Your higher education questions answered by college advisor Beryl Dixon
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The Independent Online
Q: I don't want to get into too much debt while I'm at university. Is it easy for students to find jobs?

A: Most students now work for around 15 hours a week in term-time and higher education institutions accept this. At most places you will find that some jobs around the campus (cleaning, office work, catering) are reserved for students, that the student union employs students in its bars and shops, and that there is an official job shop, advertising jobs in the nearest towns. Typical jobs are in shops, pubs, clubs, delivering pizzas, etc. You could also advertise to do housework or baby-sitting. (Check local rates of pay first). But don't wear yourself out or jeopardise your academic work by taking on too much!

Q: I am getting conflicting advice on whether to take a degree that leads to a job, such as business studies, or to take history, my favourite subject. If I did history what could I do other than teach?

A: If you have looked into the content of business studies courses and think you would enjoy the work, then go for it. Otherwise, choose history. A lot of employers still prefer to recruit someone who has done well in a subject of their choice rather than badly in something they felt they should do! Around 40 per cent of jobs for graduates do not specify a particular subject. Employers are looking for common skills that any degree subject should teach - written communication, oral presentation, solving problems, handling large amounts of information, and critical reasoning. You should also make sure that you gain experience in team working and some numeracy and IT skills. Equipped with these, history graduates are working in careers as different as advertising, broadcasting, computing, journalism, law and sales.

Q: Do universities and colleges really approve of gap years?

A: On the whole, yes. They find that students are more mature, used to living away from home and able to manage their money. However, there is rarely a uniform opinion at any university or college. A few prefer students to be straight from school without a break in study habits. If information on departments' gap-year policy is not given in the prospectus, check what it is before completing your UCAS form. You should also say what your gap-year plans are. Most admissions tutors like to know how you are going to spend your time.