University choices
29097 Helping Your Child Choose a Degree in X “Easy” Steps

The time has come. The time to answer that question tugging at your mind whenever parent life pauses for breath. Red lights on the drive to school. Tea breaks at parents’ evenings. That day you spent nursing your child back to health after he’d eaten a cup of flour on the bus for a dare…

“What will my child do after they’ve finished school?”

The ideal answer is ‘whatever’s best,’ because that’s what you want for them. But that’s also a hard thing to define. Perhaps there’s a safe future in your footsteps, because if it worked out for Mum or Dad, it’ll probably work for the kids too. Or maybe you’re not too happy with the path you took, and you want things to be different this time. Better this time.

And this time, for better or worse, unique or in echo, they’ve chosen to go to university.

So what degree are we going for?

It could be that high-flying economics degree. Or that safe career of medicine. Or even the business course that you took, back in the day. But there are other choices too. Interesting choices that you know nothing about. And soon, the whole thought process becomes a swirling stew of career prospects, prestige, financial security and a thousand other factors.

Maybe you’ve staggered clear, triumphant in the knowledge of what your child should do. Or maybe, after chasing those thoughts around your head like a weathered old train set, you just don’t know. And the anxiety is starting to get to you a little bit.

Step 0: Realise You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers

As your children grow up, their questions get bigger too. And this is often difficult to admit because you’re the parent. The protector, provider, nurturer. You’re the person who explains why the sky is blue and how pigs work. And it’s so easy and so natural to assume that you’re the person to answer this one too.

But the sad, sometimes liberating truth is that your little one’s questions have begun to outgrow you. They’re dipping their toes in the big, wide world and forming their own opinions and dreams that live in places that you may not have visited before. And it’s nigh on impossible for you to tell them whether to do that photography degree, when you went straight from school into a job. Or to pick a career for them when you’ve got a different story, passion and skillset.  

This will be the first big life decision that your child makes and, while you can’t make it for them, your support as a parent is indispensable.

They’re just as worried and anxious as you are about all of this, if not more. And you, with your experience and knowledge of this young person in front you, can provide a safe place to explore the courses they’re considering. Deep down, they probably have some inkling of what they want to do. But what they may lack is the bravery and confidence to say it and chase it.

So, while your child may not need your answers as often anymore, they will need your strength and patience.

Step 1: The Discussion(s)

Alright, depending on your kid, this will fall somewhere between the simplest decision ever and the most painful series of discussions since the last time you tried to pick a family holiday destination…

But it’s important to sit down with your child, plate up some nachos (optional) and have a chat. Because you’re worried, they’re worried and a little talk could make things easier for everyone.

Now, everyone is different. You know your child best, so you get to decide how you want to approach this. But it’s important to recognise that your child may have their own ideas and their own plans for university. They may share them willingly, or you may need to coax them out. Either way, both you and they could benefit from discussing their ideas and both of your thoughts on them.

Perhaps the most important consideration is their enjoyment and interest in the degree. While it’s very tempting to fixate on the long-term benefits of possible careers or salary brackets, it’s important to remember that at least three years of your child’s life will be spent poring over this subject. So, pouring money and years into a course they don’t like may simply result in a burnt-out, disillusioned, unhappy adult.

However, the future beyond the degree is still worth thinking about. Again, your child may have been toying with this for a while and may even have a detailed plan. Of course, it might be a plan that concerns you, and it’s good to voice that because you may be thinking something your child hasn’t considered before. On the other hand, they may have some pretty good answers for your worries, so do keep an open mind.

And if they have no ideas at all?

Then steer the chat towards what they like, what they’re good at and what kind of life they’re hoping for in the future. It’ll be complicated and may require some notetaking because adolescent interests and hopes are notoriously sprawling and erratic… But, between you both, you can combine a few of those ideas into some degree options, and maybe even some career ideas.

The key to all of this is to remember that the answers are buried inside your child, and they may need your help to dig them out and piece them together.

Step B: The Research

Here is where we level the playing field. Not everyone goes to university, so not everyone knows how the madness works. But, once you and your child have got a few ideas for courses, you both can start researching them. Or just let them do it and ask about it later. Some useful questions to consider before diving into Google’s bowels, or your graduate friends’ psyches, might be:

Once you’ve both learned more about the implications and details of the courses, your child can now eliminate some of them for concrete reasons. And they may also want your reassurance that something that makes sense in their head isn’t real-life lunacy.

