Three in 10 university applicants regret A-level choices

New research from Which? University reveals that three in 10 (28%) university applicants wished they had chosen different A-level subjects, and four in 10 (41%) wished they had thought more about what subjects might help them get into university.

In the survey of over 1,000 UK students who had applied to university, only around half (53%) felt suitably informed about how their A-levels could affect their choice of university or course. Moreover, three in 10 applicants (30%) told us that the information and advice they received on which A-levels to take, failed to take into account how it may affect their degree and university choices.

A-levels can have a big impact on university applications, with some courses requiring specific A-level subjects, and some universities not accepting certain subjects. However, less than half (41%) of those we surveyed were aware that many universities have a list of A-level subjects they view less favourably.

Of those applying to university, a fifth (18%) said different A-level subjects would have been better suited to the degree they were applying for.

Which? University’s new A-level Explorer tool is designed to help GCSE students choose and explore how their choices will affect their onward degree options at university. The tool also provides current A-level students with ideas and inspiration about what degree best suits the subjects they are studying. To use the tool,

Alex Neill at Which? University, said:

“Students know that choosing what to study at university is an important decision. However, our research shows that they are less clear about how earlier decisions could impact on the degree options available to them.

“While certain A-levels might suggest a particular degree path, our tool shows there are usually alternative options students can take. It’s important that students choose their A-levels with both degree courses and future careers in mind.”

Dan French, a student who is currently applying to Salford University and has recently used the tool, said:

“The A-level finder tool is great for GCSE students, especially for students who know they want to go to university but haven’t quite yet figured out what they want to study. It helps them see and understand all their possible options for the future.

“The popular careers feature would be useful to GCSE students; it can give them a good idea on what careers are likely from their choices. I wish I had had this when picking my A-levels.”


Notes to editors:

  1. YouthSight, on behalf of Which? University, interviewed 1,020 adults aged 19 and under, who had applied to university, online between 12 – 15 February 2016. Data was weighted to be representative of gender and school type.

  2. Which? University is a free and independent website to help students make more informed decision about higher education, featuring more than 30,000 courses and 286 universities and colleges to search and compare. It brings together facts and statistics from official scores including Ucas, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the National Student Survey and Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey. This is combined with real-life insight from students and the unbiased, expert analysis you’d expect from Which?.

  3. Which? University’s A-level Explorer tool has been designed as a resource for use by students, teachers, parents and career advisers to help young people make informed decisions about their higher education choices at an earlier stage in the decision-making process. Students input their A-level choices into the tool and are presented with results that highlight ‘best’, ‘close’ and ‘unexpected’ degree course matches. For each subject recommendation, students are able to examine which A-levels are typically studied, possible onward career paths, average graduate salary and employment rates and the range of possible degree options and specialisms available. To use the tool, visit:

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