Seek Advice and Keep your Options Open for Higher Education

The plans that many students put in place this time last year for progressing to higher education have been chopped and changed so many times they are often beyond recognition.

The plans that many students put in place this time last year for progressing to higher education have been chopped and changed so many times they are often beyond recognition.  But as the deadline for university entrance looms closer (29 January), 20-year-old SERC student Naomi Perry advises students to research all their options and explore all the possible routes to reach their goal.

Naomi, from Newtownards, left Bloomfield Collegiate School, Belfast with 3 A Levels before coming to SERC.   She said, “I didn’t feel ready for university after my A levels but still wanted to progress.   In Year 13, I did some work experience with Guide Dogs for the Blind and it greatly influenced my decision to look at a career in animal behaviour.   I came along to one of the open days at SERC and after meeting the tutors I decided that the BTEC Level 3 Animal Management was the right choice for me.

She added, “I loved the course and the variety of topics studied.  Even if you are not sure what direction you want to go in, the lecturers and careers team help you see all the possible options in terms of further study and career paths.  I particularly loved the Animal Behaviour module which, along with the opportunity to spend time with a local dog trainer and behaviourist, allowed me to see exactly what a career in this area entailed so I was excited to be accepted to Chester University to do a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Psychology.

“I had no qualms about going to study in Chester but after visiting for induction at the start of September I decided that, because of Covid-19, this was no time for me to start that journey.   I quickly realised I wasn’t going to have the university experience that my sister and other friends had talked about. I took advice on my options and decided that I would defer my place at Chester but rather than sit about for the year with nothing to show for it, I found out I could do a one-year HNC in Animal Management at SERC.     I am at home, but I am continuing with my studies, feel content and am happy that this was the decision for me.   At this point in time, I am looking forward to returning to Chester in September, but I am keeping my options open and looking at all the possibilities of what I can do next.

Naomi concluded, “Although you may think you know what you want to do or achieve, or even if you don’t, your plans can change, and a new opportunity may arise.   Don’t be afraid of changing your course if it is the right thing for you, but make sure you know what’s next so you can continue to plan ahead.”

Heather McKee, Director of Strategic Planning Quality & Support at SERC reminds young people to cover all their options and take advice that will keep them going forward.

She said, “Applying for a place at university or college is a rite of passage that many of us have taken for granted.   Decisions about where to go and which course to do now have unanswerable questions linked to them - How much time will I spend online?   Will I be able to travel? -  Those are difficult questions to answer.  The best advice we can give to young people is to make sure you look at all the options available to you; get advice from careers professionals, from our tutors, and don’t be afraid to talk it over as you may find you can still move forward but along a different path.”

She added, “At SERC, we offer a range of higher-level qualifications from Foundation Degree, HNC, HND, Higher Level Apprenticeships and Degree which offer potential applicants the opportunity to study everything from Applied Sciences to Computing to Mechatronics to Sport, Exercise and Fitness close to home, and for hundreds of students that is the best option.   Many of our courses are accredited by Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and Liverpool John Moores, so they are delivered and regulated to exacting standards here at SERC.  Our course fees are more competitive, and classes are smaller, and we know our students place great value this more personal learning experience. 

“Applying to SERC is separate to the UCAS application which gives students more choice and options when it comes to making a final decision about next steps. 

Heather concluded, “SERC’s Careers Advisors provide a professional, impartial and confidential service to everyone in the local community.  You can access the service by visiting  

Visit to find out how you could be part of the next generation of professionals #BetterOffAtSERC #OnlineAndOpenForBusiness Find us on Facebook, search SERC.

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