Better than expected A level results - now so confused, help!

(56 Posts)
mindgone Fri 16-Aug-13 13:59:28

I never expected this problem, and would never have expected it to be such a difficult one!
DS has ABB offer for pharmacy in a RG uni
Yesterday got A*A*A.
Loves chemistry, and is now wondering about chemical engineering, because a couple of his friends are doing it, and he always thought it sounded great, but assumed it was beyond his reach.
Yesterday, he rang the chem eng dept of the same uni that offered him pharmacy, and someone (I think the HoD) said that with those grades they would definitely take him. He said he would think about it, but was warned to make a quick decision.
He is now in a real dilemma! He is swinging between taking pharmacy, taking chem eng in a hurry, and taking a year out to re think everything.

Any advice greatly appreciated. Especially as he drives me mad a lot of the time, and I think I was looking forward to a more peaceful year without treading on eggshells every day! But of course, he is my son, I love him very much, and will support him in any way I can.


sashh Fri 16-Aug-13 14:57:07

If both courses are at the same uni call them back and see if he can transfer after a year or even a term if he thinks he made the wrong choice.

I remember there being quite a bit of switching between courses after a term or so at Uni.

Is/was he passionate about pharmacy or was it always a compromise choice based on his expected grades?

Gruntfuttocks Fri 16-Aug-13 15:05:49

With uni fees at their current level, can he afford to make a mistake first time round? To be honest, it doesn't sound like he was that committed to pharmacy in the first place, if he is willing to think about changing courses at the drop of a hat. Is he really keen on the university that has made him an offer, or is that also negotiable? With those grades he could apply anywhere and have a reasonable chance of an unconditional offer for next year, so I think if he is uncertain the sensible thing to do would be pull out and start again. A year seems a long time now, but it soon passes, and he could spend his time gaining some work experience and putting together a really top application.

ILoveAFullFridge Fri 16-Aug-13 15:06:47

I would say that he should follow his passion. Having the opportunity to do that is quite a luxury and he should grab it with both hands.

Well done!, mindgonejr!

mindgone Fri 16-Aug-13 15:08:16

He thought he was passionate about pharmacy, but discovered it by accident, and never looked into anything else, and thought himself very fortunate to be considered for it. If he got ABB or AAB, he would be happily off to study pharmacy. But because he didn't research into other avenues (despite my strongest advice, but what would I know, I'm only mum!!), he now feels he should really think long and hard and research it, because so many more doors are now open to him. He is worried about going 'off the boil' with studying and forgetting lots if he took a year out.

Gruntfuttocks Fri 16-Aug-13 15:12:42

DD just finished a year out - she did an Open University course to keep her brain ticking over - really enjoyed it. She did something related to her future degree course to support her studies but not exactly what she will be doing, so as not to duplicate.
The advice from admissions tutors to gap year bods is always to read your A level notes in September before you start so that you are up to speed with everyone else!

chemenger Fri 16-Aug-13 16:11:55

The thing to remember about chemical engineering is that there is a lot more maths in it than chemistry. Unless he really enjoys maths and finding mathematical solutions to things he won't like chem eng, maths underlies almost all that we do. We use some chemistry, but to be honest its pretty basic, chemists do the hard chemistry.
So my advice is if he loves maths - do chem eng, if he doesn't - do pharmacy.

Kez100 Fri 16-Aug-13 18:10:03

I think there is so many more doors now open to him that to a year out with either further study, work or volunteering would be the best option.

He can re-look at all the Universities available to him and look at courses too and what they involve. Then, apply having thought seriously about his options, and hopefully get an unconditional offer which often makes accommodation choices easier too!

eatyourveg Fri 16-Aug-13 18:37:24

Personally I'd stick with the pharmacy and consider switching later on if he still feels the same way.

creamteas Fri 16-Aug-13 18:37:56

As an admissions tutor I would say take a gap year and think about it.

Universities will be falling over themselves to take him next year.

Congratulations to your DC

themottledcat Fri 16-Aug-13 20:05:24

Re-apply next year with those grades!!!

harbinger Fri 16-Aug-13 20:14:45

It may be rather hard to keep the old brain alert for a heavy duty science degree during a gap year.

