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University advice

Is Oxbridge right for you?

By | Career coaching, University advice, University student's advice | No Comments

Everyone knows that Oxbridge – which means Oxford and Cambridge – are top universities, but does that mean that they suit all high flyers? What are they looking for, and more importantly, what are you looking for, in your higher education experience? Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication demystifies the Oxbridge application process for us.

One of the key things that set the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge apart is the way they teach. Work is set and discussed in tutorials (which are called ‘supervisions’ at Cambridge) which are led by the subject tutor. These can be in a ratio of one to one, i.e. just you and the subject tutor or maybe up to four students and the subject tutor. Although these tend to be in an informal setting, such as the tutor’s college rooms, there is nowhere to hide in the tutorial – you really need to have done your work and contribute to a feisty discussion in the tutorial. Some students will relish this – but this is a far cry from school. Work is not spoon-fed and regurgitated a few months later in an examination. So if you are able to think on your feet and can explain your views to others, as well as study independently and cope with the pressure of one or two essays a week to present, then Oxbridge would suit you well. Furthermore, both Oxford and Cambridge have amazing sports facilities and well-funded extra-curricular activities in which you can participate, which also attracts applicants.

Something to bear in mind is that Cambridge and Oxford universities do not offer all subjects and very few combinations are possible. So if you are keen to study Politics with Spanish, for example, this is not actually possible at either university. You may have to study Politics with something else, or Modern Languages with something else. Consult the course pages on the university websites to check what subjects are on offer. If what you want to study is not an option, then either you can tinker with your choice or decide not to apply there – you have to weigh up whether what you want to study is more important, or where you go to university. Remember, there may be some solutions of which you are unaware such as the possibility to study a language informally in the Language Centre.

Once you have worked out what you want to study, you need to make sure you can demonstrate your commitment and interest in the subject. This is most likely to be through reading about your subject. There are book lists and other resources readily available on the Cambridge website. Be sure to keep a note of what you read and lectures to which you have listened, so you can discuss them in your Personal Statement.

Something else to bear in mind is that as an Oxbridge student, you are a member of a department and a college. You live, eat, make friends, use the library and have tutorials at your college so it is like a mini-university, within the larger university. The best way to decide what college to apply for is to visit some and speak to current students. You cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year, so you also need to choose which university best suits you. A large factor will be the course content as even courses with the same titles will have different structures and modules. If you do decide to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, remember the application deadline is earlier – October 15th, and you may well have to sit an extra examination, for which you will need to prepare. If you meet their initial criteria, you will be invited for an interview with subject specialists. They offer you a place based on consideration of all aspects of your application, including your teacher’s references, GCSE scores, predicted A-level grades, personal statement, admissions test and your performance at interview. After all your research, you may decide that Oxbridge is not for you. We are so lucky in the UK to have so many top universities – Oxford and Cambridge are not the only ones, so shop around and find five universities that will suit you.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Can you see both sides of an argument?
  • Are you open to changing your opinions when presented with new facts?
  • Do you like coming up with innovative ideas and discussing them?
  • Do you have motivation and enthusiasm for your chosen subject?
  • Do you like reading and thinking critically about what you have read?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then Oxbridge may well be for you!


Natalie Lancer is an expert in mentoring Oxbridge applicants and can advise on subject choice, personal statements and interview technique. She can help you choose a college and prepare for the admissions tests. She will discuss a strategy with you to help you maximise your chance of success. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513. www.myuniapplication.com; www.natalielancer.com.


 

Make a great job of that interview

By | Career coaching, Corporate coaching, Life coaching, University advice | No Comments

Natalie Lancer from Lancer Coaching explains how to prepare for an interview.

Getting an interview is a massive compliment – the organisation has decided that they like what you have to offer on the basis of your application form and that you match their requirements. There are many different types of interview – maybe you will have to give a presentation about a topic, or perhaps it is a panel interview where different people ask you questions.

