My son is showing an interest in the finance/banking field. Besides school marks what else would make a positive impact on college prospects in the UK?
Cyrus Soonawalla, via email  

Thanks to the recent incidents in the financial sector, the banking and finance field seems to have lost a bit of its sheen. That said, I personally feel that finance and economics is fundamental to the growth of all economies and these subjects will continue to be sought after, albeit with modifications. Within the finance and banking arena there are several areas your son could focus upon.

He could enrol for a bachelor's degree in banking, available in many colleges and universities. This is a specialised degree which concentrates on finance related to banks. He would study financial statement analysis, business finance, fixed income, derivatives, investment theory and banking strategy.

A Bachelor of Science in Finance is available in colleges and universities with a business school. The areas of study would include economics, business and corporate finance, accountancy and statistics. Students can hope to land a job in financial analysis and trading after earning this degree.

A Bachelor's degree in Investments and Securities teaches students about portfolio management, investment strategy, securities markets and the application of theories in business. Again this degree is available in business schools. Graduates can take up a career in trading and investment.

A Bachelor of Business Administration-Finance Concentration, leads to jobs in investment banking and related positions. This degree focuses on business and finance covering areas of accounting, risk management, global investment etc.

Let me emphasise that in the current competitive environment a first degree must be supported with a graduate degree or professional course such as ACCA/ CFA. Some interesting programmes include Specialisation in Islamic Finance by SOAS and the Ernst and Young sandwich programme at Lancaster in conjunction with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Scotland).

For most British universities, grades and academic results in school are of paramount importance. The more competitive ones tend to view personal statements very seriously. To gain admission to the top-tier British universities they must reflect the student's passion and enthusiasm for the chosen subject. The personal statement is a unique opportunity for the student to convince the admissions officer as to why he is worthy to be enrolled. Do not write what you (wrongly) assume the university wants to hear. You must write about yourself, your skills, strengths, ambitions and goals. Teacher recommendations go a long way in assisting the admissions officer select the right candidate. It always helps if the university is familiar with the profile of your son's school. His performance inside and outside the class will then be viewed, taking into consideration the facilities and support provided by the school. Interviews at Oxbridge are extremely demanding and test not only the child's intellect but his confidence and leadership skills and ability to think outside the box.

A student can add projects undertaken in the respective field and internships done. Extracurricular activities and community development programmes will definitely strengthen the student's application but remember these attributes do not hold the same importance as they do for US universities.

Sanjeev Verma began his career with Ernst & Young before moving on to set up the Gulf operations of IDP Education Pty. He now leads Intelligent Partners in Dubai developing a wide range of solutions in areas of international education.