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Do your research before applying to university

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A former Northern Regional College student has urged anyone navigating their way through the university application process to research their options thoroughly. Andrea Craig is originally from Bushmills and is now in the final year of an International Tourism Management degree at Liverpool John Moores University. Her decision to study at LJMU paid off handsomely when she was awarded a valuable Vice-Chancellor Scholarship worth £10,000.

“I’ve had a great experience with LJMU but I would encourage anyone thinking about going to university to research their options thoroughly to find the degree, university and city best suited to their needs as well as any financial support that may be available.”

“It may be stating the obvious but it’s so important to consider all the available options so you can make the right choice,” she said.

Growing up on the North coast, Andrea was very aware of the importance of tourism to the local economy and her various part-time jobs in the food and beverage, hospitality and retail sectors helped copper-fasten a love of tourism and awareness of potential career opportunities.

“When I applied to LJMU, I received an email about scholarships and bursaries that were available to applicants and was encouraged to apply. I didn’t think I’d have much chance but my application was shortlisted and, following an interview, I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship.

As a teenager Andrea was a regular volunteer with Trinity Youth Club in Ballymoney and at ‘Fighting Words” creative workshops for local primary school children in the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine. She said winning the scholarship really brought home to her the importance of both academic and extracurricular achievements and how they can help make your application stand out.

In addition to financial windfall, Andrea explained how the scholarship had opened doors for her.

“As the recipient of a Vice-Chancellor scholarship, I became a Student Ambassador and, in this role, I had an opportunity to represent not only the Business School but the University as a whole.”

Andrea said that her journey to the success she is now enjoying began when she opted to do a vocational qualification at Northern Regional College instead of staying on at school to do A levels.

She went on to complete a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Travel in Tourism at the College’s Coleraine campus with a triple Distinction* – the equivalent of 3A*s at A level – and also achieved accreditated qualifications in World Host, Tour Guiding and Social Media marketing.

“Most of my peers stayed at school to do A levels but, because I was interested in tourism and hospitality, I just wanted to focus on that. If you’re lucky enough to know your niche, a vocational qualification in that specific subject is a great preparation for university and makes the transition so much easier.”

Andrea said she developed many new skills during her two years at Northern Regional College.

“I feel that everything I did at the College helped – from the interesting modules and assessments, presentations, opportunities to represent the class and the College at Open and Applicant Days to the general independence that you don’t get at school. In particular, the assignments that required us to present in front of our peers really helped build my confidence and, now that I’m at university, I’m very comfortable doing presentations and don’t give them a second thought.”

Andrea admitted that before she did the Travel and Tourism course at Northern Regional College, she really didn’t have any idea of a long-term career plan but now she is much more focussed.

“I knew it would involve some aspect of the tourism and hospitality industry and the course gave me a really good insight to the industry which helped make my journey through LJMU a lot easier. When I graduate next year, I’m looking forward to applying for different graduate schemes in HR, Talent, Training and Management.”

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