Things I wish I'd known last year when my child was applying for uni

(102 Posts)
ICantFindAFreeNickName Wed 27-Aug-14 20:03:50

I thought it might be useful to put together a list of things that may be useful for parents going through the process this year.

These are the thing that I wish we had known.

1. Although it is not meant to make a difference when you put your UCAS application in, an early application can have some advantages. With some uni's you can apply for your accommodation as soon as you make it your firm choice, so an early application could mean you have a much better chance of getting your 1st choice of accommodation.

2. There seems to be a trend of more uni's offering unconditional places for certain courses. These students are then given their accommodation before students with conditional offers. Which is great for kids with unconditional offers, but means those waiting for their A level results will have less chance of getting the cheaper accommodation. Might be worth asking the uni's what their policy is.

3. Do renew your kids passport even if there is no chance of them going abroad during the year, as it makes applying for student finance so much easier.

4. Durham has a reputation for keeping kids hanging on for a decision, I would ensure your kid really wants to go there before putting it down as choice and managing your kids expectations about how quickly they will get a reply.

5. Don't spend ages investigating what accommodation your kid wants, as the chance of getting what they chose seems pretty small (or is that just my ds and several of his friends).

6. People on mumsnet often have more idea about the whole process than your child's teachers.

That's all I can think of for now, as you can see accommodation is on my mind at the moment.

Solo Wed 27-Aug-14 20:08:28

Thank you. Will tuck this away under 'I'm watching' for future reference.

charlie0123 Wed 27-Aug-14 21:47:59

Second the point about accommodation. We didn't realise that applying early meant you could reserve your chosen halls. Get applications in sept/oct if your child knows where they want to go.

CatherineofMumbles Wed 27-Aug-14 21:59:46

Thanks so much OP - very generous of you to take time to pass on this advice to us - even tho' s/he may not have got optimum accommodation, you DC has more importantly lucked in with the lovely mum s/he has got!

antimatter Thu 28-Aug-14 07:58:48

Thanks for that info!

Spadequeen Thu 28-Aug-14 08:06:56

My dd is 10, thinking I'm probably getting way ahead of myself here putting this on my watch list!

boys3 Thu 28-Aug-14 10:27:18

I'd heartily endorse icant 's points, particularly those around accommodation.

On that front I'd add that tuition fees are not the big deal, £9,000 or £90,000 makes no difference in the short term, but at the outset that £9k annual tuition fee figure was probably what worried myself and DH most in terms of finance. Totally unwarranted fears. On the other hand once accommodation costs starting coming out of the woodwork to go with other living costs allied to the limits on student loan / grant, and relatively low household income thresholds that is something worth really understanding early on.

The student finance website has a useful maintenance loan calculator, worth bearing in mind that its household taxable income, and that it tapers off quite quickly. Two earners, even though basic rate taxpayers, could be in for a nasty surprise. I'd recommend being aware of that sooner rather than later.

Durham University.....is very highly rated and an excellent institution, DS1 really liked it and had it as his insurance. However as the OP points out unlike many Uni's they wait until the mid Jan deadline before starting to make offers, and then take their time about that. They have the added complication of course department(s) decision then glorified halls of residence college allocation. It can take quite a long time and some departments seem quicker than others.

On point 6, MN is great for support, but don't take everything as gospel. What is true for one uni may well differ for another. MNers have very useful experience of the Uni's that their DC has applied to / visited, but don't assume that what is said about one uni can necessarily be applied across the board.

As a new 7th point worth knowing exactly how the grades and A*s etc are calculated between AS and A2.

Finally, begging forgiveness for such a long post, never feel that there is not a place for wine and cake through y13. In moderation of course smile

Notsoskinnyminny Thu 28-Aug-14 10:38:17

Open days are crammed together late Sept/Early Oct if your DCs are starting Y12 go this year rather than waiting until Y13 and go to some in June. Better still go in Y11 before A level choices are made, DS had his heart set on Law from about 14 but at one open day we went to a couple of other subject talks and found he couldn't apply because he hadn't picked the right subjects. He probably wouldn't have changed his mind but his A2 subjects (all humanities) narrowed his choices.

Personal advice - don't do Law - 500+ places at the 5 unis in a 30 mile radius of where we live and practically zero chance of getting a training contract. DS is a glorified office junior and so disheartened sad but still <yippee for him for not giving up> wants to be a solicitor so he's going to do the legal execs course, followed by the LPC, which will mean he won't need a TC could've saved himself a lot of time and debt by getting an apprenticeship after his A levels

LightastheBreeze Thu 28-Aug-14 10:52:32

Also when they look at getting the student house for the second year, this usually happens about January, there are usually upfront payments to be made, you may be asked to be a guarantor and a third of the next years rent may be due in June.

Quite often the DC's get on with doing this and you will know nothing until there is an urgent request for money (deposit, agents fee etc) and a guarantor form is presented to you. Usually the day before its all needed

Always have a plan B. Remember there are no hard and fast rules regarding leniency if a grade is missed even by a fraction whilst some still get in ,others don't even when on paper they have done better than friends who have got in. Ds readily accepted he would be going to his insurance (he had been hard pressed to choose between the two in the first place) and not his firm but knows of others totally unprepared to have missed their offers and with no real idea what to do next.
Don't spend hours looking at mark schemes, predicted grade boundaries etc on TSR, the moment your paper is handed in it's done there is no point stressing over it you can't change it!

unrealhousewife Thu 28-Aug-14 11:00:29

Thanks for this, marking my place.

