Entry into university is competitive and there are many different options to explore. The school works with many local universities to help keep you informed but a great starting point is to take a look at the following websites and begin searching for different courses and universities that may interest you. Remember universities are trying to attract you, where you go is down to you – no-one else.
- UCAS is the leading website. Universities keep UCAS regularly updated about changes to their courses: www.ucas.com
- Which is another great website to help you explore university. It also includes lots of useful guidance articles: www.university.which.co.uk
- What A levels do you need for the degree you want to study? www.university.which.co.uk
- Attending Open Days is crucial to really get a feel of a university and if it is right for you. Click here to Browse the Opendays.com calendar of university and college open days: www.opendays.com/calendar
It is important to check the entry requirements of each course carefully. Drop into the Sixth Form Office if you need advice: www.ucas.com
- Unistats uses data from entry requirements, student destinations and national student surveys: www.unistats.ac.uk
- Education Guardian focuses on the quality of teaching and what students think: www.theguardian.com
- Push Guide uses a wider variety of factors including money, ease of entry and student life: www.push.co.uk
At Barr Beacon School, we keep in touch with our Alumni and work with them to help enrich our careers programme. Alumni activities have included school assemblies, small group career focused talks, mentoring, application advice, mock interviews and can even be a quick response to a survey. Please contact the school if you would like to take part in Alumni events: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gemma McHugh: Fashion Management with Marketing at Southampton Solent University
“Going to university is one of the biggest decisions you may make in your life so you need to make sure that another 3 years of education is for you! Don’t be afraid to look at a range of course options. Sometimes your first thought of subject is not what you end up studying. If I’d followed my first thought I’d be studying Maths and not Fashion Management with Marketing. Choose a course that you want to do and not what other people want you to do; remember you’re the one who will be doing the work. If you are passionate and driven about a subject then do it!
Moving away from home to study is the best way to experience uni, because you will experience EVERYTHING that it entails. It is incredibly daunting and if you aren’t fazed about leaving home for weeks or months at a time, you haven’t put enough thought into your decision! Paying bills; doing the shopping; washing up; washing clothes; cooking; cleaning; your health; studying; assignments; deadlines; your social life are all your responsibility and your responsibility alone! For many of you, this will be the first time you have responsibilities like this and it will be a major learning curve. You may make some mistakes in the first few weeks of uni, but you will learn from these mistakes. These are the first steps to you developing into fully-fledged, independent adults.
Sometimes it will feel like all work and no play, but you’ll learn how to balance these in time with practice. But don’t be fooled, it is A LOT of hard work, probably more than you expect. Your degree will be split into many separate units, each with multiple weekly tasks; reading and assignments whilst running at the same time. The workload may seem excessive, but it’s the same with every degree. As long as you plan your work, breaking it down into lots of easily manageable tasks and work sensibly through them, then you’ll be fine!
Ask for help as soon as a problem arises, leaving it will just make it worse and uni tutors aren’t as forgiving as A Level tutors. Remember at school you’re one of several hundred students; at uni, you’ll be one of thousands! Universities have many support systems in place to help with any problem you may have. If it’s academic, your tutors can help with course content and personal issues. The library will help with research. The student’s union; student support networks and counselling services are all there to assist with major issues such as home sickness; anxiety; stress or bereavement. Some universities may even have an attached medical service for your physical health. Your tutors will not chase you for work; if you miss a deadline you will fail that assignment. Failed work has to be re-sat over the summer and you will only achieve a 40% pass or a fail.
But for as much hard work as it is, you will be rewarded with amazing experiences; learning something you love, being around like-minded people, visiting new places, trips in the UK, trips abroad, nights in, nights out, friendships. You’ll meet new friends; new best friends, new ‘siblings’, new aspirational figures, peers, future colleagues and potential bosses.
You will never be in an environment that is as creative, freeing, empowering, informing or as diverse as university!”
The personal statement is the most difficult part of your application and will take a lot of thought and redrafting. The school will give you lots of support with this.
These are the main areas that you should include in your personal statement:
- Why do you want to study this course? What interests you the most about this course? Show off your subject knowledge- be geeky. Talk about the super-curricular activities you have engaged with. (This will form the largest part of your statement).
- How are your current subjects/studies relevant to your chosen degree?
- What relevant work experience have you taken part in? Reflect on what you learnt from this experience that will help you on this course.
- Extra achievements/experiences inside and outside of school that will help you succeed on this course.
At Barr Beacon School, we will often encourage you to take part in extra-curricular activities or apply for roles in school, as employers and universities want to see that you do more than just show up for your lessons. Believe it or not, attending lessons and getting good grades is the bare minimum- and we know how hard those grades are to secure. Employers and universities will look at your grades first and if they are high enough, they will then read your application, personal statement and reference and will want to learn a lot more about you from there. However, here is where the crucial difference comes into play.
Employers will love to see as much extra-curricular activities as possible- anything that is ‘extra’ to your studies e.g. Sports Clubs, roles as a Prefect, voluntary work outside of school, School Council etc. Universities however only want to see a little bit of this. They are mostly interested in your super-curricular activities- anything you do above and beyond your learning that is directly linked to the subject you are applying for. For example, if you applying for a Physics course, universities want to hear about the wider reading you do beyond your studies; they want to know about the physics taster lecture you attended at a local university; they are interested in your thoughts on the Ted Talk you watched on astronomy; they want to hear about the MOOC course or EPQ you are completing on quantum mechanics. Be geeky about your subjects. Show how interested you are by going above and beyond what your teachers ask you to do. Ask your teachers for recommended wider reading. This is crucial for success at university and all those extra-curricular activities will pay off when you apply for your first job.
Follow these links to get started:
Student debt should never be seen as a barrier to university, but you definitely need to consider whether you are happy to take on a student loan or if you would prefer going straight into an apprenticeship and earning while you learn. Will you regret not having the student life experience? There is a lot to consider.
Yes, you will have a lot of debt after university, but this only has to be repaid when you are earning enough to start repaying and only a very small percentage of your wages are paid towards your student loan each month. It goes straight out of your bank account too, so it is hassle free. There will be nobody coming to your home to repossess your belongings or chase up your payments, and if you are unable to pay back the loan after 30 years then you won’t ever have to. Think of it more like graduate tax.
These websites have more detailed information to help you decide:
Working to save money has outgrown the traditional Gap year activities.
If you are an IT, Science, Technology or Business student try the Year In Industry and get a salary of £8,000 – £12,000 before going off to University.
Taking A Year Out is still a popular way to spend a year before going to Uni. This link will take you to 35 specialist providers with UK-based, support and information from the not-for-profit ‘Year Out Group’ organisation.
How to plan a gap year: