Teeing off

My 17-year-old son would love to go to an American university, but we don't know how to apply. Tempted by the weather and golf, he would like to become a pro, secondary to obtaining a good degree.

Look first at the Fulbright Commission's US Educational Advisory Service (EAS) on www. fulbright.co.uk/eas. The site is a comprehensive guide to choosing one of the 3,700 universities in the States, otherwise a daunting task. It covers admissions exams taken here, finding courses and funding (which can be scarce for foreign students) and offers useful links and one-to-one advisory sessions. The site can also point you to commercial services which will help you do the work. But the EAS says it is possible to do the research work on your own. For sports applicants, they suggest visiting the site of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (www. ncaa.org) to find out which universities offer golf and whether you are eligible for a scholarship. Coaches often play a central role in award decisions, so it is important, once you've checked qualifications and reputations, to get in touch with them directly. There's more detailed information about how to do this (as well as information about a forthcoming seminar covering sports applications) on the site. You will still need to register and sit the SAT (standardised tests for college admissions) in the same way as other students. Students with scholarships can take a degree in any subject offered by the university. There are no degrees in the sports themselves, but students often study PE, exercise science or an allied field. The EAS says golf is a very popular sport for both men and women at American colleges and universities, with roughly 1,000 universities awarding at least one scholarship annually to talented golfers. It warns though that, as with all sports, golf scholarships are extremely competitive and obtaining one requires a lot of work and forethought.

Mind games

I am thinking about which A-levels to take and am interested in sports psychology. I was hoping to take psychology, PE and history or English.

Psychology and PE would be absolutely right and biology is considered useful with PE but not mandatory. So if you take three A2 levels, including these two, you have some leeway on the third, and the probable accompanying AS level. It is very important to study something you enjoy and are likely to do well in, as top courses at university level are going to require good grades. It might be worth ringing university courses that interest you to see what they require. There are basically two main routes to becoming a sports psychologist. You can either go for chartered psychologist status, in which case you would need a degree accredited by the British Psychological Society (www.bps.org.uk) and a further three years of training, including a postgraduate qualification. Or you can try for accreditation given by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (www.bases.org.uk). To gain that you would need an undergraduate degree in psychology or sport and exercise science, and an MSc with a major psychological component. Be aware those top jobs with national teams are inevitably limited – sports psychologists are often based in a university department and combine consultancy work with lecturing and research. Both the above sites have quite extensive careers guidance which could help you choose a route – talk to your teachers and take any careers advice available.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk