two. There are lots of uni subjects that aren’t offered in schools, and the idea of learning something brand new might excite them. Social Anthropology, Psychology, Arabic, International Relations – the world’s their oyster. Once they make a subject choice, they should check how the courses differ at various universities, and choose their applications from there. Check out our guide to UCAS for more details.
While they’re still at school or on a gap year, it’s the perfect time for them to try lots of things out. Any work experience they can find in the holidays is a fantastic way to see the world beyond school and uni. Talking to their teachers, their school’s careers counsellor, a tutor or any other experts they can meet will help them better understand their options and what’s best for them.