With a little thought, you can think what questions are likely to come up. Go back to the job description and person specification and write a question for each item. For example, an item from the job description might be “Contribute to collaborative decision making with colleagues”. A reasonable question to expect, therefore, is “How have you contributed to collaborative decision making in the past and how would contribute to this process in the future?”. Jot down a few bullet points for each question. It might be helpful for you to structure your answer according to the acronym ‘SPAR’ – Situation, Position, Action and Result. This involves starting by describing the context, what was the situation and challenge. Secondly, what was your position and what did you do personally to effect change? Thirdly, what action was taken and how did you come to that decision. Finally, what was the result – was it a success? Were there setbacks?

After you have written your own questions based on the job description and person specification, it is time to consider some more general questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?” and “Can you tell us about current developments in this sector?”. This requires some research – start by looking at the organisation’s website. What is their mission statement? What do they think they have to offer? Make sure you read some current information about your sector, such as trade journals, newspapers, information from professional bodies if relevant (see their websites) and up-to-date books. Ask your local book shop for recommendations. You need to demonstrate that you are fully aware about the organisation and the sector.

You may be asked a question along the lines of “What do you have to offer us?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses”. To prepare for this, it may be helpful to consult a friend about your aptitudes and motivations. Be sure to prepare a clear answer – write some bullet points. When detailing weaknesses make sure you explain how you overcome them.

It is very helpful to have a practice or mock interview. This can be with someone in the field (use your network to find someone) or a careers professional. Not only will you be able to rehearse your answers but you will get some feedback about how you come across and if there are gaps in your knowledge that you can plug.

Plan what your are going to wear. Dress formally, even if you think the interviewer will not. It never hurts to be overdressed – it shows you have made an effort and that you are professional – but you will look silly if you are underdressed. Plan your journey and make time for the inevitable delayed trains. If possible, visit the site of your interview in advance if you are not familiar with the area.

Before the interview itself, go through your application form again. Go over your examples of prior work and make sure you can talk about them. Arrive early – you will look efficient and it gives you time to have a coffee or go to the loo without panicking. Turn off your mobile – don’t leave it on silent. Smile when you walk in, shake hands and wait to be told to sit down. Maintain eye contact.

When answering questions in the interview give yourself time to think. Do not answer with the first thing that pops into your head. Wait two seconds, consider your answer, and briefly think about why they have asked you that question – what are they really getting at? What are they trying to test? Make sure you frame your answer in a way that attends to their underlying reasons. Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.

Also, think about your body language. Don’t cross your arms as it looks defensive. Instead sit with your arms open or on your lap and lean forwards to show interest. When you speak it is a good idea to gesticulate with your hands as it adds expression – but don’t overdo it. Don’t bite your nails or fiddle with your hair. Often we exhibit certain mannerisms when we are thinking. It may be worth getting someone to video you when you talk to see if you have some unconscious mannerisms that are unflattering.  We speak much more quickly than we realise – so slow down! Do not speak in a monotone –moderate your voice by using highs and lows.

They may say “Is there anything you want to ask us?”. Do ask about something interesting that came up in the interview, but do not ask something that you could easily look up on their website. Don’t bring up salary until you get an offer!

Finally, remember that you are also evaluating them and the job. Having spent some time with the interviewers, are you sure you would like to work there? Are the organisation’s ethics in line with yours? Were you treated well? Were employees you came into contact with happy? Do you like the environment of the office?

A few hours after the interview, write down your impressions, the questions asked and your answers. Do you wish you had answered anything differently? Jot down your amended answers. These will be useful for you when you have another interview.

If you do get the job – well done. Consider if you actually want it! If you do not get the job, remember you cannot control the employer’s decision. You do not know who else was interviewed, and how well they fitted the job description and organisation. There can be many reasons why you did not get the job that have little to do with you. The experience was valuable and a stepping stone to your winning interview.