WildThong Thu 28-Aug-14 11:01:14

Thanks for this thread, also added to my watch list for next year..
I'm kind of hoping my DS will get into one of the local universities so he can stay at home but who knows what will happen,

maudpringles Thu 28-Aug-14 11:07:56

Some really good points made especially about student finance as we are not big earners but had a nasty shock when that letter came! through!
Also, pick your insurance choice wisely and dont rely totally on your predicted grades(dd narrowly missed outon first choice) Friends are not happy with insurance so stuck.One chose a uni with higher gradesconfused

missed out on first choice

BackforGood Thu 28-Aug-14 11:09:41

Agree with what boys3 said about - although there is a wealth of hugely helpful information on MN, and I've learned SO much more from here than anywhere else, there are also many posters who put some nugget of information down as if it's gospel truth for all universities, when often it isn't. Remember to read "IME" or "At my dc's University" mentally in front of each post.

ds, for example, has his first choice of accommodation even though he didn't apply for it until May (applications opened in February).

With hindsight, I wished we'd gone and looked around at least a couple of universities at the start of Yr12 - it really seemed to inspire / enthuse ds who had been bumbling along throughout Yr12, assuming he would just go to University without doing any work.

Durham treated a lot of applicants badly, but not all. My DS got an offer very quickly and yet his friend, same course similar grades got no offer.
DS wished he had looked at more universities. (He didn't choose Durham in the end).
Accommodation is different everywhere, what seems consistent is that nobody gets what they ask for!

stonecircle Thu 28-Aug-14 12:23:31

Am watching this thread with great interest as ds is about to go into year 13.

As he wouldn't engage with the process until he got his AS results we're now trying to juggle open days. A couple of places that he's interested in have them on the same day so we're going to try and do 2 in one day. But the open day for one he is interested in is full so I'm just wondering how we're going to deal with that.

friendface Thu 28-Aug-14 13:59:02

Again, DS had a fine experience of Durham's admissions policy, so much so that he's going next month. In fact, the worst treatment he or his friends experienced was from a much exalted London university. So my advice would be not to let the reputation of a university, good or bad, sway your DC's decision.

On that note, I would recommend not using the league tables as a basis for decision making. Make sure your DC go with the institution and course that they like, not one that is ranked most highly for their course.

Tell your DC not be embarrassed to ask questions at open days! DS came home from his first with more questions than he went with as he was too shy to ask any. He got a lot more out of the next couple of open days when he went with the confidence to go and ask the staff any questions he had. This is particularly useful in relation to the course as, just because two courses have the same title they can vary enormously.

mumslife Thu 28-Aug-14 14:21:03

reading with much interestsmile

Primrose123 Thu 28-Aug-14 14:28:18

Very useful, thank you Icantfind. smile

twentyten Thu 28-Aug-14 14:35:22

Hi all. Really useful stuff for dd in year 12. Stone circle- we visited a couple of unis in the summer on non- open days and got talking to some really useful people - including1/2 hour with an admissions tutor for her subject at bath so check that out- you can also arrange appts ( we didn't) . We found it more useful than open days.

Lilymaid Thu 28-Aug-14 16:54:55

Do make sure your DC is clear what sort of environment he/she wants to live in for the next three years. City university or campus university? Big city/county town.
Also accessibility to/from home can be an issue - we found a two hour journey to the university was far enough away for them to be independent but easy to visit for a day to replenish stocks/take out for a good Sunday roast and to take and collect at beginning/end of term if necessary. Lugging lots of bags across London from one mainline station to another or spending many hours on buses/trains isn't much fun.

jeanne16 Thu 28-Aug-14 17:40:46

It is very important to get Ucas applications in early, by Nov at the very latest. This is not just to do with accommodation but most unis offer places as the year progresses. They don't wait for all applications to come in before they assess them. So some students get offers in Nov/ Dec time when other very similar students get rejections from the same unis in Feb/March, as the courses are full! I had this advise directly from the Admissions Officer at a top London Uni.

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Thu 28-Aug-14 18:04:54

One thing I didn't understand until our son was well advanced with the whole UCAS thing was that you can't accept any offer as firm or insurance until all decisions are made on all your applications. In his case he had the first four decisions by the end of January and it was Warwick that kept him hanging on - I think it was March or possibly April before he heard from them.

If Warwick had been his top choice this would have been much worse. However, it might have been his insurance choice if they'd made him a lower offer than the one from his firm choice. (In the end it was identical! Which made it even more annoying having to wait so long.)

If an applicant is waiting for a decision from a course they are no longer interested in, they can withdraw and then they can get on with accepting the offers they really want. But few people are in that position.

I am not a patient person and this bothered me much more than my son, but fortunately for us it didn't affect the accommodation position at all. It's clear from this thread that not everybody is as lucky.

stonecircle Thu 28-Aug-14 19:44:39

Twentyten - that's incredibly useful to know. DS wants to do Human Geography (yay - we've made a decision ....) and is interested in Exeter but the open day is full. Also Plymouth is a possible insurance but the open day isn't until 11 October and his school's deadline is 17 October so that would be cutting it a bit fine. Sounds like it would be worth getting in touch with both to see if he could visit at a time other than the open days and get some advice.

Lilymaid - ds knows exactly what sort of place he wants to go to. As he put in a text to me, "I do like campuses if it's in a city, don't like them when they're separated from everywhere. But on the other hand I don't just like a city." Clear?!!!

CatherineofMumbles Thu 28-Aug-14 19:48:44

StoneCircle, I think I know what he means - I was at Reading which is mostly on a campus, but surrounded by town grin. Whereas, I think eg York is a campus away from town?

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