Well done! You have received your AS results and now you are starting to turn your attention to university applications. But where to start?
You first need to consider what course at university you wish to study. Even if you have wanted to study Accountancy since you were three, I still advise students to look at all options. In fact, a very good idea is to search for the website of a big university you have heard of and look at all their courses from A to Z. There will be some courses that you have never heard of. For example, many students ask: ‘What is Anthropology?’. Read through the summaries and shortlist about ten courses. You may realise that you can study a combined course – such as Business with a Language – and may prefer the flexibility this offers. Some summaries refer to introductory books that can you can buy or borrow from a library. If the thought of reading said book leaves you cold, do not study this subject at university! Remember, much of your university course will come down to reading, thinking, analysing and writing.
Once you have a subject in mind, you need to shop around to see which university offers the course in the way that suits you best, and in an environment that suits you. Make yourself a table to fill in, listing name of university, type of university (city or campus), notes about the course, how well they do at their subject, A-level subjects grades required, and whether alternatives in A-levels are accepted, (such as BTEC Nationals, and at which level). Does coursework contribute to your class of degree, are examinations at the end of the third or fourth year only, or are they at the end of every year? What model of examination suits you? Can you go abroad for a year? Other questions to ask are how many students who graduated from this degree got jobs and in what fields? And do the universities have links with employers? Is there a built-in work placement component in the degree?
Some students already know they want to study a particular subject (such as Medicine, Engineering or Law). If this applies to you, you should still be asking yourself the same questions above. Speak to people you know who are at university already. A good question to ask them is, ‘if you weren’t at your university, which university would you choose?’. You could ask a similar question about course choice.
The answers will vary according to your personal tastes and learning styles. There are some big decisions to make and it is worth listening to what other people have to say.
“It should not be understated how important it is to speak to someone who is objective who can advise you” You and Yours, BBC radio 4,24/8/10. You should not allow yourself to head in the wrong direction simply because you do not know what options are available.
A common question I am asked is whether some degrees are better than others. For example, where does a degree in Golf Club Management get you as compared to Modern History? Again, the answer depends on you as an individual, which is why you need to take steps to explore the options available. It turns out that that the number of students who are employed after studying Golf Club Management is very high. If you have a very clear idea of what you want to do in your future career, then a highly specialised degree could be for you.
If like many students you do not yet have fixed views about your longer term future, then studying a more traditional subject may leave you with the flexibility to pursue a range of careers once you have graduated. Most graduate jobs in the UK do not require a specific degree. This is because employers are looking for the skills developed during your study such as team-work, creativity, analysis, and initiative amongst others, which can be honed during any degree The important thing is to do a degree which will generate an enthusiasm that will sustain you for three or four years. If you enjoy your subject, you will find it easy to work hard and obtain a good degree.
Some degrees require you to have studied specific subjects in Years 12 and 13. Hopefully, you already knew this when you chose your subjects, but if not, it is not too late to pick up another AS in Year 13, or to study for a further A-level next year before university. Increasingly, universities are offering foundation years for students who did not make the grade at A-level, or for students who studied the ‘wrong’ subjects for their chosen course. However, this adds a year to your studies, and it is best to choose wisely from the outset.
Now you are armed with important information for the next part of your journey: your application, and in particular your Personal Statement. You know what course you want to study, four or five places that you would like to study it at, the structure of their courses and topics covered. You have read an introduction to the subject. You will have to strike the right balance between explaining why you are interested in studying your subject, what relevant skills and knowledge you have developed already, and what other steps you have taken that demonstrate your enthusiasm for studying your course. Your Personal Statement should also give universities some insight into your personal interests and hobbies. Remember, the same Personal Statement is sent to all five universities. You need to copy and paste it into the on-line UCAS form. It will take some weeks to finesse your statement, and you should share your ideas and drafts with people you trust to help you through the process.
Most universities no longer interview students, so your Personal Statement will be the one and only opportunity you have to sell yourself. If you do get called for an interview, make sure you are properly prepared. You should know what sort of questions to expect, and you should have thought about the most important things you want to tell the interviewers.
For guidance, mentoring and advice on all aspects of university applications go to www.natalielancer.com and call Natalie Lancer on 020 8211 4800.
Natalie’s top tips for university applications
- Research the different courses on offer, and find out how they are presented by the different universities
- Think about your learning style and which university best suits you
- Read some books about your chosen subject
- Get writing your Personal Statement as soon as you can
- Get professional, objective advice to help you select the right subject and university for you and make your application stand out. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org