Natalie is available for one-to-one practice interview sessions and can help with all aspects of the job application process.  For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.natalielancer.com


The effect of university on personal growth

By | Coaching in Education, Life coaching, University advice

The idea that university is a place of personal growth is not a new one, but with tuition fees set to rise this academic year again, it may be wise to back up this claim with some empirical data. What personal growth occurs at university and why is it important?
Natalie Lancer has been studying the phenomenon of personal growth at university for her PhD in Psychology at Birbeck, University of London. Twenty undergraduate students at UCL volunteered for the study and they were each given six personal coaching sessions by professional executive coaches over the academic year 2014-2015. They were interviewed four times over the year about their personal growth.
Personal growth was individual for each student and what they learnt varied according to what they had experienced in life so far. However, the growth that occurred can broadly be described by several themes. The most pronounced growth was in focusing on their long term goals. They formed clearer personal goals about career and what they wanted out of life in general and were able to take positive and specific steps to fulfil them. This included making a short film and successfully applying for television internships for someone who had identified wanting to work in Film and TV. He had previously considered himself to be ‘not good enough’ but by building up his creative portfolio and helping to run the TV station at university, he gained valuable experience as well as confirmation that this was the sector in which he wanted to work. As his self-belief grew, so did his talent and positive mindset which shone through in his application and interview.
Others who had lacked confidence in the past identified that they grew in physical or psychological well-being. Many found that their analytical approach to situations and dilemmas had changed in that they felt more confident in their own decision-making. They all reported growing in competence and ability in a variety of skills including academic and organisational. Their university experience broadened their horizons, from an appreciation of different cultures to the realities of budgeting. They all gained a greater understanding of interpersonal relationships whether that be with their families, friends, professional contacts or romantic partners.
The coaching itself was seen as motivational and helped them with many areas including time management, life plans and positive outlook. All but one of the students reported that the coaching greatly accelerated what they would have learnt about themselves anyway which meant they were able to set things in motion much earlier on and reap the rewards from this head start of growth. This, in turn, meant that they had a more enriching university experience and they were able to leverage this with greater impact in terms of careers and personal development during and after university. In other words, they felt that they were more successful in landing a job that played to their strengths or finding a fulfilling relationship as a result of their ‘speeded-up’ university experience provided by coaching.
Some students had more profound experiences where a gain in confidence enabled them to excel in ways that would have seemed impossible previously. The emotional ‘baggage’ we carry around from years of people telling us that we are not good enough, for example, is like a fetter on our potential and capabilities. By engaging in new experiences, and showing themselves that they could do it (whatever the ‘it’ was for them), the students were able to blast these fetters away and reclaim their confidence, and tangible evidence of their new found abilities.
The students were given the option of continuing their coaching into a second year, allowing a further year of analysis and evaluation to take place, which the majority of students chose to do. The results of this will be available on the dedicated website edecentre.org (Educational Development and Evaluation Centre) in the coming months.


Coaching for students is increasingly offered by universities. However, it is not, as yet, widely available. If you think you would benefit from private coaching sessions with an experienced coach, please contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Getting the most out of university

By | University advice, University student's advice

Hello Freshers! University starts in a matter of weeks but after all the excitement of getting in, have you thought about how best to approach your undergraduate studies? Natalie Lancer from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication offers some advice.

In order to maximise your grades, it pays to be strategic with your studying. In most cases, you ‘just’ have to pass your first year. Although the course tutors may not push you in the second year, it is worth emphasising that the second year may well contribute towards your final degree class (grade).  Cassie, who just graduated from the University of Birmingham with a 2:1, says, “I didn’t realise the significance of the second year grades – if I had got just 2% more in the second year, I would have got a first overall”. After the first year, you are likely to be able to choose modules. Some modules are assessed by examination, some by coursework and some by a mixture of the two. It is worth planning carefully so that overall, your chosen modules’ examinations and coursework deadlines are evenly spaced. By the end of your first year, it will become clear whether your strength lies in coursework or examinations (or both) and you should choose modules which have assessments reflecting your preference. It is also important that you find your modules interesting –talk to the course reps and people in older years to find out more about modules you may potentially take.

Although you have to knuckle down to your work in the final two years, your first year is all about getting acclimatised to university life, having fun, making new friendships and extending your interests. Join societies, get involved in volunteering and go to events – experience as many new things as possible while you have such freedom and everything at your fingertips. Participating in societies is a great way to develop new skills which will be invaluable to showcase on your CV. Go to the Freshers’ Fair to find out about the different societies on offer (and pick up loads of freebies while you are there). Sign up to Jewish Society (J-Soc), of course! Belong to a sports team or try out a new sport – it’s a great way of meeting new people.

