Career and uni FAQs – all you need to know to get started

Where can I look for more information and advice on jobs and careers?

Take a look at icould’s by job type section to get some ideas about roles in different areas. You could also take a look at the life decisions for more general ideas on decisions for the future or if you know what subject you love but can’t see how that relates to a job take a look at the icould subject section.

Directgov also have a really useful section of work and careers, including details of apprenticeships and work experience opportunities.

I live in Scotland. Who should I speak to for careers advice?

Careers Scotland are the people to speak to if you live in Scotland. You can get in touch with their Exams Helpline if you’re getting worried about exams and results. The service is offers careers advice for people of any age. You can also speak to an adviser.

I’ve just taken my A-levels and I live in Wales. Where’s the best place to get help on next steps?

Careers Wales offers post A-level information. You can arrange a face-to-face meeting with an adviser. Careers Wales is available for people of all ages.

I’m in Northern Ireland. Who can help me with some careers advice and information?

If you live in Northern Ireland you can find your local careers office at the Careers Service NI site. Again, this is available for people of all ages.

I’m interested in going to university but where can I get some more information?

UCAS enables you to research your university choices and courses. They also provide information about funding your studies and being prepared for any challenges that may arise. Best Course 4 Me can give you information from past students who have taken specific courses.  Once decided, you then apply for higher education courses through UCAS.

I’ve got my exam results but they’re not what I expected. What should I do?

If you’ve already got your results and you haven’t been successful in securing your first choice university, UCAS also helps with clearing and next steps.

My results are better than I expected. Can I now apply for a different course or university?

Each year some applicants pass their exams with better results than expected. This may mean that some will have not only met the conditions of their firm choice, but will also have exceeded them. Adjustment - sometimes called trading up – has been introduced for these applicants. It provides an opportunity for them to reconsider where and what to study.

I’m a bit scared about going to university and making new friends. is a student-only networking site which connects applicants to each other. Its run by UCAS has also contains some useful tips and information. Most universities have their own Facebook page, so you can chat to other students before you go.

What is university life really like?

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a useful starting point for finding out more about going to university. TheSite.orghas lots of articles on all aspects of student living, from dealing with homesickness to campus chat up lines. For information on what’s in store for you, try your university’s students’ union website. They often have information on all the sports clubs, student societies, volunteering, jobs, bars, clubs and entertainments on offer. You can go to your university’s homepage and find a link, or you can go to the NUS site for a full listings.

Where should I live when I go to university?

Many universities offer on-campus or university-owned halls of residence to first year students. This will be offered to you once you have been offered a place at the university. However, not every university offers this and, if you have gone through Clearing, you might need to find your own accommodation. Accomodation for students is the UK’s leading site for student accommodation, student houses, student flats and larger private accommodation across the UK. You can also find potential housemates through the site. Some universities work with the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) which provides on-campus, managed university accommodation. To get a place in these halls you will need to apply through the university. UNITE is a commercial organisation that runs private halls of residence and other housing for students at many towns and cities across the country. You apply directly for accommodation through their site; if you and friends would like to live together you can select group bookings.

I can’t cook. How will I survive when I move away from home?

For some, one of the more daunting aspects of university can be feeding yourself. Student Recipes offers masses of money-saving tips and cheap, easy recipes for any occasion.

Do you have any tips for cheap travel while I’m studying or training?

An NUS card on its own isn’t always enough to guarantee you discounted student travel! It might be worth investing in a 16-25 Rail Card or a 16-26 National Express Coach Card. You’ll find that the local bus companies offer discounted bus passes for students. First Group, operates in a number of towns and cities and offers a student bus pass.

I’d like to take some time out to travel before working or going to uni. Any tips?

  • ISIC card to get travel discounts when travelling abroad
  • STA travel – a discount student travel agency providing information and links to help plan all your travel needs including finding flights, details of rail and bus passes available for Europe and beyond, travel insurance, hotel rooms and hostel nights.
  • student travel Loads of useful info about student travel from how to get your first passport and the best free things to do in major European cities, to sorting your travel documents and how to pay for your travel.

I’m really worried the cost of going to university. Where do I go to get information on funding?

Directgov provides a good intro for those seeking information on funding for higher education. If you are from England, this is also where you can apply for funding from Student Finance England. If you are from Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales,information about application is available.

I’m really worried about getting in to debt and not being able to manage my finances if I go to university.

NUS and HSBC conducted research to find out the true cost of living – and found that students underestimated their expenditure by around £20 per week but the reality is something much higher! Find out more about this at the NUSwebsite. The charity Brightside provides free online tools like the Student Calculator to help you manage your money at university. They also offer lots of information about careers, education and student life at Bright Knowledge.

Any advice on getting a part time job whilst studying?

Many universities and colleges have employment offices or job shops, which help students find work during term and vacation time. The National Association for Student Employment Services has a full listing of all of its members. Check outStudent Jobs too for current vacancies.

I don’t want to go to university. Where can I get information on getting a job?

Not everyone wants to go to university – in fact, going into work or further training is a choice made by over 50% of school and college-leavers. is a site built by a school-leaver who got into university but chose not to go and set up his own business instead. The site has expanded and they have several partners, in particular a group of national employers who actively recruit school-leavers. Find out more about the employers.

