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Five top tips for Careers and Higher Education after COVID-19: what to do next?

By James Brittain, Head of Careers and Higher Education at Millfield School

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that 2020 leavers have had a very strange year: no exams, a sudden end to their school experience and uncertainty around university places and the year ahead. For Upper Sixth leavers who are unsure as to what to do next, Millfield Head of Careers and Higher Education, James Brittain, offers some advice and top tips so students embarking on life beyond Millfield can be reassured about their choices.

It will come as no surprise that it has been a busy time in the Careers and Higher Education Department at Millfield School. I’m really pleased that so many students have been seeking advice and exploring their options during this rather unsettling time. For those who are anxious and unsure about what their futures hold: please, do not worry. There are plenty of options and choices for every candidate, so long as you take the time to think about what would work best for you and put some plans into action. I’ve gathered five of my ‘top tips’ for 2020 leavers to help calm nerves and perhaps open doors for students who are feeling understandably unsure as to what the next 12 months will look like for them.

Top Tips

1.      Talk to an advisor and to your parents

The first and best thing you can do if you are feeling anxious or unsure is to talk to people who understand the job market and the higher education process, as well as your parents or family members who know you best. Voice your concerns, explain what you are worried about, get it off your chest. Even if you don’t come to a conclusion at the end of the conversation, you will feel clearer in your mind about what might be best for you. It’s a very personal choice.

2.      Take your time and assess the market

Many young people feel like they are entering the unknown, especially when some universities, employers and gap year companies are unable to guarantee what will be in place after September. If you are anxious, remember that we should see some great courses available in Clearing this year. We would advise students to make a plan of potential universities to contact after Clearing opens on 6th July. You are the buyer in this situation, so if you have a dream to attend a particular university but weren’t sure if that was a possibility, this may actually be a good time to reconsider your options. You can always change your plans if you want to.

3.      Talk to existing undergraduates

If you are concerned that the university experience might not be the same during the pandemic (most universities are planning a blend of online and face-to-face learning), the simplest way to find out more is to ask someone who is there. Someone you know will know someone who is at that university at the moment: a family member, friend, neighbour or even on social media. Ask them your questions about their university experience so far, both before and during the pandemic, so you can make an informed decision.

4.      Plan for all eventualities

Once you have spoken to the people who know you best, you can assess the situation and make a plan for every outcome (university/gap year/apprenticeship/work/travel). Take advantage of contacts you have in industry; participate in some of the many online short courses, internships and MOOCs that are on offer this summer. Use technology to your advantage, for example the careers platform Unifrog which matches your skills to different courses and careers and suggests ‘Geek Out’ resources to deepen your knowledge. In the time that you are deciding - you may discover a new passion!

5.      Use your network

At Millfield, your relationship with the Careers and Higher Education Department doesn’t end when you finish school. We frequently work alongside alumni as well as recent leavers, and even helped over 30 OMs reapply to university last year. Likewise, the Old Millfieldian Society are invaluable as a network to help you connect with professionals in your chosen field. Visit Millfieldconnect.com to join.

It is understandable and perfectly acceptable to be feeling unsure at this time but do remember that there are always options open to everyone. The world will go on and your future will be bright. Here at Millfield, we are always here to help guide you with whatever you decide to do post-school. Please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns brittain.j@millfieldschool.com