Getting to grips with student decision-making

Here is a summary of the tips and advice from the careers advisers for helping students to explore their options and make their study and career decisions. If you want to download this for reference, we have included it in the download section at the bottom of this page.

Please share your thoughts on these and any ideas you want to explore further with other advisers by adding comments at the bottom of the page. You can also read other people’s comments and ‘like’ the ones you agree with.

A good approach is to focus students on:

1. Where are you now?

2. Where do you want to get to?

3. How are you going to get there?

It is important to set higher education in the wider context of exploring all their options, the different progression pathways open to them, and, orientate all your students in the task. Ensure they have a purpose and see meaning in what they are doing.

Cover the key IAG tasks:

  • Present all the options - and help them to consider the pros and cons of each. Impartiality is essential.

  • Raise self-awareness – self-reflection on their strengths, weakness, skills, values, goals and aspirations. Quizzes and questionnaires can be good starting points.

  • Give them opportunities to explore and research careers and options – to focus aspirations and set goals.

  • Offer a structure, meaningful contexts and different starting points to help students engage positively and to develop confidence.

  • Help them refine their choices and make decisions. Highlight essential information and facilitate discussion. Checklists can provide useful reference points for students.

  • Challenge their choices - what are they choosing, why they are choosing it and where it will lead them?

Things to consider:

  • Many students face barriers and pressures. Some influences are supportive and some can be a pressure.

  • Research surveys have reported that around a third of students have regretted their course choices. There are two links below to articles about this from 2015 and 2008. Does this suggest that it could be an ongoing pattern for concern unless students are better informed?

  • Take time to reflect on your own understanding: How up to date are you? How much has changed since you were at university? What do you need to find out more about?

  • Higher education has got a lot to offer all young people. It is not simply for those predicted top grades in academic subjects. The Sutton Trust report ‘Advancing ambitions: The role of career guidance in supporting social mobility’ provides real insight into the impact that career guidance programmes have on outcomes covering student performance, attendance and destinations. You may also draw inspiration and ideas from the case-studies with 14 schools with the goal of defining the necessary ingredients for effective career guidance.

  • Ensure that young people are aware of how their subject, course and qualification choices can open career options, but can also close them down. There are some links below to UCAS resources about choosing subjects. The courses listed on UCAS course search include details of entry requirements so your students can check any specific subject and qualification requirements. The UCAS Explore jobs and other careers websites can help students find out about entry requirements for particular jobs roles. National Careers Service (England), My World of Work (Scotland), Careers Service (Northern Ireland) and Careers Wales provide a range of information and job profiles.

  • Young people need to hear about careers, work and job roles from the ‘experts’ – the people doing those jobs. Visits from employers and work experience can provide really valuable encounters. Case studies are brilliant, not least because they are more accessible. They can give young people the best insight, enable them to ask pertinent questions and get real, valid answers. There are lots of websites with video case studies - iCould and Brightside Bright Knowledge are examples.

  • Ask people about their career progression routes – it helps to recognise that paths are not necessarily linear and throw up some unexpected career choices. Suggest your students do the same!

In the section below you can download the content of this page for reference. We also provide some useful resources for further reading and which you could use to inform your careers information and advice activities and discussions with your students.

UPDATE: New resource for you!: One of your fellow MOOC participants, Philip Rogerson, Director of Higher Education and Careers at Sherborne School, Dorset has kindly offered to share his excellent ‘Guide to HE Higher Education application’ resource with MOOC participants. It is based on nearly 20 years’ experience in the field. Philip says “I’m committed to fair access for all potential HE applicants and think it’s incumbent on us all to share materials and insights. Whilst I am certainly not claiming it is a definitive document, I’m really happy to freely offer this for you all to modify to suit the needs of your own students and institutions.” You can find it in the downloads section at the end of this page.

There are also some links to UCAS information and advice resources for students considering their options, including higher education, as well as for younger learners, aged 15/16 years old - such as a quiz, and tips on doing their research and making informed choices.

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This article is from the free online course:

Smart Advice: Broadening Your Students’ Horizons