I don’t know how to make a decision about my future.

Given the current economic problems, getting a job might be easier said than done. The need to earn is likely to be the most pressing concern for many, so researching or choosing a career might seem a bit of a luxury. If you do have a bit of time, or even if you’ve already got a job, the National Careers Service gives you some useful information on the kinds of skills you can gain from all types of job across different employment sectors. So even if you get a job that isn’t your first choice of work, you can still use the time to build up skills which would be useful in your preferred career. You can also get in touch with an advisor face-to-face, online or over the phone.

What’s a job recruitment site?

National recruitment sites offer opportunities to young people who are just starting out – not just for older or experienced workers. If you use school-leaver as one of your search terms jobs that specifically welcome applications from you should turn up in your results.

  • Monster offers advice on how to get a job and vacancies
  • Guardian Jobs – helps you find the latest jobs available to apply for in a wide range of sectors including public sector, media, marketing, graduate and government jobs, working full time or part time.
  • Reed is another one-stop shop for job search
  • Jobcentre Plus – offers additional services other than jobs, including social security payments and training opportunities. Jobcentre Plus is a government-funded employment agency and social security office that can be found in most towns and cities, whose aim it is to help people of working age find employment in the UK. Some Jobcentre Plus offices also have in-house careers advisers, but all should be able to direct you to a careers adviser.
  • If you are in Northern Ireland, find a listing of Job Centres (Jobs and Benefits Offices)
  • Job search portal run by the NI Job Centre
  • An independent guide to using job centres and their services. This is NOT the official site for Jobcentre Plus or the NI Job Centre; it is independent and not linked with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Other useful hints and links

  • can help with job hunting generally
  • Employment agencies – there are hundreds of them in the phone book, and they can get you temporary or permanent work.
  • Networking opportunities – many people get jobs through personal contacts, so let friends and family know that you are looking for work. They might know somebody useful and pull a few strings, or have seen an ad that you missed.
  • Speculation – check out firms you’d like to work for e.g. through news stories, the business sections of daily papers, or use internet search engines to find out more. Then call their human resources people and ask about possible vacancies. Even if they aren’t currently recruiting, send them your CV to keep on file.

I’ve just graduated. What do I do next to get a job?

  • also offers information for graduates
  • The Milk Round: This one’s for university students. Once or twice yearly, the big firms go around UK universities giving talks and trying to sign up students for trainee jobs. Go along, and do some background reading about the companies. You can find out all of the details from your university careers service.
  • Graduate Prospects
  • The Graduate (part of the newspaper publishing group Trinity Mirror).

How do I get some work experience?

Work experience is an incredibly useful way to find out if you want to work in a particular job or sector, to gain workplace skills or to get your foot in the door. You might be paid for a work experience placement or internship – usually employers make this clear when advertising placements. Sometimes they are unpaid, particularly if they are in a popular sector.

Graduate Talent Pool - If you are a graduate, the government has recently created a one-stop shop for graduates seeking an internship or work experience. Currently, there are 500 opportunities advertised on the site, many of which have multiple vacancies. National Council for Work Experience - NCWE supports university students in the main but has some useful links for 15-18 year olds seeking work experience. The Council also organises Work Placement Exhibitions, where you can go along and meet employers who have placements on offer. As well as graduate jobs, you can also search for internships and placements on Prospects also has a series of articles on work experience, which are useful for anyone seeking a placement. When you undertake a placement, it’s useful to think about what you’re learning and how you might apply that knowledge in another job or in another organisation.

Any advice on taking a gap year? I think its the best option for me at the moment.

You can take a gap year for lots of reasons – it can be a break before university, offer you experience of work either at home or abroad, provide time to decide whether or not you want to go to university or simply to save some money and pay some bills. Gap years can also offer you great opportunities to develop valuable skills – either through work experience or paid work, or even just through meeting new people. For comprehensive information on gap years visit – brings together a series of expert organisations

Can I continue studying whilst working?

Many school-leavers choose the college or work-based route to gaining more qualifications. Some employers will offer ‘on-the-job’ training - which is usually paid for by the company. This depends on the company and the job you have. When applying for jobs or in interviews, it’s useful to research and ask about the training opportunities the company offers.

I’m not sure about apprenticeships. What is an apprenticeship and when should I start one?

Apprenticeships are on offer to everyone, with different entry levels depending on the qualifications you already hold. Apprenticeships offer a work-based route to becoming qualified, allowing you to earn while studying. This site also provides information on the availability of apprenticeships.

What is a vocational qualifications and where can I study to get one?

There is a host of vocational qualifications on offer, but it can be hard to navigate your way around these. Firstly, they are available at a number of levels, including those that are the equivalent of university qualifications. Secondly, some qualifications allow you to build credit, letting you do them as and when you can and raise your qualification level at the same time. You will probably have heard of NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications), BTECs and foundation degrees. In general, NVQs provide you with skills to do a specific job, whilst BTECs and foundation degrees are more broad-based, while still giving you deeper knowledge of a particular working area or sector.

Your local further education college will offer a prospectus, and many of these will be available online. If you need help deciding on a course, you can speak to the college’s learning support adviser (all colleges have one).

Find out more about qualifications.

More information on foundation degrees.

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