Career Advisor

Which is better?

Sunday, August 05, 2018

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I just graduated from fifth form and I am awaiting my CSEC results. I have applied to two universities and have received provisional acceptance at both, pending my achieving the respective entry requirements. My acceptance is for a different programme in each institution. I completed the applications because the teacher encouraged us to and since everyone else was doing so, I went along. To be truthful, I keep changing my mind about what I really want to do.

Should I go to sixth form or go straight to university?

Yours truly,


Dear Theo:

The successful completion of your high school journey is a very important foundation to your career development therefore, for this we commend you. We trust that this success will be mirrored with commensurate passes in your external exams.

Like many teens, you are at the stage where you are faced with what could possibly be your first major career decision. Before addressing the sixth form versus university issue, it's important to address the issue of your vacillation between career options. While this is not unusual, it is important to understand the probable consequences that making flippant decisions can have on your long-term goals. I want to encourage you to meet with your guidance counsellor or another career professional who will be able to guide you through a career exploration exercise.

The choice between sixth form and university needs to be carefully evaluated against your short- and medium-term career goals. It will all depend on your:

• maturity

• intrinsic motivation

• intended programme of study and matriculation requirements

• available financial resources or funding options

• academic preparation and

• study habits, learning style and skills.

Depending on how well you score in the factors outlined above, as well as your career goals, a few pros of attending sixth form may include:

• remaining in a familiar environment;

• a more structured and regulated learning environment;

• additional opportunities to develop advanced academic survival skills and attributes to thrive in university; such as working in teams, note-taking, self-regulation, self-directed learning, time management, and self-confidence;

• favour for future employment as some local employers still consider A'Levels/CAPE subjects when making hiring decisions

• gaining a competitive advantage for entry into highly competitive university programmes; and

• two additional years to put in place a good financial plan for financing your tertiary education if one is not already in place.

On the other hand, going directly to university could mean:

• completing your studies at an earlier time;

• gaining a sense of independence from home at an earlier age;

• opportunity for change in the learning environment;

• opportunity to meet new people;

• availability of more and often more modern learning facilities;

• being treated as an adult who has to take full responsibility for own learning;

• greater variety of learning opportunities; and

• having to work much harder to get that 'A'.

Of course, for each advantage there is a corresponding disadvantage, so there is no quick response or magic solution;. you will need to carefully weigh your options. Seek guidance, talk to people who have gone directly to university after fifth form and those who went after sixth form, and make arrangements to visit the university campuses to which you have submitted applications.

All the best.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at

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