There is no guarantee that next years candidates will underperform.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Go for the Chem Eng and defer for a year or start now and switch?

creamteas Fri 16-Aug-13 20:36:31

There is no guarantee that next years candidates will underperform

Applications with results are always looked at in preference to those still taking exams. Why would you prioritize a possibility against a certainty!

Starting a degree course you are not sure about is a waste of everyone's time (and a whole lot of money!).

harbinger Fri 16-Aug-13 22:08:46

Yes, I'm wrong.

Cromwell44 Fri 16-Aug-13 22:28:05

What attracted him to pharmacy in the first place? When we looked at it with my daughter and thought it was a bit limiting intellectually. If he's not sure, then it's best to give it a year, do some more research and make a considered decision.

mindgone Sun 18-Aug-13 23:15:30

Creamteas, I think you're right, thanks. Of course, he'll have his own ideas too. At the moment he seems to be swinging towards a gap year. He's planning on ringing the Pharmacy admissions tutor tomorrow to explain his situation and ask their advice, is that a good idea do you think?

Cromwell44, I think the chemistry aspect of pharmacy appealed the most, along with the caring aspect too. Also a big part of it, I believe, is the fact that it leads to and qualifies one for a career, not just a degree.

Any other points and ideas gratefully received.

NoComet Sun 18-Aug-13 23:27:42

He needs to think very very carefully about jobs after he graduates.

I don't know about pharmacy, but I'm guessing it leads to shop, hospital and possibly research jobs all over the country.

Chem eng. doesn't. If you want a job that properly uses your degree you are tied to a very few places in the country. It cost my DF his marriage (he had a job in aerospace in the south, his chem eng wife ended up working north of Blackpool).

mindgone Sun 18-Aug-13 23:46:47

He really doesn't know much about about chemical engineering yet, just what his friends have told him, and what he's researched in the last few days. Interesting points StarBallBunny, thanks. DH is concerned about pharmacy, as he knows a couple of people who have changed careers, out of it. Apparently we will be over saturated with pharmacists in a few years. Whilst lurking on a pharmacy TSR thread, I have noticed quite a few students getting in with lower grades than their offer, eg someone got into Bath with BBB instead of AAB! Loads of places were available in clearing too, which both make me worry about the devaluing of pharmacy generally.
Does anyone have any ideas about other potential courses/careers? He has chemistry A*, biology A* and maths A.

Boosiehs Sun 18-Aug-13 23:55:47

I echo what a poster said up there. He may struggle without physics a level, and needs to realise quite how much maths is involved in engineering of any kind.

Take a year out, do some proper research and work experience,, have fun and reapply next year.

NoComet Mon 19-Aug-13 01:22:25

I did biotechnology and ended up as a Biochemistry postgrad at a RG uni having got the then equivalent of A* biology B chem C physics and D maths (which was why I didn't end up doing physics).

I really enjoyed it, but have never used it as DD1 came along.

NoComet Mon 19-Aug-13 01:23:44

Long ago before all A's were common outside Oxbridge and medschools.

LongGoneBeforeDaylight Mon 19-Aug-13 02:18:03


mindgone Mon 19-Aug-13 10:43:59

He really doesn't fancy medicine, which was further confirmed by attending a medicine talk at a uni open day with his brother, who does fancy medicine, yesterday.
StarBallBunny, what can you do with biochemistry? Please excuse my ignorance!
A gap year sounds great, but of course it's only a few extra months, max, to have a new application in to UCAS.

chemenger Mon 19-Aug-13 11:21:58

Physics A level is often not needed for chem eng degrees, it depends on the individual university. Biology is useful for programmes with a biochemical engineering element - most if not all will include some biochemical stuff. The physics needed is mainly classical mechanics, much of what is taught in school physics is not relevant - electronics, optics etc so students do fine without A level or higher, with a bit of extra self-study when needed.
Chem Eng graduates work all over the UK and abroad, there are lots of chem eng jobs south of Blackpool! North sea oil production with its high starting salaries (>£30 000 for MEng graduates) might distort this at the moment but food and drink, water, and fine chemicals are distributed across the country.
As far as alternatives to pharmacy and chem eng go I think its important to remember that graduates with non-vocational degrees are just as employable as those who study things with obvious specific jobs at the end. The most important thing at this stage is to study something you are interested in and enjoy. If he loves chemistry why not take a chemistry degree? Much better to take time to find the right course than to commit to 4 years studying chem eng and finding you don't enjoy it.

