The page you are visiting was formerly part of the Which? University website, but is now being provided by The Uni Guide — part of The Student Room. For more information please click here.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more

Choosing a career: things to try now to help you decide

Asking yourself tough questions about the future can be a bit daunting. Need some inspiration? Here are seven career-related opportunities to help you get your foot on the ladder...

Whether you're certain of your career ambitions or haven't decided yet, it's important to get some real-life experience under your belt to help you decide what you want and don't want! to do. Here are some practical things you can take advantage of, at school, college and beyond.

Deciding if uni is right for you and help to get there

These extra-curricular activities will offer you a flavour of what degree-level studies are like and whether uni is the right path for you, as well as giving you practical examples of how you've proactively researched your chosen subject to potentially use in your personal statement.


Usually organised by universities and focusing on a specific subject area, these are a great taster of what studying a particular degree discipline could be like. Expect to hear from, and maybe even meet, a head of faculty. You may also get to see the university’s grounds and a lecture hall, which can be revealing in itself.

Where to find them: university websites are a good place to start. We found these ones on offer at Birmingham City UniversityGoldsmiths and the Universities of Cambridge and Leicester.

Summer schools

Summer schools are extended stays at the host university. You'll get to experience university life living in halls, have a series of lectures, meet university students, learn new things and ask lots of questions...

Where to find them: the Sutton Trust organises a range of summer schools across the UK, including at the Universities of Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Nottingham and St Andrews.

Public lectures

Universities almost always have public lectures running throughout the year. Most are open to all and encourage people of all ages to attend, giving you a chance to see a real lecture in progress – and testing whether you can last the full hour! Pick one that really interests you rather than one you think you should attend based on what you’ve been studying. Most universities also store lecture recordings online for those that can’t make it.

Where to find them: check out what's on offer at your local university we spotted some interesting ones at the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford.


In most mentoring schemes you'll be buddied up with someone a little older than you with common interests (subject, career, hobbies). They can advise you on your studies, talk about their experiences, help you make the right decisions or just be there to listen.

Where to find them: your college or sixth form may already be connected to a scheme, or take a look at Bright Links Ementoring to be partnered up with an online mentor.


Get your career off to an early headstart now

If you are thinking you’d like to kickstart your career now, there’s plenty you can do to get your foot in the door.

Work experience

For students aged 16-18, the main way of getting career-related experience is, obviously, work experience it looks great on your personal statement and your CV, too. Getting experience in some areas can be competitive, so research companies and apply for placements early (don’t just think that before the deadline will do; many employers start awarding places as soon as they receive high quality applications). Ask friends, teachers and family to check your applications.

Where to find it: the National Careers Service website offers some practical pointers and check out specific work experience placement schemes on offer from the likes of Random House or the House of Commons on the AccessProfessions website.


Volunteering is another way of gaining experience, adding to your personal statement and CV but also helping people, animals or the environment at the same time.

Where to find it: the Do-it website lists local volunteering opportunities and projects near you.


Decided that university isn't for you, or thinking you’d like to be paid while you learn? As a school-leaver apprentice you get trained on the job, gain qualifications and are paid for doing so.

Where to find them: the Apprenticeships Gov website is a good place to start looking for vacancies, while other schemes such as Pure Potential work with big-name firms to offer training programmes to school leavers.

The Uni Guide provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from, a not-for-profit organisation matching students with university and career related opportunities. 


Search The Uni Guide

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university