Monthly Archives

September 2010

Apply yourself to the uni-hunt

By | Coaching in Education, University advice

As you approach the end of year 12, perhaps you have become blasé about being in the sixth form. The wonder of the common room is a thing of the past and you are a veteran at driving to school to arrive seconds before the start of your lesson. But you begin to feel uneasy as the university application season dawns. Your big-gest worry may be what to study. With tuition fees and accommodation costs to pay, as well as a difficult job market, there is even more need to choose a course that will pay dividends in the future. The good news is that employers value the trans-ferable skills you gain while studying for a degree, such as researching a topic, digesting information quickly and writ-ing cogently. These abilities can be obtained by taking any degree and most large companies offering sought-after graduate training schemes do not require a specific degree in order to apply.

The only stipulation is that you get a good degree. This means that you need to play to your strengths. Choose a degree that will sustain your interest for three or four years at university, a subject at which you can excel and, perhaps, one that offers something extra, to differentiate you from the crowd.

Entry to some professions does require a specific degree, so inquire about this.

Many degrees offer a sandwich course, which means the third year out of four can be spent work-ing for a company. This is an excel-lent opportunity to get some work experience under your belt and build relations with a company that may employ you after your studies. Other courses allow you to spend a year abroad in almost any country, studying at a partner insti-tution, which can be a great way of broadening your horizons. Some uni-versities combine the two and allow you to work abroad.

It may be that you have developed a love of one of your A-level subjects and you would like to study this at a higher level and in greater depth. However, some relish the opportunity to study something new, building on cultivated skills. Those who have done well in a subject such as history, politics or reli-gious studies may think about choos-ing anthropology or social policy at university. If you are numerate, you could look into economics and if you want to develop an understanding of business, you might be attracted to management courses. Again some courses specify particular entry requirements. For example, it may be a prerequisite to have studied at least two sciences at A-level to study a pure science at university.

All universities detail typical offers for their courses on their websites, either in terms of A-level grades or points. Check university websites care-fully to see what courses are available and what their requirements are. Do not dismiss courses because you have never heard of them. Take the time to research what the different degrees entail. After all, if you will be studying for at least three years, the content of the course must inspire you.

You can apply for up to five courses, although it is advisable that they are all similar or you will find it hard to write a single application that fits them all. It is also sensible to make sure you choose courses that range in typical offers, for example, from AAA to BBC, so that you give your-self the best chance of being accepted, should your grades slip. Being realistic about your likely grades is important, so that you do not make wasted applications.

This is also the time to read some books or journals on your proposed subject, to check this is the course for you. It is imperative to visit the universities and departments, to make sure that you would enjoy studying there.

Open days can be booked on-line and take place in July and from September onwards. To make a successful application, it can be helpful to get some work experience in a relevant field. This is particularly important for vocational courses such as medicine, where a long-term commitment (several months) to visiting a nursing home, for example, demonstrates tenacity as well as honing your caring skills. However, all students benefit from work experience and you should ask your friends, family and school to help you secure a placement. Other activities such as leading a youth group, fundraising or participation in sports can help demonstrate your capabilities. All these attributes and their relevance to your chosen course can be mentioned in your personal statement, part of the Ucas form.

  • RESEARCH Research university courses in depth on the internet.
  • PLAN If you have a career plan, find out if a particular degree is necessary.
  • BOOK Book your place for university open days as soon as you can.
  • READ Read books and journals relevant to your chosen subject.
  • EXPERIENCE Undertake work experience in your field of interest.
  • DISCUSS Discuss university courses and your aptitudes with a professional.


Natalie Lancer of and can discuss your uni and career options in one-to-one sessions and give expert guidance on personal statement and interviews. She also offers subject-specific mentoring. Call 020 82114800 or email

By | Coaching in Education, University advice

Picture this. The university admissions tutor for your chosen subject has just read 100 Personal Statements, which say things such as “it has always been my dream to study Molecular Biology since I was born” and that “I am desperate to attend your university as it is well-known and I will get a good job”. Both of these get binned. Then they see your Personal Statement – well-written, interesting, portraying genuine enthusiasm. Hmm, maybe we should call them for interview… was set up by Natalie Lancer to help students identify the best university course for them, shine in their applications and prepare them for interviews. As an Assistant Headteacher and Director of Studies in state and independent schools, Natalie has ample experience in helping students make informed decisions about what course and university is best for them. She has also published a guide to university applications – Getting into Oxford and Cambridge (Trotman). As a graduate of the University of Oxford, Middlesex University and King’s College, London, where she obtained a Distinction in a Masters in Education, she is well placed in advising about different types of universities: old and new. She also offers subject-specific mentoring – ideal to get onto particularly competitive courses.

Another service offered is ‘How to help your child succeed’ which aims to guide parents in helping their children get the most out of school and with their work. You can find Natalie via

on course

Are you on course for a top university

By | Coaching in Education, University advice

IF YOU ARE in the sixth form, you will probably be battling with your university application at the moment. What uni would suit you? Could you get into Oxbridge? What subject is best and what work experience or holiday reading might impress your interviewers? And most urgent for those in year 13 — how do you write the perfect personal statement for your Ucas form?

Just ask Natalie Lancer. She has been an assistant head for three years and has advised hundreds of students on their applications. She herself is a graduate of Oxford, King’s College London, Yale and Middlesex University and has taught in both the independent and maintained sector, so she has a wide range of experience. She is also the author of Getting into Oxford and Cambridge (Trotman).

Natalie gives tailor-made advice on your personal statement, with a face-to-face consultation to help complete the first draft and a full email service for subsequent drafts, leading to a statement that is distinctively yours. She also offers subject-specific mentoring, especially helpful for courses such as medicine or law.

Workshops to help parents support learning at any stage are available, as is career-change guidance. For Natalie’s blog, free advice on pre-paring a personal statement and more, visit

For GCSE or A-level teaching in small, focused classes, Wentworth College, in Golders Green, is ideal. It offers a supportive and hard-working environment, with an emphasis on pastoral care and a special focus on helping students who have transferred from large schools where they felt “lost”.

Exam preparation is one of Wentworth’s great strengths and it offers the option of accelerated courses (one year) alongside two-year courses. On the two-year A-level programme, the first year is carefully designed to ease the transition from GCSEs to A-levels. GCSE subjects range from maths, English and science to Jewish studies, drama, photography and film.

Wentworth students will also enjoy a full programme of extra-curricular activities.