Guest Post: A Letter to My First-year Degree Apprentice Self

8 min
February 23, 2021
My name is Phoebe and I am a Second-Year Chartered Management Degree Apprentice at Pearson College London. My first year as a degree apprentice has flown by – I remember the first few weeks so well, from being introduced to the office environment to beginning the first few modules at university. I instantly saw what it would be like to balance work and study.

Looking back, there are so many highlights and things which I’d love to do all over again, but equally, there are some times where I think I could’ve done things differently.

I’ve put together a list of pieces of advice that would’ve been helpful for my first-year self, as well as a few tips for the degree apprenticeship application process.

Tips for my first-year degree apprentice self

Firstly, don’t be shy!

There are so many people at both work and university who are exactly like you and could become such good friends, so chat to people, especially in your first few weeks. Not to mention, they could also become useful connections in the business world for the future.

Ask lots of questions

Everything that you’re learning in both work and University is a whole new experience, so it’s completely normal to not understand certain things as a first-year degree apprentice. Your tutors and work colleagues will be expecting you to ask questions, so make the most of it.

Stay organised

There will inevitably be lots of different aspects to balance across work and university, one of the best ways to manage your time and tasks is to write lists. Breaking everything down and being able to visualise what you have to do makes it much easier – and it’s always really satisfying to tick something off!

Start your University projects early

This is a must! 10 weeks may seem like a long time to complete a module, but the time goes by so quickly. You don’t want to be rushing at the last minute, so putting work  into your projects whilst taking a little and often approach,is a good way to stay on top of everything.

Be disciplined with your study

Some evenings after work you may have to come home and watch lectures, complete reading or do some of your coursework. Even though this might not be the most fun, just think it has to be done and it will be worth it for a free weekend!

Don’t worry

As a first-year degree apprentice, at times it can be stressful, especially around deadline time. However, you have to remember that everyone you’re studying with is in the same position, so they’ll understand.

Speak to your manager/mentor

It’s good to build up a strong rapport with someone in the workplace who understands working life. This is because if you do start to feel overwhelmed you can flag this with them and they can help manage your workload.

Lastly, enjoy!

Remember this is such a good opportunity where you’ll learn so much, embrace the challenges and know that the whole experience is helping to develop you and your skills.

Tips for applying for a degree apprenticeship programme

Here are my top tips for an effective degree apprenticeship application:

Know your skillset and how this is applicable to the programme.

Include your best skills first, justifying why they are relevant, then include other wider skills that would also be applicable. Include at least 3 relevant skills; for example, they could include: communication, leadership, resilience, organisation, teamwork or creativity. Try and also use a range of these to prove yourself as a well-balanced individual.

“Applying for a degree apprenticeship role is a combination of applying for a job role and a university place, so it is important to include aspects of yourself that are applicable to both, ensuring that you present yourself as a well-balanced individual, capable of the demands of the course.”

Katie Fiddaman, Pearson Degree Apprentice

Use examples of when you have completed work experience or volunteering in the past.

You might be applying for a marketing role in an office situation but have previously done a paper round or waitressing and see no relation. However, if you can identify the transferrable skills required to do the role you are applying for, this will go a long way with recruiters.

“Make sure that you include any of your relevant work experience, as this will make you stand out against the other applicants. If you do not have any work experience then do not worry as there are plenty of other experiences you can talk about, for example, business qualifications that you may already hold.”

Holly Garrett, Rotational Degree Apprentice

Take your time

500 words may seem short but if you are concise, you will be able to fit in enough information to sell yourself. Rushed applications that are not personalised stand-out to employers in a negative way: they give the impression that you don’t care.

"We recommend that you submit your application as early as possible and make a note of the interview dates in advance as it's highly unlikely we can reschedule. Also remember to add your qualifications (whether they're completed or due to be completed) as failing to record these is one of the biggest reasons that applications are rejected"

Rezarta Rushiti, Admissions Officer

Don’t leave it to the last minute

This is important because if there is something you might like to add later, you don’t have this opportunity if you apply a day before the deadline date. A lot of application forms are  quite long, so you might need more than one sitting - ideally, apply at least one week before the closing date. The earlier the better!

Do your research on the company, the sector and  the job description

It is highly likely that you will be asked about your knowledge of the company, the role or the sector that the company operates within. Knowing the company is important because it shows you have done your research and therefore will impress the recruiter; it’s also beneficial for you so you can get a good understanding of whether the company is the right fit for you too. Knowing the job description is also  important because the interviewer will most likely ask you questions that  are related to the role, as they’ll be looking for a candidate that’s a good fit.

"Make sure you stay up to date with current affairs. Be aware of what is going on in the wider business world and consider how it may affect the company you are applying for. By signing up to various news alerts you will stay up-to-date and show the interviewer that you know the issues the company may be dealing with." -

Matilda Pinn, Applicant Advisor

The main piece of advice when applying for one ofthese schemes is to have something that makes you unique, or will enable you to stand-out from the crowd.

To find out more about Pearson College London’s degree apprenticeship programmes, visit their website. Check out Springpod's handy degree apprenticeship guide to find out all about this unique career pathway.

[As told to Katie Fiddaman]

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