Making new friends is easy in the first few weeks of university as everyone is in the same boat. Chat late into the night with people in your halls, go to club nights and events – the people you meet in the queue may well end up as your best buddies! Be prepared to add people to your Facebook –as this is the main way of keeping in contact with new friends and societies. Make sure you manage your money well – work out your food and going out budget and stick to it to make sure you don’t leave yourself short later on in the year. Be responsible when drinking alcohol – make sure you can get back to your halls safely with a friend if you are having a big night out.

The first year is often a “leveller” where the lectures focus on making sure everyone has the same level of background knowledge. Harriet is studying Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham and says, “I had a good foundation of the subject material from my A-levels so I haven’t had to work that hard [in my first year] compared to others, as the modules contain elements from Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Psychology, all of which I took at A-level”. It is vital to make friends on your course so you can motivate each other and help each other to understand the course. The first year prepares you for the subsequent years, so make sure you get to grips with academic referencing and use tutor feedback wisely. You will gain an understanding of what it is they are looking for and how to structure your ideas, putting you in the best place to hit the ground running in your second year. Use your first year to gauge how much work you have to do to get the marks you want and to ascertain that your revision strategies work. By engaging with the first year you will also be able to confirm whether you have chosen the right course. However, give yourself time to settle in to the course before you make any rash decisions. If you are convinced that you have made a mistake, it may be worth changing course rather than spending another two years on the “wrong” course.

Apart from the newness of living away from home (if you are), probably the biggest change is the mode of teaching and assessments. You are most likely to have lectures where you cannot put your hand up to ask a question every few minutes, unlike a classroom. Gordon, who studies Politics at the University of Leeds, advises “If you don’t understand something in a lecture, write your question down so you don’t forget it. Go up to the lecturer at the end of the lecture and ask. But, if you require a deeper explanation, send them an email to book a time slot when they can discuss it with you – there is often another lecture class coming in and there isn’t much time for an in depth response.” The lectures cover your syllabus (on which you will be examined), so try to go to most of them and make time to catch up any notes missed. Lecture notes, and sometimes even videos of lectures, are often posted on the university intranet. Watch the lectures again to help with revision and to augment your notes. Read any recommended articles or books, chase up references that the lecturer suggests and look for more articles on the subject using Google Scholar. Add further notes from these articles to your lecture notes to personalise them – this is key to attaining high marks in your essays and examinations.

You will probably be assessed by a mixture of coursework/essays, presentations and end of year exams. Depending on your subject, you may get three assessments a term for each module you take (maybe six a year) – that’s potentially 18 essays a year. Talia, a Psychology student from the University of Bristol, suggests that you should start your essays straight away and do a little every day: “You often get given the essay questions at the beginning of the module, and you may have a choice of questions so start to read up on the subject that most interests you as soon as you can, so you don’t have to write your essays all at once”.  She recommends sending your tutor a list of bullet points or an essay plan to check that you are on the right track with your essay. Some tutors accept drafts of all or part of your essay and give feedback before you give your essay in – this is an excellent way to improve your writing style and ultimately your grade. You will only be able to make use of your tutors in this way if you have given yourself (and them) enough time. University assessments are quite different to A-levels. Sometimes you are given the exam question in advance, other times you can make up your own essay titles – in fact, your most in depth pieces of work – your dissertation, will most probably be on a topic of your choice. Other exams require you to have studied topics independently – just using the lecture notes will not be enough. For each essay you write (approximately 2000-4000 words) you need to read about 15 peer-reviewed articles and understand the background of your topic, perhaps by reading some selected books. Reading articles will make you familiar with key terms, the academic writing style and how to conduct analysis – all of which will elevate your writing.

