Your life before you

THE PUSH GUIDE TO WHICH UNIVERSITY 1997 McGraw-Hill Pounds 9.95. UNIVERSITY PLACES 1996 By Howard Barlow Kogan Page Pounds 5.99. BRITISH QUALIFICATIONS 26TH EDITION Kogan Page Pounds 29.50 A YEAR BETWEEN 2ND EDITION Central Bureau Pounds 8.99.

THE GAP YEAR GUIDEBOOK 199798 Peridot Press, Pounds 7.95 EDUCATIONAL GRANTS DIRECTORY 19967 By John Smyth and Kate Wallace DIRECTORY OF SOCIAL CHANGE Pounds 16.95.

THE EDUCATION FUNDING GUIDE Edited by Susan Forrester et al Directory of Social Change Pounds 15.95.

HOW TO COPE WITH UNIVERSITY LIFE By Olusola O A Oni Knowledge Marketing Pounds 4.95.

ITS QUITE AN EDUCATION Edited by Lynne Boundy Unit for Innovation in Higher Education, School of Independent Studies, Lonsdale College, Lancaster University Pounds 7.95.

THE STUDENT'S COOKBOOK By Jenny Baker Faber amp; Faber Pounds 6.99

Applying for Oxbridge or spending a year serving in a bar in Ecuador, it's your decision. Elaine Saunders looks at guides for the school leaver.

September is decision time for those hoping to enter higher education next year; which college, which course, and how to pay for it being the fundamental issues that need to be sorted out before the UCAS form is completed.

The PUSH Guide to Which University 1997 gives invaluable help on the first of these questions; all the higher education institutions are investigated with student-written profiles giving a taste of the atmosphere at each of them. Notes on the town, the price of beer, the availability of accommodation; in short, the essential first stop in drawing up the short-list of likely choices. It's on CD as well as in book form.

University Places 1996, although written primarily with this year's clearing students in mind, has advice on what to do if A-levels don't come up to scratch, money matters and job-hunting. Choosing a course can be more tricky; some people know early on exactly what they want to study, while others dither between options, seduced by the wide variety of subjects on offer in the post-A-level world.

For those who have a particular career in mind, British Qualifications (26th edition) lists hundreds of vocational areas - ballet, balloon piloting, psycho-analysis to name but three - and the requirements of almost every professional body you can think of. It includes BTEC, City and Guilds and NVQs as well as degrees and diplomas. An unassuming reference book which packs a lot of information into its 900 pages.

No potential student can be unaware of the financial problems they face in deciding to study full-time; grants are decreasing in value while student debt is spiralling, and for many part-time work is something they have to consider even during college terms. With state funding on the decrease, other sources need to be investigated. Charitable educational aid provides more than Pounds 32 million a year for individuals in need; the Educational Grants Directory gives details of national and local sources of help. Some of these are indeed very local, for people living in specific parishes, and the sums are correspondingly small, but it is worth checking to see if you are eligible.

The Education Funding Guide, a companion publication of the Directory, looks at funding from a different point of view, that of organisations which seek, or want to give, financial support to educational organisations. Articles investigate the changing structure of spending on various sectors, for example comparisons between LEA and grant-maintained schools, and there is advice on how schools or other bodies can apply for grants from the national lottery and charitable bodies. Again, there are lists of addresses of the various trusts which make grants to organisations.

One way of financing university study is to take a year off; the gap year can not only be an opportunity for making money but also to see the world, experience other cultures, or do charity work. A Year Between, published by the Central Bureau (the organisation, part of the British Council, which deals with educational visits and exchanges) gives ideas and addresses for organisations which cater for gap year students, arranged under such categories as training and work experience, discovery and leadership, conservation and community service. There is also a useful reading list. The Gap Year Guidebook 199798 has first-hand accounts of students on their year off; from secretarial college to bar work in Ecuador, teaching windsurfing in France and travelling the trans-Siberian railway. Plenty of ideas here, including a section on choosing a crammer should A-level re-takes be necessary.

Making the transition to student life is not always easy; homesickness, money and accommodation problems, worry over making friends can all make what should be an exciting time extremely stressful. Eighteen-year-olds like to project a self-confident, street-smart attitude, but for some the round of pubs, parties and unstructured study can be intimidating. How to cope with university life, which was inspired by a parent's concern for a student daughter, gives advice which may not always be fashionable ("Think before you do anything contrary to your upbringing - you are your community's ambassador, so behave like one!") but is clearly heartfelt. Tips on study methods, eating healthily and coping with stress are mixed with warnings against drugs and alcohol.

Personal accounts by parents of seeing their offspring through higher education are the subject of Its Quite an Education: supporting your son or daughter through university. They relate tales of massive financial demands on their income, the draining long-distance car rides transporting students to and from college each term, their concerns over shoddy accommodation and sometimes fraught negotiations with landlords. (One English couple were persuaded to buy a house for their son and his friends to live in, involving many trips to Edinburgh and a crash course in the Scottish legal system.) Some of the reports are of students who started with high hopes but later dropped out; even with the best planning, the course or the environment may not come up to expectations, leading first to disappointment but then to wry acceptance. Most, however, are tales of justifiable pride at their children's achievements.

Parents will always worry (and with reason) that their youngsters aren't eating properly; The Student's Cookbook is aimed at the beginner in self-catering. Recipes are based on cheap ingredients and feature the traditional stand bys - bolognese, pizza and pasta - as well as more elaborate meals for group cooking. Any novice chef (not just a student) could gain ideas from this book, but there are many such on the market and it would be as well to shop around for those publications specifically aimed at, for example, micro-wave cooking or vegetarians.

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