A Level Results: Why they’re not the be all and end all

Aug 14, 2014


By Lyndsey Hall

Every August, thousands of teenagers open the envelope whose contents dictate their entire future. Or do they? A levels are important, but in recent years they have become just another step to getting into University and studying a subject for three or four years that may or may not lead to a lifelong career. More often than not, the subjects that we choose to study at 15 and 16 do not bear much resemblance to the work that we do at 25 or 30, let alone 40 or 50.

Continuous learning is key to success

Don’t get me wrong, a good education is the most important thing that anyone can possess – for their CV, but also for their personal development – and that doesn’t end after school or University. The best employees and employers didn’t get a degree and then just stop learning; they keep their minds sharp by reading up about their industry and studying the newest trends and methods to make sure they are always at the top of their game. This doesn’t have to cost the earth, just a little time and effort.

Cost to benefit ratio of university

The current cost of a university degree is the highest it has ever been, and is only going to increase over the next few years. For some young people, especially those who can’t get student finance to cover some or all of the cost, it is just not feasible. Many others simply don’t want to be £30,000 or more in debt before they turn 25.

On-the-job training, apprenticeships and evening classes at your local College are all excellent ways to improve your skills and knowledge without needing to fork out large amounts of money for a university course; and the other benefit is that they allow you to earn money alongside your studies. Who wouldn’t want that? True, some university students work evenings and weekends in shops or bars, but when you’re paying through the nose for tuition fees do you really want to risk being tired in lectures or missing deadlines to pick up an extra shift?

Unemployment is high among graduates

Graduates are one of the highest groups affected by unemployment, with nearly 40% of graduates still looking for a job a full 6 months after leaving University. And, according to an ONS report published last year, “47% of graduates employed within six months were working in jobs that did not require a degree.”

Degrees are no longer the Holy Grail that they used to be to employers. Nowadays, businesses are more likely to hire the candidate with no degree who has experience of working in their industry or in a similar role, than the candidate with a First class degree who has never worked a day in their life. According to the survey by, “almost half of all graduates wished they had steered clear of academic courses, opting for ‘something more vocational’ instead.”

Consider the alternatives and weigh your options

So, if you’re not sure what to study at university, or even whether you really want to go, consider the alternatives as there might be one that is perfect for you. Always loved DIY? Try an apprenticeship in plumbing, electrics or woodwork. Bit of a fashion addict? Take a sewing or dressmaking class and start designing your own clothes. Or, if you really can’t decide what to do, maybe you could consider studying to become an accountant or bookkeeper! Two fantastic jobs that don’t require a university degree.

Whatever your A level results are, not getting into the university of your choice is not the end of the world. It could just be the best thing that never happened to you.

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