There are many support systems in place for you at university. You will be assigned a Personal Tutor who you may meet with termly. They will address any concerns and help you improve academically. Tom says “I kept on getting grading down for not referencing my essays properly. The Personal Tutor suggested I visit the Academic Skills Centre who ran sessions on this, which improved my grades dramatically”. It is also worth vising the Careers Service, certainly by the middle of the second year, as they will help you apply for internships, polish your CV and conduct mock interviews. Applications for jobs and internships have to be done up to a year in advance so it is important to establish key dates as soon as you can.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can help you create a winning CV and cover letter and give you expert guidance on your A-level choice, university applications, Personal Statement, interviews and dissertations. She also offers personal development sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on getting the most out of university:

  • Make use of your tutors’ expertise as much as you can – don’t be afraid to email them essay plans or drafts.
  • Choose your modules strategically
  • Visit Academic Support and the Careers Service early on
  • Go out and enjoy yourself in your first year – make new friends and join societies
  • Speak to a university specialist for tailored advice about studying, careers and your personal development

Maximising your success in Years 10-13

By | Schools subjects advice, Study advice, University advice, University student's advice

Success at GCSEs and A-levels is important as it will give you a wide choice in your next level of education. School starts to get more serious when you are preparing for these Public Examinations, and so you may be entering Years 11-13 with some trepidation. In order to maximise your success, Natalie Lancer, from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication offers some advice.

Preparation for public examinations is a marathon, not a sprint. This is especially true for students commencing the new linear A-levels, where you are assessed on the whole course at the end of the two years, rather than at the end of Year 12. Therefore, it is important to work consistently from the beginning, making sure you understand each topic as you go along. Take time at the end of each week to reread your notes and arrange to see your teacher to go over anything you do not understand. Then, make new notes based on your new understanding which you will be able to reread as you near revision. You want to be able to revise topics that you already understand (and have the notes for) rather than learning something afresh, as this will take up valuable time. Make sure your keep your notes in order with clear divisions between topics so that you can refer to them easily – perhaps in a lever arch file or on your computer – and so that you do not waste time organising your notes when you revise.

It is important to get the most out of your lessons. This means that you need to actively participate and engage with your teacher and classmates. Make sure you ask questions in class if you want clarification – you will not look silly! – chances are your classmates will want to know the answer too.

Equip yourself with the correct stationery (folders, highlighters etc) and also invest in some exam board-specific revision guides and text books. These books have been written specifically for your syllabus and so you can be confident that the information they contain will be relevant. It is very helpful to consult different books as you go along – some books are better than others at explaining different topics. Furthermore, revision guides are concise and useful if you want to read ahead so that you can get the most out of your lessons. However, for revision, use these in conjunction with your own class notes and other text books as they are not detailed enough on their own.

Make sure you revise actively by writing out flashcards and reading notes with a pen in your hand – underlining key concepts. Above all, practise past or specimen exam papers (you can download them from the exam board’s website). Use the mark schemes to assess your knowledge and, just as importantly, to see how the examiners expect you to express that knowledge. You could also try working with your classmates. Each member of your revision group should research their allocated topic and then teach it to the rest of the group, perhaps swapping detailed notes.  Explaining the topic and discussing it with someone else will enrich your understanding.

The significance of Years 10-13 in terms of exams may make you feel stressed and it is important to nip this in the bud. Air any concerns with your teachers or Head of Year who will help you manage your workload and give you strategies to reduce stress. One way of doing this is to make sure that you have things to focus on other than work – get involved in clubs and societies, sports, music, volunteering or leadership programmes, both in and out of school. Not only will this provide a welcome break but you will learn new skills and get to know and interact with different people. These skills are just as important for your career and development as your academic work.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can help you create a winning CV and cover letter and give you expert guidance on your A-level choice, university applications, Personal Statement, interviews and dissertations. She also offers personal development sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips on maximising your success in Years 10-13:

  • Make sure you understand each topic as you go along and don’t be afraid to ask your teachers for help
  • Keep your notes in an organised fashion from the beginning
  • Buy exam-board specific study guides so that you can get a different perspective on topics you don’t understand
  • Experiment with different revision techniques, finding the ones that work for you
  • Speak to a professional for tailored advice about studying, careers and your personal development

 

How Israel is enthusing Britain’s teenagers to become the next generation of scientists

By | Coaching in Education, Schools subjects advice, University advice

Since 2010, I have been providing university advice to students and their parents through my business myuniapplication.com. Before that I was a secondary school teacher, Head of Science and Assistant Headteacher and published author in university guidance. I have advised hundreds of students with their university applications, helping them to choose a course and university and to write the all-important personal statement. I currently hold the post of Director of Higher Education at Immanuel College.

