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You might be forgiven for having a lot of doom and gloom around you at the moment. Open the paper and you’ll read about how the cost of living crisis, recession and intergenerational inequity are making it difficult for young people to start a family and buy their own home.

All of this can put pressure on you to get the highest possible grades in school, get into the most competitive courses at the most selective universities, and get the highest-paying graduate jobs.

But the expert’s message is: relax. There are many different ways to be successful in life and although the labour market and the economy are not as favourable for graduates as they used to be, graduates still earn £10,000 more a year on average than those who do not go to university and benefit from Many other advantages, including better health and greater satisfaction with your life.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Student Employers Association, said: “Even if the job market does tighten, rest assured that more than 75 per cent of graduate recruitment is operating as usual during the financial crisis and Covid-19.”

What should you study?

You may be wondering which course is best for your life after graduation. Isherwood says it’s not as important as you might think, because what’s unusual about the UK is that 80% of graduate employers don’t care what course you take.

Isherwood says graduate employers typically look for four things: good teamwork skills, problem-solving skills, enthusiasm for the role and the ability to adapt when things get tough.

“Some career options do require specific majors, think engineering, that’s why you shouldn’t ignore your career aspirations when choosing a course. But the most important thing is that you choose a course you’ll enjoy because you’re more likely Do well. Play to your strengths,” he advises.

Where should you study?

Competition for college places is more intense than it has been in a decade. In addition to the shortage of places, more British 18-year-olds are vying for the most popular courses and institutions after being over-recruited during the pandemic.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high, says Dan Barcroft, director of admissions at the University of Sheffield – if you don’t get a place or fail grades, you can get your chance through clearing. “However, several options are worthwhile, including designating an official insurance option so applicants have as many options as possible,” he advises.

Students may also want to consider whether to apply for subjects that are similar to more popular options – for example, a highly competitive but less oversubscribed subject in law, such as criminology or sociology, may contain much of the same content. All three are excellent preparations for legal conversion courses, so no matter which way you take, you can end up with a job as a lawyer.

The student’s college and degree do not matter.It’s more about proving they can succeed

Andrew Bargery, PwC recruiter

“Going to a college open day is a great way to find alternative courses, and if some courses are oversubscribed, you can ask staff questions about their courses to see what students have done after graduation,” Barcroft advises.

Does Reputation Matter?

If you’re wondering how important it is to go to the most selective universities, such as the Russell Group, a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies recommends that prospective students should be “more relaxed” about your chosen study location because of higher salaries At the same time, the degree program is the most important.

The researchers found that graduates with honours degrees at first or above (2.1) in England earned on average more at age 30 than those who completed with awards below second (2.2), regardless of institution.

While some employers, especially more traditional professions such as some elite law firms, still prefer top-ranked colleges, Isherwood said most “employers are paying less and less attention to the colleges students attend”.

This means it’s important to choose a college that you’re comfortable with, because that’s where you’re most likely to get good grades.

De Montfort University Vice-Chancellor Professor Katie Normington advises: “People have to go to the right university for them. It doesn’t mean it’s the number one university for your subject. You may feel the support you will receive. , or the way the course is taught is more important.”

This is especially true for people with special needs, for example if you have a disability or caring responsibilities, but may also include those who have extra-curricular activities that are genuinely interesting to them, as this helps develop employability skills.

Isherwood explained: “Employers don’t just look at your academic record, they look at your potential to add value to their organization. You may think your part-time job is too lowly, or the sports team you lead is irrelevant, or your volunteerism The role is trivial, but the interviewer will look for evidence from your experience for a range of attributes you may have.”

What do employers want?

That’s why grades aren’t always the top priority for employers. For example, professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers recently dropped its longstanding 2:1 requirement for graduates to attract a more diverse recruiter.

Andrew Bargery, who recruited for PwC, said the announcement was the result of a shift that had been happening over the years. This differs from traditional competency-based recruiting, which attempts to assess potential in areas such as teamwork, leadership, and business awareness.

As a result, “the student’s college and degree subjects don’t matter,” he said. “It’s more about the application of their learning and proving that they have the potential to succeed.” However, he noted that gaining relevant work experience would help.

Employers say they’re mostly looking for passion and potential, especially in the wake of the pandemic, knowing that young people have fewer opportunities to socialize to gain work experience or build skills.

Ashley Hever, who recruits for top graduate employer Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said students should “try not to worry” about their chosen university or course. “Employers today are more open to where someone studied or what course they completed.”

It’s more about working with career services, attending career fairs and meeting potential employers, and building your resume through clubs, societies and leadership opportunities, he added.

Andrew Oliva-Hauxwell, executive director of recruiting at Teach First, which runs the paid teaching training programme, said that for public service roles, it was important for graduates to demonstrate that they “really care about our mission and are committed to working with us”.

However, he added that to meet “certain non-negotiable academic thresholds” – although these can be achieved at any one university, teachers will be recruited from 170 universities in 2021. The easiest way to get good grades is to study what you love, although he points out that if you’re interested in teaching, there are shortages in science, math, computing and modern foreign languages.

Despite fierce competition for positions, graduate employers are arguably more flexible than ever when it comes to choosing whom to recruit.

That’s why it’s important that your course and university choices be guided by personal preferences.

As Barcroft advises: “Applying to college can feel overwhelming, but a good place to start is for students to actually take the time to think about what is most important to them. Whether it’s course content and reputation, or geography Location and student life?”