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5 ways to get the most value from your degree

The end of the academic year is rolling around. For some this will mean the end of a journey, whilst others have several years to go. Getting a degree is an investment and an expensive one at that the average UK student will graduate with £44,000 in student finance (click here to learn more about UK student finance). Like all investments it is important to work to ensure you get the maximum return but sometimes its hard to understand return on investment in relation to education. The key return on investment in relation to a degree is the increase earning potential is provides over your working career. However, this can be difficult to appreciate this whilst you are studying and in the increasingly challenging employment market  makes it harder. There are things you can do whilst completing your degree that boost the value of your time at univeristy.

1. Attend the best university you can
Everyone has different academic abilities and not all universities offer the course you wish to pursue. But consider carefully the reputation of the university you are attending especially considering most universities in the UK charge the same fees. Also if you find you are doing much better academically at your degree than you did in your secondary education consider transferring to a better university. Though not particularly common it is not hugely difficult to transfer universities and is worth discussing with their admissions department. Also when deciding the subject you want to study consider the employability it brings.

2. Keep the cost of a degree low
Though the reputation of a university is important this should be viewed in light of the comparative cost. While tuition fees are likely to exactly the same (unless you are a non-English UK student) there are other areas cost occurs. Consider whether there a good university near by you could commute to allowing you to save on the cost of living. Consider if there is an equally reputable univeristy in a more affordable city? Cost of living is one the costs that varies the most between institutions but is commonly most overlooked when selecting a university. I know in hindsight I should have considered more the cost of living in Brighton before choosing to study here(though having expected to study in London everything seemed cheaper). While Chris was fortunate enough to be able to commute from home to univeristy before we got married doing this saved us considerable amounts on rent. It is also important to look at what scholarships and grants are available at those universities and which if any you may be eligible for. This may significantly reduce the cost of the degree and for me was one of the reasons I chose the University of Sussex as they offered a good scholarship scheme for those who are the first in their family to go to university.

2. Get the best grades you can

Graduating (on time) and with good grades is key to attributing value to your time at university. Though there is so much more to the experience graduate jobs will often require a degree with a certain grade. If you are looking to go into a certain field then look at the educational requirements that you will need. The value of your degree increases and opens more doors the better grades you achieve and yes you can always supplement bad grades with work experience but its just easier to work hard and get the best grade you can. When deciding modules try to be strategic, find a balance between subjects you find enjoyable, are likely to get the best grades in and those an employer would want to see.

3. Join clubs and societies.
University gives you the opportunity to join so many different activities the list is almost endless and the costs are often very low. Subject orientated societies are also a great way to learn more about career options, attend networking events and obtain internships. Being on a club/society committee allows you to develop practical skills that are beneficial to employers.

4. Complete work experience and internships
During you degree your unlikely to have little financial commitments and as such it makes it the perfect time to undertake unpaid (or if your lucky paid) work experience and internships. These can really make the difference and make your job application stand out from the crowd. Take advantage of the careers help offered at your university and put this valuable resource to great use when applying for internships (or your graduate job).  Undertaking work experience will also help you to gain a greater understanding of whether a career is for you as it is far easier to change your direction early on in your education that upon graduation.  You may choose to do a year in industry, these are a great opportunity to learn more about a sector and may result in an offer of full time work. Though it is important to remember whilst they are normally paid, you also have to pay tuition fees for that year (though normally at a reduced rate).


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    1. When I read your title, I was hoping you'd mention something like suggestion #4. Of course you thought of it!

      I find that work experience and internships are really pushed in certain academic fields (sciences, public relations, education, etc.) and even worked into the required courses for a degree. But, in other disciplines, this practicum-based experience is really a venture taken by the student himself, with little to no backing from the university. In the many subjects that fall under the umbrella of Humanities, this sort of encouragement from the universities is sorely lacking. An English major, for example, is going to have a tough time getting a job (period...). However, if while finishing his degree he worked for a non-profit promoting literacy, for example, he'll have a better chance of getting a job at the end of graduation. It shows he got out there in the community and isn't some Ivory Tower recluse with no marketable skills other than discussing literature from a bygone era!

    2. Great ideas! I definitely think that high school students need to be aware of how much they will make when they are done with their degree and factor in costs for students loans when the finish their degree. It is shocking how much payments for student loans can be. Great post!!!