Parents often tell me that they wish their son or daughter to study Management or a business-related course. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) industry, despite massive government investment, has fallen out of favour with some of my clients as a feasible industry in which to work and, ultimately, make money. Although the number of students studying STEM subjects at university, has increased (in 2014 it was 98, 000, an 18% rise since 2003), the number of STEM graduates entering STEM jobs had declined dramatically (from approximately half in 2001 to a third ten years later). However, the STEM industry offers amazing and worthwhile careers and fundamental scientific research has spawned many modern inventions such as the internet and microwaves.

Perhaps the biggest problem in UK STEM today, is the lack of women represented.  Next week  the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) which runs PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) will publish a report which highlights a huge gender gap (13 percentage points compared to an average of one percentage point) in attainment scores between 15 year old British girls’ and boy’s performance in science literacy. This puts the UK in the bottom five of the 67 countries that take part in the assessments. However, various statisticians have questioned the validity of the methodology and analysis of these tests. Comparing Science GCSE results yields a different story: girls outperform boys in Science GCSEs. Whatever measure is used, it is clear that not enough girls do Science A-levels, which means that they do not go on to do STEM degrees, and are therefore not well- represented in the STEM industry. According to various studies, girls’ self-esteem and confidence affects how they view their abilities in Science, affecting their take-up of STEM subjects post-GCSE. Furthermore, there is a persistent image that study of STEM subjects is for boys not girls. Any way to challenge such outdated stereotypes would give a welcome boost to girls’ uptake of STEM A-levels.

I was invited to the Seventh Annual ZF (Zionist Federation) Science Week last month. On 29th January, ZF treated 31 schools (over 660 students) to a free day of Israeli medical science lectures at the Institute of Education in London. The lecture hall was packed with diverse groups of sixth form students. The aim of the day was to highlight the importance of basic research in Science and to demonstrate that Science has no borders. The lectures were based on topics introduced on the A-level Biology syllabus. The first lecture was given by Russian national, Triana Amen, who is researching aging and rejuvenation at the Hebrew University. The second lecture was given by Dr Fahed Hakim, a paediatrician researching the importance of sleep on a biochemical level at the Technion in Haifa. What was notable about these first two speakers was that that they were not Jewish, and how proud they were of their Israeli universities and research teams. The third speaker was Professor Illana Gozes who spoke about the ADNP gene sequence in Alzheimer’s disease, autism and schizophrenia. Most importantly for encouraging girls into STEM, two out of three of the speakers were women and were excellent role models for the sixth formers present.

Of course, you do not have to be female to be inspired by the event. The students were aware of how attending such an event might inform their university choices. One student said they were not sure if they wanted to study Biology or Psychology at university, and this conference helped him explore possibilities. Another student said that she attends numerous lectures and will describe some of them on her UCAS form, when she applies to university, evidencing her interest in her chosen subject. Another student, who does not intend to go to university explained that the lectures helped to contextualise her Biology A-level studies, making them more meaningful to her.

It was truly remarkable to find Israeli scientists giving up their time to visit the UK to enthuse British teenagers of all backgrounds about the wonders of Science and to encourage them to study Science at university. Perhaps, our British scientists, and in particular, our female scientists, can learn a thing or two about marketing their subject from their Israeli colleagues.

Most important lesson for year 13

By | Coaching in Education, University advice

Revision tips for the final school year

For those students taking A-levels, Year 13 is your most important year at school. It is the year that you have to really knuckle down to ensure you get the best grades of which you are capable. Natalie Lancer from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication offers revision tips to help you on your way.

Year 13 revision is a marathon and not a sprint. In Year 12, you may have got away with cramming at the end of the year, and doing fairly well in your AS levels. However, this is because questions at this level are based on short answers. If you couldn’t do a question and you left it out, you probably wasted up to six marks. Depending on your subjects, at A2 level, leaving out a question might be worth 24 marks, which could cost you several grades. You are required to write long answers or perform multi-part calculations. You cannot rely on a basic knowledge of the subject.

So how do you approach this? Firstly, make sure you have a number of exam board-specific study guides/text books for you to consult at home. Some books will be more helpful than others for certain sections of your syllabus, or may explain something in a more meaningful way to you. It is important that you know where to look for information and to feel confident in using your books to help you understand your subject fully.