Phase Gamma: The Experiences

So now your child will hopefully have a couple or maybe even a single degree in mind. The next step is to earn some extra parent points by doing what parents do best: the practical stuff.

You can help them explore the career path they’re semi-set on by lending a hand with some work experience. Use your contacts, colleagues, friends and family – this would make the world of difference for your child because arranging work experience with utter strangers is surprisingly difficult when they haven’t got a foot in the door.

Additionally, you probably have a wallet and a means of transport. Those are the things that mark a true adult, after all. And, since you are a true adult, you could use these things to accompany your child to university open days, to explore the place and pick the brains of current students. They’re a fun day out and prospective students often come away with a good sense of whether they could be happy studying in that atmosphere.  

Finally, if your child is approaching certainty about a course and might benefit from some pre-university experience, that wallet could come in handy again. Summer programmes like those run by Immerse Education can give your child a taste of what it’s like to study the course at university. There are lower stakes, their career isn’t riding on their performance yet and they can come back with either a firmer conviction or a wish to study something else.

And if they want to study something else?

Repeat Step 1… Consider taking up yoga…

After all is said and done, you care deeply about your child and their future. For them, choosing a subject to read at university is a stressful decision that comes alongside the anxieties of exams, adolescence and moving away from home for the first time. But, as a parent, you can provide the support and reassurance they need to make this transition to higher education as smooth as possible. (They’ll thank you later when they’re rolling in enough cash to take you to the Bahamas.)

Categories: Articles, University Advice Tags: , , 26542 Seven Wonders of the World: Seven Places to Study History Across the Globe

There are many ways in which you can study history across the globe as an undergraduate. One is to move abroad to study your undergraduate degree. Another, perhaps less daunting, option is to take a year abroad. Alternatively, you could study history globally in another way by studying at a university with a diverse range of specialist departments. There are many factors that should be considered when choosing where to study, and these can appear all the more intimidating when looking abroad. Choosing the right university is key; if you choose the right one all of the obvious fears of studying abroad are immediately countered and overtaken by the reality of fully-embracing a new culture – which is arguably what the study of history is all about!

The great strength of studying history at Cambridge (besides the course), for me has been the town itself. Cambridge town is very small, this allows you to get to grips with your surroundings and settle in as quickly as possible. Living in Cambridge you are surrounded by history, and beautiful architecture. While after a month or so, this is easy to take for granted, the beauty of your surroundings come into their own when you’re having a difficult work-day (which happens for everyone), the buildings around you provide an instant reminder of the reasons why you are studying at such an intellectually rigorous institution.

In this author’s humble opinion, the major selling point of Columbia is its location. Situated in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood of Manhattan, Columbia University places you at the centre of New York’s cultural scene. Guaranteed 4-year housing removes a large portion of the stress involved with finding housing in New York. The cultural scene of New York endows Columbia with a unique diversity, a diversity that gave birth to the first gay rights advocacy group on any college campus, for example.

Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institute of higher education in the US. This immediately endows the institution with a heritage of obvious interest to any historian. While they could be considered superficial, the dining halls at Harvard are a major strength for anyone studying history. The solitary nature of the history degree, makes such communal areas invaluable for providing an easy opportunity to socialise and integrate quickly into the community.

London has repeatedly been ranked one of the best places in the world for its student life. As a cultural capital there is a diverse range of museums, art, food (etc, etc.) that will satisfy all tastes. Of the many institutions London has to offer, I have chosen LSE for its specialised department in economic history. Economic history is entwined in the very socialist founding of the university and it remains one of the best places in the world to study the intersection between science and humanities.

The strength of Leiden University’s history degree lies in its international orientation. ‘Home of specialists on virtually all regions in the world’, Leiden is able to satisfy demands for a more global style of history teaching. Leiden ranks 1st internationally for history outside the UK and the US. Situated on two sites (Leiden and The Hague), if you choose to study at The Hague side of Leiden University, there is 11km of coastline available for beach and sea sports.

