First thoughts about Higher Education

It's never too early to consider your future!


YSJ-GeneralPromo_050515_017What is Higher Education?

Higher Education, often called HE, is the name given to a course that you can do when you are 18, usually in a university or college and lasts three or four years.

When you have finished the course, you will have a qualification known as a degree.

There are plenty of different reasons that people want to go university and get a degree; to get a skilled job like a doctor or vet, to earn more money, to gain independence and confidence, to try out new experiences and meet lots of people along the way!

Higher Education isn’t much like school; you have much more control over your time and choices so if you have struggled at school don’t let that change your mind.

You may have some classes that are taught (called lectures) and other time periods that you are working alone or in a group, but overall it is very different to being at school – after all, you will be an adult at the time!

Can I go?

Anyone is able to get into Higher Education! There is a wide spectrum of people from all different backgrounds and skill levels in Higher Education - and that's great - with all those interesting people around, most students find life-long friends!

W_DSC6668here can I go?

There are over 300 different places in the UK that you could choose from. It’s totally up to you where you choose to go, whether you would prefer somewhere really close to home, somewhere far away or even in a different country!

All HE institutions are different in style, feel and size so you should have a look at their websites or go and visit them to get the best impression of them.

Some of them are campus based, which means that everything in one place and some have their buildings spread across a city amongst the shops.

Remember: there are colleges that also offer degrees, so you might want to look at these too! Why not have a look at our Course Finder?

What can I study?

Well, great news!

For almost anything you can think of, there will be a degree programme for it or something very similar. There are thousands and thousands of courses out there for you to choose from (over 40,000!), so you are very likely to find at least one you think you would love.

To give you flavour of the less well known subjects, you could study: Farm and Animal management, Folk Music, Archaeology, Film Make-up and Prosthetics, Animal Behaviour, Sports Coaching and Physical Education… there really is a huge choice.


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Some of the important bits to know and think about

What do I need to get onto a Higher Education course?

Most of the time you will need to have certain grades from your GCSEs and A-Levels – when you are looking at a course it will tell you the entry requirements; the universities and colleges in York ask for a range of different grades from your A-levels so it's important to check the information for the course you're interested in. Sometimes they will also ask you to have an interview with them, but that depends on the course and the institution.

Take a look at our page on Routes into Higher Education to find out more.

What if I don't have the right grades?

This isn’t always a deal breaker, whilst it is always beneficial to have the grades that they require, you can still sometimes get onto a course in HE. In this situation you could call the university and talk to them about your options because they could still accept you.

Another option if you don’t get the right grades would be to take an Access to Higher Education Diploma. This is a course that prepares you for a degree - there are lots of different roots into HE, having A-Level results only being one of them.

Will it cost me money?

_DSC6259Degrees do cost you money, but there is a lot of support available to make HE affordable for everyone.

You may have heard that courses cost up to £9000 a year, which is true, but before you panic, you don’t have to pay any of this until you have a job after the course and are earning enough money (over £21,000 a year)!

There are loans and grants that can help you with all costs, from the course, to food and rent.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what background someone comes from, Higher Education is for everyone!

What is university life like?

It is no secret that most students will say that it is the best years of their life!

Whilst studying a degree you could be learning about your favourite subject, making great friends, spending a lot of time socialising and going out, becoming more independent and confident, living away from home for the first time, maybe working part-time to earn some extra money, attending clubs and societies of things you love, pushing yourself to get the best degree you are capable of and whatever else you can fit in. Sounds good right? If you think so, then perhaps HE is for you.

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UCAS Progress

Progress’ is UCAS’ information, advice and admissions service for young people making decisions about what and where to study after their GCSEs irrespective of whether or not they’re thinking about higher education.

Learners, teachers and parents can find a wealth of impartial information about careers and progression routes on This features local and national resources and is being expanded to include information about the opportunities provided by different qualification types and subject choices, and the varied experiences to be gained studying at a school sixth form, a sixth form college, or a further education college.

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A Little Help with Some Commonly Used Words…

BA: You may hear people refer to a degree as a BA. This means Bachelor of Arts, it is the name of the most common type of degree that you can do. 

Campus: The place where all of the universities or colleges buildings are located. 

College: A place where students can attend to get A-Levels and sometimes they also do some degrees. 

Degree: The name of the qualification you will have once you have completed a Higher Education course. 

Essay: A piece of writing that you might be asked to do on the course. 

Fresher: A first-year student on a degree course. 

Graduate: Someone who has completed a degree. 

Grant: This is a sum of money that is given to you that you do not need to pay back.

Halls: The name given to student accommodation.

Lecture: A class at on a degree course.

Loan: This is a sum of money that is given to you that you will have to pay back at some point in the future. 

Masters: This is a course, often for one year, that you can do after you have completed a degree that is harder and in more detail. 

PhD: This is an abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy. It is something you may do after a degree and masters. It usually takes about four years and requires you to do lots of research into a topic. Once you have one of these you can add ‘Dr’ to the beginning of your name. 

Postgraduate: Someone who has completed a degree and is returning to education to complete another course at a higher level, perhaps a Masters or PhD. 

Prospectus: A document that has information on what a university or college offer, you can ask for these to be posted to you at home to have a look at (usually for free!) 

Seminar: A smaller class that allows students to discuss topics together. 

Undergraduate: Someone who is currently studying on a degree. 

University:  Where students can attend to get degrees and other higher qualifications like Masters and PhDs.