A Levels: The next steps to University

Student stories

Aimee's Story

Student writing

AimeeMy name is Aimee Barker and I am currently a 2nd year Advertising and Digital Marketing student at University of Northampton.

My journey to University started like most, by deciding the subjects I would like to take for my A-Levels. Unlike many of my friends, I did not have a clue as to what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. Many of my peers wanted to be a primary school teacher, a lawyer, a nurse and I just never knew what career path I wished to take.

I decided to discuss the matter with my parents, who like most, told me that studying my A-Levels would open many more doors in the future, rather than just leaving education and getting a job. I trusted my parents and knew that with their successful careers, they must have known what they were talking about!

The subjects I decided to take included; Art & Design, Health and Social and English Language. I did take Psychology, but after the first year, I decided to drop that particular subject to focus on others that I enjoyed more.

My choice at A-Levels were somewhat vast, as I chose my subjects by thinking about the subjects that I had enjoyed at GCSE, and those that I felt could link to some areas of further education that I was interested in. My A-Levels allowed me to utilise my creative skills in Art & Design, my logical skills in Health and Social and my literacy skills in English Language. To this day, these subjects have helped me gain employment in various different areas of work, as well as supporting my application to University.

Many people ask me, which is harder, A-Levels or University? I never know how to answer that question, as they are easier and harder than each other in so many ways. I believe that the difference between each boils down to 3 elements:

Subject Choice

When you choose your A-Levels, you either choose those based on entry requirements for your chosen subject at University, or you choose them based on which subject you are interested to learn more about. University allows you to take control of your education – you’re paying for what you study, so you can choose whatever subject you wish to! For this reason, University to me often feels one of the easiest stages of education I have been through, for the simple reason that I am completely passionate about my chosen subject and so studying never feels like a chore!




A HUGE difference between A-Levels and University is reading, and I don’t mean Harry Potter books, I mean academic! When I started studying for my degree, I was shocked by the amount of reading our lecturers wished us to read, not only for our assignments, but in between lectures and seminars. Before, I thought reading was sat by a pool with a novel I had picked on my boyfriend’s kindle to pass on the time. But academic reading is a whole different kettle of fish! I now read authors that are relevant to my subject, and I often read pages over and over again so they make sense. I also read more critically, in order to find ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments that I can add to my assignments. The difference in the amount of reading you have to do is huge, but by the Christmas break, you will find that this becomes natural to you – you will begin critically analysing JK Rowling in no time!

Self Motivation

One thing people often don’t tell you when you go to University, is that unlike A-Levels, nothing is given to you on a plate. You work hard independently, or you fail.

I found this particularly difficult, and when I look back at my time during A-Levels, I realised I often leant a little too much on my teachers for help, when really I was just being lazy and couldn’t be bothered to find the answers myself!

At University, this is something you cannot get away with, don’t get me wrong – lecturers and course leaders are behind you 110%, and will give you support it you need it, but you have to be self-motivated, and unless you are working in groups, it really is down to you to get the work done and find the answers yourself.


A-Levels undoubtedly helped me gain my place at University –  not only did they allow me to study many subjects in further detail, but they also allowed me to figure out which area of further education I wished to take. Compared to other people, I didn’t need to take A-Levels to gain entry to a course at University. Nevertheless, A-Levels are the necessary platform that prospective students need to move up from GCSE’s, and it allows you to get into a more academic way of learning – something that’s key when you’re thinking about going to University!





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