What to do once you finish school; it’s a big decision that could impact your future career path. We talk to Matt Seel who completed an apprenticeship at Burnley Council and then Claremont Communications, and Lydia Hesketh who graduated last year from the University of Sussex after studying English Literature and Art History.
1.Why did you choose this route?
Lydia (L): I chose to go to university after school because of the opportunity to relocate to a new and exciting city. I was really keen to move out from my parent’s house and see if I could live independently (this was definitely harder than I initially thought!). I’ve always loved education, so the prospect of attending lectures and improving my knowledge at a high class institute was really exciting for me.
Matthew (M): University didn’t appeal to me as I wanted to get straight into work and gain practical skills while earning a real wage. I had applied to universities and had a number of offers, but none of the courses appealed to me that much compared to the Business Administration NVQ Level 2 Apprenticeship.
2. What qualifications/ grades did you need?
L: I mainly applied to Russel group and other top tier universities so I needed to get a minimum of three A levels with grades AAB – ABB. I wanted to study English Literature & Art History so an English subject was a requirement. In the end I achieved AAC and secured my top choice at the University of Sussex.
M: I needed 5 GCSEs and 2 A levels at a minimum of a C grade or an NVQ level 2. I studied Philosophy, History and Government and Politics A levels but any A levels or relevant experience will help you get an apprenticeship.
IC: Finance apprenticeships typically require a minimum of 240 UCAS points, with a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C, including in English and Maths.
3. What did you most enjoy about your experience?
L: I really enjoyed having the chance to solely study two of my favourite subjects in depth. Being able to study without the strict guidance of school teachers allowed me to develop and pursue my own interests. Of course, I also enjoyed living in a city (I come from a small northern town) and meeting lots of new people. Freshers week is definitely one of my highlights of uni!
M: I most enjoyed being able to earn while I was learning and gaining real work experience in the process. Earning a salary meant that I could buy my own scooter, and I could afford to socialise at the weekend and go on holidays.
Meeting people in the industry was also enjoyable and I gained a lot of knowledge from these professionals who became my close friends. I gained a real insight into my chosen industry something I wouldn’t have achieved at university.
4. What did you least enjoy?
L: The only thing I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy was managing the little money I had. It’s sometimes tough being able to afford things you want and don’t need (like new clothes!) unless you get a part-time job. I had to sacrifice a few nights out for my weekly food shop. Now that I’ve finished uni I’m also in quite a lot of debt from student loans. However, the government only takes back manageable amounts once you start earning £21,000, so paying your loan back isn’t as bad as it looks.
M: It can sometimes be strange when your friends are on holiday from university but you still have to work five days a week. I also struggled to keep on top of my coursework at the start, but once I learnt how to multitask and prioritise projects I soon kept on top of it.
5. What did you learn?
L: I learnt quite a few things that have helped me since graduating. Dealing with deadlines has helped develop my time management skills, as well as how to multi task several projects at once. The social aspect at uni also helped improve my social skills which is definitely worthwhile once you start at a new workplace. University also taught me that I could live independently.
M: My apprenticeship taught me how to act in the workplace, which sounds easy but is quite different to a school environment. I learnt how to get into the regular rhythm of working 9-5, routinely dealing with deadlines and tasks from various people.
I also developed my communications skills; emailing and networking with professionals and helped out at events at Number 10. Although I didn’t go to university, I improved my writing skills by writing a guest blog post for Alastair Campbell’s website and having a piece of national media in the Independent.
6. What position do you hold now?
L: I secured a marketing internship at Inside Careers and after six months I was offered a permanent role as a Marketing Assistant. Securing the internship wasn’t easy; I completed quite a lot of work experience during the summer of my second year and also the summer after I graduated.
M: I became a Junior Consultant at Claremont. Once my apprenticeship had ended I had to go through the application process for the new job to access what I had learnt during my time as an apprentice. This really helped improve my application skills, something that will come in useful in the future if I apply to other jobs.
7. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue an apprenticeship/ university?
L: Getting into university can be stressful, so be prepared to put in the hours when studying at school. Getting good grades means you have more choice when choosing universities and it’s also worthwhile in the long run; some graduate jobs have minimum UCAS point requirements.
I’d also advise people to pursue a course that really interests them and that they’re 100% certain they want to study. Three years is a commitment and you don’t want to be studying something you’re not passionate about.
Finally, don’t forget about work experience! Insights and internships during your summers at university can help you secure a job after university.
M: Have an idea of what you want to do, there are always possibilities for you to change roles in an organisation but make sure that you like the work they do and their culture – apprenticeships take at least one year to complete.
Also, keep on top of your coursework! People sometimes forget that school leaver schemes and apprenticeships involve coursework, but this is manageable with your time in work.
Still not sure which option to pursue after school? Check out our article: Where next? School leaver schemes vs. university