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Aspects of Guidance

Using guidance to reduce university drop out

Given the large number of people now entering higher education, it's inevitable that some will feel they've made the wrong choice. Careers Services can help students clarify the issues and make a measured and informed decision on their future, says Margaret Dane, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS)

Students who beat a path to Careers Services in their first few weeks at college generally have the same query - 'I'm on the wrong course, what shall I do?'

Each year a small proportion of students feel they have made the wrong course choice and there are any number of reasons why this may be the case: a spur of the moment decision during clearing; family pressures to follow in a parent's footsteps; or maybe they've accepted a place at a university that they really didn't expect to get into and made a last minute change of plan which they now regret. A common problem is that students elect to study a subject that they're good at but don't necessarily enjoy. Once they're at college, reality dawns.

AGCAS believes that confidential, knowledgeable and impartial advice and guidance is what's needed to help students through this difficult period: not recommending any particular course of action, but providing straightforward help in considering their options.

Some issues may not appear at first to be the remit of careers advisers, but they will give impartial advice on what is right for that student, which can span both personal and professional issues. In addition, that advice would include the career implications of any decision the student made.

Here are five questions that a university careers adviser might put to wavering students. They are worth considering by any potential student feeling a little unsure about their choice:

1. Is it the course that feels wrong, or is it the town, university, your accommodation or something else? Often citing the course itself as the root of the problem is the easiest option but not necessarily the right one

2. Is it a case of homesickness? For some students, moving away from family and friends can be a traumatic experience and homesickness can really cloud their judgement. There are strategies that can be put in place to help combat homesickness, which is often just a temporary malaise (though it may not feel like it at the time)

3. What support structure is there within your college department and how can you access it? Course tutors are well equipped to help students through the first difficult weeks and will be familiar with the emotions being experienced

4. What are the implications of changing course and what are your options if you do leave? Will you seek a different course in your current institution or at another college, start looking for a job, or take a gap year? Leaving a course is often the easy bit, it's what comes next that you need to consider

5. Are you being hasty? Time frames are important and you may simply need a bit more time to consider your actions. Alternatively, your feelings may be the culmination of months of anxiety and you have to get to the bottom of the reasons for this. Whatever the situation, decisions made in haste and in isolation are usually the wrong ones.





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