alreadytaken Mon 19-Aug-13 11:38:52

if he is concerned about employment prospects how about a 4 year course in chemistry like this one? or go to Bath where they have a good record of getting people into employment and excellent sports facilities

There are courses around that combine Chemistry and Chemical engineering

He might find a place at other universities this year with his grades but a gap year and a few months thinking about what he really wants might help.

madamginger Mon 19-Aug-13 11:50:38

As a pharmacist, the locum market is already near saturation. Rates of pay have been slashed and targets are raised. Its very much an employers market. And its going to get worse.

Changebagsandgladrags Mon 19-Aug-13 13:09:28

Could he take a physics course during his gap year? Or some further maths? Maybe something at Birkbeck if you are near London or at the OU.

Boosiehs Mon 19-Aug-13 16:08:51

I did a chemistry degree at RG uni, and found that I really needed the physics a level. It's far more necessary for uni level chemistry than A level.

chemenger Mon 19-Aug-13 18:17:28

Boosiehs that's really interesting. If you don't mind me asking, which parts of physics did you find helpful? It's the sort of thing I end up talking about at open days (lots of applicants deciding between Chemistry and Chem Eng, as you might imagine) and I have to admit to knowing not a lot about chemistry at university level (or remembering much about school physics.

sanam2010 Mon 19-Aug-13 19:20:31

Why doesn't he go for a Chemistry degree? There is a huge shortage of top candidates in Chemistry. I have a friend who got into Cambridge PhD programme in Chemistry from non-RG uni and he did extremely well. It's a fascinating field where he could get into really state of the art research. Might be an even better idea than the chem engineering course.

mindgone Tue 20-Aug-13 00:42:38

Thanks all, some really interesting points and ideas. He has now contacted the pharmacy uni and given up his place! He will research chemistry related degrees, and see what appeals, and open days too. He is thinking of doing some kind of course to keep his brain in gear, quite possibly some physics. Interesting that you think this would be a big help Boosiehs. Any other ideas for useful study related to chemistry?
He passed his driving test last week too (a big week all round!), so I guess now that he's planning on being around for another year, we'll have to think about a car, so he can get to jobs etc independently.

alreadytaken Tue 20-Aug-13 07:39:55

another university with placement courses, good student satisfaction ratings and good numbers finding jobs

May even be vacancies still for 2013 for Chemistry students with grades like your sons, maybe not on tht course

mynameisnotmichaelcaine Tue 20-Aug-13 07:45:29

Aww bless you both. This happened to me. I had a CCD offer for English at an ex-poly and got AAB (back in the days when those were good grades! ;)) I took a year out and did English at Oxford in the end. It turned out to be a great decision, I had time and space to make the best choice for me.

I temped for a year in a REALLY boring job, and it was the best thing ever for making me motivated to study at uni - no way did I want a job that dull ever again!

mindgone Tue 20-Aug-13 12:36:20

Alreadytaken, thank you so much, will def get him to look into that one.
Mynameisnotmichaelcaine, thanks, it's good to know someone who's been through this too, and come out the other side! I haven't told many people what he got, just that he got his offer but is now undecided. But the people who do know think its great, and don't realise that it's actually quite a dilemma, and really tough decisions have to be made in a short space of time. He knows he should be over the moon, but everything is upside down for a while. And next we have DS2's GCSE results on Thursday! Poor boy coming after those results! At least we know what he's doing for the next two years, unless he spectacularly messes up!

Boosiehs Tue 20-Aug-13 13:11:27

I found that chemistry was far more hard science than A level. Lots of quantitative stuff for which maths is essential, and a lot of quantum mechanics.

The traditional organic and inorganic chemistry, and the experimentation was full on too. 12 hours labs a week, plus another 12-16 hours lectures and tutorials.

I'd say that a physics ourse this year, possibly just with a tutor, plus keeping up with chemistry knowledge wold stand him in really good stead. Any uni will bite his hand off! Try imperial as a start, or apply to Oxbridge? Manchester and UCL are v good. I went to Durham and had a brilliant time.