Secondly, download a syllabus from your exam board website and make sure you understand the structure of your exams. Ask your teacher which options they have decided to teach you, where options exist.  Each week, read the topic you are studying at school in advance so that you have an idea about what to expect. This means that when you are in the lesson, you do not come to the topic ‘cold’. You will be able to process what is being said at a higher level and you will be able to remember it more effectively.

Create a system of making notes in the lesson, abbreviating words to help you write faster. Leave enough space in the margins and between each section so that you can supplement it with information from your study guides at home. You may like to write your notes on a laptop if you are allowed, as this facilitates adding notes at a later stage.  At the end of each day, read your notes as this will help you learn them. If you do not understand something, look it up or ask your teacher. Make sure you understand everything as you go along – don’t leave it until the end of the course. The trick is to make your notes comprehensive and well-laid out at the point of writing them so that you do not have to spend time making new notes near the time of your exam.

Start learning the material when you have some bulk time – maybe in the holidays. When you are ready to learn the material, make sure you have no distractions – turn off your phone and your internet. You do not need the internet to revise! Work for forty minutes at a time and then have a ten minute break. During the forty minutes, focus all your attention on being able to recall the material, and understand key terms and concepts. There are a number of ways you can learn the material – write out points on flashcards, create mind maps, develop special phrases to help you remember a sequence of important words or record the notes onto your phone and listen to them wherever you go.

Once you have proved to yourself that you know your stuff, by writing it out or saying it out loud, do a past paper. You should know enough information so that you can write for the full amount of time. Ask your teachers to mark these and to give you detailed feedback. If possible, try to sit down with them outside of lesson time to tell you what worked well and how you can improve. Write the feedback down and next time you do a paper, check the items off the list to make sure you have addressed all points.

In the January before your exams, make a realistic revision timetable so you know how long you have to learn everything. In the weeks running up to the exam, all your energy must be spent on learning your notes and practising past papers. Avoid having late nights – it is important that you are totally fresh for each revision session.  There will be plenty of time to go out with your friends after your exams and your friends will be revising anyway.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can discuss your university and career options in one-to-one sessions and give you expert guidance on your personal statement and revision techniques. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 01923 85 0781 , 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com


Natalie’s top tips for Year 13 Revision

  • Buy a selection of study guides/text books for home use
  • Make sure your system of making notes is robust
  • Use different ways to learn the material
  • Practice applying your knowledge using past papers
  • Get and act on feedback from your teacher
  • Make a revision timetable
  • Focus on your end goal – getting the best grades you can
  • If you feel your revision techniques aren’t benefitting you, contact a professional for advice.

 

Your research is bound to pay

By | Coaching in Education, University advice

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 info@myuniapplication.com

 


A result! How to get your university of choice

By | Coaching in Education, Study advice, University advice

How did A-Level results day go for you yesterday? If you met the conditions of your offer, your first choice will have accepted you, of course. But it may be that you exceeded your offer and you would like to consider doing a different course. You have up to five days to swap on to another, without your original place being jeopardised, using the process of Adjustment in UCAS. However, many courses requiring higher grades will be full.

If you didn’t meet the offer of your “firm” choice, your “insurance” choice will have accepted you — if you met theirs. But do you want to take up your insurance place? Some students think about re-sitting exams, but many universities accept only results that were gained over two years of study, not ‘three, so do check to see if there is any point in this strategy.

If you feel that your exam results don’t reflect your actual performance in the exam, it may be a good idea to get your papers re-marked. Your school will arrange this for you. It is important to realise that your exam results may go up or down as a result of a re-mark and so you should only request a re-mark if you are sure you feel you deserved more.

The re-mark can take up to 18 days depending on the exam board. However, even if the re-mark meets the university offer, that university may still not be able to give you a place. But it may offer you one on a similar course or the one you want the following year. To maximise your chances, let your university know that you are having the exam re-marked and notify it of any grade changes by August 31.

If your grades do change for the bet-ter and you have accepted your insurance offer or another offer in Clearing, you will have to ask the university to release you so that you can accept-your original offer.