Perhaps one of the best ways to study history around the world is to choose a course which offers a year abroad. This option is particularly good for those who feel (quite understandably) at 18 they are not ready to move country. UCL excels in its year abroad programme, offering both emotional and financial support for students needing it on their year abroad. When in London, UCL offers a range of ways in which to access the vibrant culture of London, notably in offering student discounts for museums, exhibitions, transport, etc.

Edinburgh has been ranked the second best city to live in the UK. Of particular note on the Edinburgh culture scene is the Fringe Festival, which is the worlds largest arts festival. In 2018 Fringe featured over 55,000 performances. Edinburgh is an ‘internationally-focused’ university, which provides a Go Abroad Fund, which grants 250 students to go abroad each year.

There are many different factors to consider when looking to study abroad, whether that be for the entirety of your degree or for a year abroad. Each of these 7 choices have different strengths and weaknesses, however all of them sit comfortably within the top 20 rankings for studying history across the world. World rankings are dominated by institutions of the UK and USA. This accounts for their prominence in this list. In terms of resources, course and teaching-style the likes of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge are leading in their field. The benefits of such a level playing-field (in terms of academics), is that it allows you to make a choice more strongly based on personal preference, be that sport, culture or proximity to home (I would not blame you if that were the case, do not underestimate the restorative power of a quick visit home!).

Categories: Articles, Guide Tags: , , , 9327 Mind De Gap

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Traditionally, the practise of taking a year off between school and university, or “gap year,” has been used as an opportunity for personal development, opening the mind to new experiences, or just for bumming around a foreign country for a few months of fun and adventure.

In recent years, however, in an obvious effort by the adults of the world to suck the joy out of literally everything, gap year has evolved from an educational respite into a virtual extension of the education experience. Far from being a year off, gap year is now being used to seek work experience, build on academic skills, and basically serve as an additional stepping stone into the university experience.

In fact, perhaps in the spirit of “if you can’t beat them join them,” many universities have actually instituted gap year programmes of their own to help students best take advantage of the experience. In some cases, there might even be financial assistance available. All of which begs the question, if it’s a university program meant to enhance your education complete with financial assistance, can it really be called a gap year? Or has it evolved into an added extension of the university experience? We’ll leave that for you to decide.

While you ponder such philosophical conundrums, let’s take a look at the kinds of things one might do during this reimagined gap year.

  1. Get Your Professional Feet Wet

There are few things more depressing than the idea of going through the rigors and stresses of university on your chosen course and then discovering once it’s all through that you can’t stand being a lawyer, or an engineer, or whatever it is that you just spent so much time and money to become. Wouldn’t it be nice to discover this fact before all that time is wasted?

A vocational gap year does just that. By taking a vocational gap year, you get the opportunity to step into the wading pool of your chosen career, so to speak. You get a hands-on peek into exactly what it’s like to be a/an (insert career here).

What kind of hours can you expect to work? What do you actually do on a day-to-day basis? What kind of people can you expect to deal with?

You could end up discovering that your chosen path is not what you expected it to be, and that’s alright. Better to find out now, before you go to university, while you still have time to discover what is right for you. Ideally, though, you’ll find the experience to be inspiring, and you’ll begin university with a unique perspective on your studies that propels you to work even harder to reach your goals..

080815-N-7540C-148 PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua (Aug.15, 2008) Project Hope volunteer Sara Joyce, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), examines the hand of an elderly Nicaraguan woman at a medical clinic at Juan Comenius High School during a Continuing Promise 2008 humanitarian assistance project. Kearsarge is the primary platform for the Caribbean phase of Continuing Promise, an equal-partnership mission involving the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David G. Crawford/Released)
  1. Volunteer

Another great way to keep yourself busy, gain some real-world experience, and do some good an added bonus is to volunteer. This can mean travelling overseas with an international agency to teach children, help build shelters, or otherwise assist those in need. Or it could involve volunteering locally to deliver hot meals to the elderly, work on a political campaign, or help coach a youth sports team.

Whatever you choose to do, volunteering can help you feel more connected to your local or international community while also teaching you many useful skills that will fill out your future resume quite nicely. But most importantly, you get to help others and support causes that you care about and believe in.