Mumzy Tue 20-Aug-13 20:56:42

Agree with everything Boosieh says about degree level chemistry compared to A level. A pure science degree such as chemistry can be very abstract and people study it of the pure love of the subject or does he want to do something more applied like mechanical engineering or colour chemistry. Agree he should take his time to research the courses properly ( even if it means taking a gap year) and find a course which he's most suited to

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 02:40:10

no no not pharmacy

go with chemical engineering if he is sure he wants to attend that uni, or take a year out

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 02:42:35

just seen he has decided, think it's a smart choice. I would suggest maths/physics extra study to keep fresh

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 02:44:38

can do some OU bits if he wants

also remember the oxb. and med deadline is October on ucas so he'll need to think by then where he would like to apply. If it were me I'd be applying to my chosen course at oxford,cardiff,bath,imperial. + wherever

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 02:44:53


cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 02:45:25


RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Thu 22-Aug-13 03:34:51

Dh did chemical engineering for his undergrad. He's an investment banker having joined a grad scheme after uni. The good thing about chem eng is that it's seen as a good, solid academic subject by grad scheme employers in finance, consultancy etc. as well as for degree-specific roles.

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 03:54:27

places at Birmingham in clearing for this year if he does an about turn here

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 03:57:53

or even here

cafecito Thu 22-Aug-13 03:58:55

(still think a year out is better)

zizza Thu 22-Aug-13 07:46:11

Good on him for taking a brave decision and good luck to both of your for the coming year! He has so many options open to him with those results, it's worth him taking his time (there's actually not that much time really as he'll be applying again before you know it). And if he can earn some decent money this year that'll really help :-)

I was going to ask if he'd ever thought of being a vet with those subjects - but he'd have to apply very soon and hasn't got the work experience behind him.

chemenger Thu 22-Aug-13 07:57:28

One last word of advice. If he decides on something with a strong maths content then he should revise his A-level maths materials for a month or so before the start of university. It seems that maths evaporates much more than other subjects, I think because it is skill based as well as knowledge based and lack of practice really holds people back after a year out.

mindgone Fri 23-Aug-13 00:59:00

Thank you all so much, you've all been so helpful and supportive!
Cafecito, do you have inside knowledge of pharmacy by any chance?
And chemenger, he has already started practicing his maths!
Zizza, he is a little nervous of animals!
He is applying for all sorts of jobs now to keep himself going, also has a list of open days to go to. All seems brighter this week! DS2 did very well in his GCSEs too, so def a happy week! Off to France tomorrow, so will check in when back, don't know if we have wi fi. Thanks again all, your wisdom and experience is much appreciated smile

Almostfifty Sun 01-Sep-13 15:46:25

Has he looked at doing a Year in Industry? It's a way of getting a bit of money together before he goes to Uni, and also a way of learning about the industry he might want to work in.

mindgone Tue 03-Sep-13 19:10:52

Home from France now! DS is applying for loads of jobs at the moment, and looking up uni open days -again! I think a year in a relavent industry sounds like a fab idea, especially as he hasn't been thinking about chemical engineering for very long really. Does anyone know where to start looking?

Almostfifty Sat 07-Sep-13 09:56:31

Sorry, just seen this again!

Look at the student room, and google a year in industry. They find firms for you.

chemenger Sat 07-Sep-13 10:32:19

Might be worth contacting the Institute of Chemical Engineers for information on years in Industry, I haven't seen many students who have done this but they do exist. Coincidentally I spoke to a young man who had just done this and to a company (can't name them here but could privately) that does them under some scheme. I can' t remember if you have said where you are - if in the north I could make some suggestions. If he could go to Aberdeen he would definitely find a place.

chemenger Sat 07-Sep-13 10:34:03

I meant to say I spoke to the student and the company last week. As I say to students -always proofread. In my defence I have the wrong glasses on.

Ehhn Sat 07-Sep-13 10:34:34

Year out and work experience in both industries during the year out...

mindgone Sat 07-Sep-13 21:11:23

Thanks all, chemenger, we are in the northwest, but not far from the midlands either!

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