University applicants are regretting the A-level subjects they took, new research shows

Only half feel 'suitably informed' about how A-levels can affect the choice of university or course

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Friday 29 April 2016 11:14 BST

Young students are being urged to carefully choose their A-levels, as new research reveals university applicants are regretting the subject choices they made.

New research from Which? University has shown almost 30 per cent of university applicants wished they had chosen different A-level subjects, while just over 40 per cent wished they had thought more about what subjects might help them get into university.

In the survey of just over 1,000 UK students, under the age of 19, who had applied to university, only half felt suitably informed about how their A-levels could affect their choice of university or course.

The team at Which? has advised how A-levels can have “a big impact” on university applications, with some courses requiring specific A-level subjects, and some universities not accepting certain subjects at all.

However, despite this, less than half (41 per cent) of those surveyed said they were aware that many universities have a list of A-level subjects they view less favourably.

Which? campaigns director, Alex Neill, acknowledged that students know choosing what to study at university is an important decision. However, she said the research has shown they are “less clear” about how earlier decisions could impact on the degree options available to them.

For this past academic year, the Russell Group produced an Informed Choices guide to highlight the importance for young people - especially those whose parents didn’t go to university - to have clear information about how the subjects they choose to study in the sixth form or at college can affect their options at university and their chances in life.

The guide said choosing the following “facilitating subjects” at advanced level would leave open a wide range of options for university study:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Physics
  • Modern and classical languages
  • Maths and further maths

Director general of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, has told students in the past: “Our student guide provides advice on the best subject combinations for a wide range of Russell Group university courses, and the choices which will maximise your chances on getting on your preferred course.”

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Therefore, to help students make better-informed choices, Which? University has launched a new A-level Explorer tool which has been designed to help GCSE students choose and explore how their choices will affect their degree options at university.

The tool also provides current A-level students with ideas and inspiration about what degree best suits the subjects they are studying.

Mrs Neill said: “While certain A-levels might suggest a particular degree path, our tool shows there are usually alternative options students can take.

“It’s important that students choose their A-levels with both degree courses and future careers in mind.”

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