1. Why do you want to study? – taking things right back to basics, deciding why you want to study, what you hope to achieve from it, and where you want it to go is an important step in choosing a course. You could:
a. Look back over past experiences and how you may wish to build on these.
b. Identify your skills, abilities and qualities.
c. Use some method to prioritise your study goal – Is it for career progression, to change career, personal development or professional accreditation?
d. Previous academic experience – How long has it been since you studied? What academic level did you achieve? Was there anything about your previous academic experience that you liked/disliked?
e. What do you need to find out?
2. What factors may affect your ability to study?
a. How much time do you have – after work, family, hobbies, pets, how much time do you realistically have to spend studying?
b. Full Time/Part Time/Distance Learning/Vocational/Apprenticeships – what method of delivery will work for you, and what would you prefer? Is time a factor, or flexibility?
c. Finance – Are you eligible for funding? Do you need to continue working? What are your existing financial commitments?
3. Seek Advice – Having an idea of where you would like your studies to take you is a great starting point. Now may be a good time to think about:
a. Careers advice – contact Careers Advisory services (My World of Work, PLANIT +, NHS Careers etc. Look at job vacancies, contact prospective employers in the sector you wish to work in. Use career relevant social networks/focus groups.
b. Accreditation – Contact professional bodies – for example the General Teaching Council Scotland, Law Society for Scotland, SSSC and, where you have a course in mind, the institution that offers the course, as they should be able to provide relevant accreditation information.
c. Speak to friends and family – Often they will think of things you maybe haven’t – especially useful if anyone has experience in the field you are thinking of pursuing.
d. Obtain published information and directly contact the institutions you are thinking of applying to. If you have them, ask questions BEFORE signing up to a course. Things like, how does my experience relate, how is the course structured, are there any additional costs, and what support is available are all questions you can ask before choosing a course.
4. Take Time to consider options – Often people make choices based on a self-imposed deadline, or because they feel if they don’t do it now, they never will –
a. Make sure, once you have sought advice, you take time to review the information and advice and measure this against the goals you identified through self-reflection.
b. What courses satisfy those reasons you want to study and the end goal you want to achieve?
c. You may find you need to undertake some preparatory study/work experience before you start your chosen course. Don’t panic if this may mean it takes a little longer to reach your goal – this may be better in the long run than starting a less relevant alternative sooner.
d. If it helps, talk through the information and advice you have been given with someone you trust to help you weigh up the pros and cons
5. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions – You may find through your exploration that you think of something that you didn’t ask the university, or the professional body, or the financial support team – don’t worry about making follow up enquiries
6. Be confident in your choice – Now that you have reflected on your goals, sought relevant information and advice, reviewed this and asked further questions should the need have arisen, be confident that you are now in a position to make an informed choice – and remember, after you have started a course, when you need help/advice/guidance – ask as soon as the need arises!