Some universities will accept you even if you missed a grade. When you log into Track on UCAS, you may see that your chosen university has con-firmed your place, despite your lower grades. If not, you may need to call to negotiate your place. It may be that the university cannot allow you on to your preferred course but that there are others on which it would be happy to offer you a place.

You can also shop around via Clearing, the process universities use to advertise and fill their spare places. The list of unfilled places is on the UCAS website and published in The Telegraph. Places available change daily, so keep checking. Phone the universities in which you are interested; tell them your grades and see if they will give you a place. You may be inter-viewed over the phone by an admissions tutor.

Are you flexible about what course you study as long as you go to your chosen university, or would rather see if other universities can offer you a place on a similar course? You are not limited to the subject for which you originally applied, as long as you meet the entrance requirements for the course you are now applying for. Your nerves are bound to be on edge, so get some support. UCAS offers free advice and your teachers can help too.

In most cases, getting a good degree is what is important. The subject may be of less relevance, depending on the field you want to go into. That said, to get a good degree (normally a 2:1 or above), you need to be able to remain interested and motivated for the whole of your course, so don’t take a place on a course if you are not really inspired by the subject.

Natalie Lancer is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication


GRADES NOT WHAT YOU EXPECTED ?

  • Make sure you have access to a quiet room with a reliable phone and internet connection
  • Ask for a re-mark if you think your grade could go up but be aware it may go down
  • Inform your university what is happening about your re-mark to maximise your chances of them holding a place for you
  • Find out what courses are available on Clearing and consider a variety of options
  • Don’t make any decisions lightly—speak to a university guidance specialist

Source: myuniapplication.com


Degrees At A Distance

By | Coaching in Education, University advice, University student's advice

If you are of a certain generation the term ‘correspondence course’ might be more familiar to you than ‘distance learning’. Early morning educational television programmes and sending essays by post are a thing of the past as the internet has enabled these courses to flourish.

The Open University is well-known for its excellent stand-alone and university courses, with a range of media to aid learning including CDs, computer software, DVDs, and on-line resources such as study guides, as well as traditional books.

What many people may not realise is that distance learning rarely means you never meet other people. There may also be optional tutorials, Day Schools, study weekends or intensive residential schools for certain subjects. This merging of on and off-line support is called ‘blended learning’. Tutors can be contacted by telephone and email at almost any hour of the day, allowing for more support and interaction than most traditional university courses. In addition, on-line courses provide another mechanism for students to interact with each other.

Other institutions are now starting to provide distance learning programmes, offering students of all ages the flexibility to study from home. This means that non-traditional students, perhaps those with a disability, mothers, carers or people who need to have a job to finance their studies can pace their learning to match their circumstances. Since undergraduate university tuition fees have reached record highs, it makes sense for people to look at new modes of study to allow them to work. After all, some traditional universities even seek to restrict the number of hours their students can undertake paid work in an effort to make them focus on their studies. Distance learning MBAs have been around for about ten years and there are many other postgraduate degrees that can be studied in this way.

Distance learning requires students to be motivated and organised. Many of the degrees are recognised by professional bodies such as the British Psychological Society. However, it is not only degrees you can study. You may wish to do a distance learning course in interior design or perhaps study for a GCSE or A-level. Schools may not offer the subjects you wish to study due to staffing limitations or lack of demand, and studying on-line may offer you greater choice and a way of show-casing your initiative and organisational skills, which universities and employers prize highly. Information about available courses can be found on www.findanonlinecourse.com along with tips for choosing a course to suit you. For one-to-one advice go to the sister website, www.myuniapplication.com.

Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication.com and www.findanonlinecourse.com.  She can guide you with all aspects of your application and give you expert guidance on finding the right course for you.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.myuniapplication.com


FindAnOnlineCourse.com’s top tips for Distance Learning:

  • Make sure you have a clear idea of how much study time the course. requires and assess whether you have the time to make this commitment.
  • Make sure you have a dedicated quiet space to work in.
  • Research difference courses and check the entry requirements, fees and other costs such as materials.
  • Be clear what completion of the course will do for your career. Contact relevant professional bodies to check the course is accredited by them if relevant.
  • Talk to a professional adviser such as Natalie Lancer, about which course is right for you.