  1. Grow Up

We don’t mean that in the way you might hear it from the grumpy old codger down the street after you’ve accidentally stepped on the corner of his well-tended lawn. But, as a young adult just out of school and preparing for university, you’ve most likely had the majority of your basic care and feeding taken care of thus far in your life. Things like cooking your meals, doing your laundry, managing a bank account, and other basic adult activities may well have simply not been necessary skills for you to master up to this point.

Once you’ve moved on to university, however, they’ll be quite useful to have, and gap year is the perfect time to learn them, so you can step into university life more confidently, and you don’t find that you’re struggling to feed and clothe yourself while also studying for exams.

Mastering the skills of being an adult can begin as simply as:

Any skill of adulthood that you can absorb now is just one less thing to worry about learning as you navigate the complexities of your university course work. You’ll gain confidence, lessen your dependence upon others, and feel good about beginning to take some control of your own life.

Remote road at dusk
  1. Move Beyond the Familiar and Comfortable

Unless you’re part of a family that travels a lot, your experience of people and the world has probably been limited to a smallish circle of friends and family. Depending upon where you choose to attend university, you’re going to encounter a varying degree of diversity in the people you meet, live, and work with. For some this is a refreshing, eye-opening experience, while for others it can be a bit of a culture shock.

If you’re in the latter group, gap year can be a great opportunity to expand your horizons by travelling to new places, meeting new people, and getting the culture shock out of the way on your own terms.

The fact of the matter is that moving on to university is going to be a big change from everything you’ve come to be familiar with to this point. How comfortable that transition is will depend greatly upon your own personality as well as on your history with prior new experiences or major life changes.

Gap year may be the big life change you need to inoculate you against the even bigger ones still to come.

  1. Window Shop

A recurring theme of this article is that gap year is a good time to do or try things that you’ve not done or tried before, and this applies not only to areas of personal development or the expanding of your cultural horizons. It applies to your educational aspirations as well.

Suppose you’ve chosen to pursue a career as an engineer, but you’ve always enjoyed maths as well. Through gap year or summer school programs, you can seize the opportunity to dabble in subject areas that you may have never studied before, but have harbored a secret interest in.

Just as a vocational gap year can help show you that your chosen course may not actually be the one for you, taking the chance to study unfamiliar topics can help indicate whether another course holds more interest for you than you thought.

  1. Don’t Lose Ground

You’ve heard of summer learning loss. It’s what happens when you take off for summer break, and when you return to your studies, your brain has misplaced some of what you’d learned before you left. Well, summer holiday is only six weeks, what do you think will happen to your hard-earned knowledge over a 12-month gap year?

While a break from studying might seem just the thing after the whirlwind of study and exams that mark the end of school, it’s also true that you worked hard to acquire all of that knowledge. It’s going to serve you well once you begin at university. It’s in your best interests to make sure you retain as much as possible.

No matter what you choose to do with the bulk of your gap year, be sure to take some time, either through a formal summer study program or by simply taking time out to review a text book or two on your travels. The knowledge you retain as a result is knowledge you won’t have to relearn once you return to your formal education.

You might even gain some knowledge along the way, and that can only be a good thing.

Don’t let a gap year create a gap in your knowledge

  1. Text Keyboard Student Typing Woman Startup
     Get a job

It may seem pedestrian after some of the other options we’ve covered, but whether it’s exciting or not, the truth is that a year spent living at home, working, and saving money can be one of the most valuable ways to spend your gap year.

Some advantages of this gap choice are:

Getting a gap year job may not be the most romantic choice, but the peace of mind gained by starting university with a full bank account may make it one of the best choices you could make.

  1. Enjoy Yourself

Whatever choice you make as to how to spend the bulk of your gap year, remember that this experience, at this time of your life is something that you’ll never have the opportunity for again. Yes, it’s certainly important and advisable to not let it undermine or sabotage the hard work you’ve done in school. And yes, it can be an invaluable opportunity to expand on that work and enhance your upcoming university experience. But don’t let such admonitions blind you to the fact that you’re young, you’ve got a lot of hard work behind you and even more ahead of you, and you deserve to take time for yourself.

The gap year may have evolved into a quasi-extension of the university experience, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be enjoyable as well as fulfilling.

In other words, have some fun!

gap year Categories: Articles Tags: , , ,