Planning your Higher Education Qualification: starting point

Before going (back) to university, it is worthwhile thinking where it will all lead. Of course, you can study for a variety of reasons, but because university in the England at least, if not anywhere else, has become more expensive, most people will think more carefully what benefits a university education will give them. Most of the time, this decision will be made in terms of career prospects. 

Explore possibilities not just through introspection, but also through experimentation… 

There is even more pressure to ‘get it right first time’. Whether this is really necessary is debatable. Many university courses don’t aim for one particular career. Increasingly, any career decision does not need to be one with life long consequences. Often, what is an excellent decision today may not be the best one tomorrow. We change… and our surroundings change… In that sense, the best we can do is… the best we can do at any given time.

‘Getting it right’ is often not an easy task, and takes a lot of time and effort to think through, explore, make decisions about and act upon these… Paradoxically, getting it wrong is sometimes an equally important learning experience… not that I would like to make a habit of it!

However, we need to make decisions somehow, and it may be useful to think through how to make any important decisions in which you invest a lot of money, time and energy. Below is a very brief summary of how planning and decision making could work, to get you started.

Please bear in mind this is just one example of how planning could work. It’s intended to get you thinking, rather than as a ‘manual’ you have to follow step by step. It’s important to use your own creativity and to take calculated risks, experiment and try….

On the next pages in this section I will go into more detail and offer useful links, ideas and tools to hopefully take your planning and decision making to the next level.

On the left hand side (the green side) are the things that are within your power to change. That is where you can have most effect. It requires investigation, including self-investigation, thought and introspection. 

The right hand side (the blue side) consists of things that are ‘out there’ and cannot generally be changed by you, or not quickly at least. You may need time explore to get a good idea of what really is ‘out there’, without making too many assumptions. Assumptions are hurdles we put up for ourselves for a number of reasons. They can in the worst case stop us in our tracks where we don’t have to be stopped. It’s always important to be factual. 

One way in which you can potentially change outside influences is by moving to where you find different outside circumstances. If you’re one of many fish in a large pond, move to a smaller pond where you are the big fish! This is a decision you can either take or not, just like all choices.

The key to this exercise, and to planning in general, is to see how the two sides match up and what career ideas would be generated as a result. It could be more important to think of a broad career direction, rather than a very strict career path, especially when you’re an undergraduate.

Of course, this is a very generic and simplistic overview. In reality, any career decision doesn’t have to be life changing or for the longer time.