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support thread for those of us who have DC submitting UCAS applications in the next few months

(816 Posts)
mumoverseas Sat 21-Aug-10 14:53:28

Thought we should all get together and calm each other down/mop fevered brows/hand around glasses of wine etc. We've seen other go through it over the past few months and it will be our turn soon.

DS has just got his AS results which were not too bad. AAAB. The B suprised him as it was for maths and we'd expected a B for french which he had not studied for a few years as sat his GCSE early. He says he will re-sit one of the maths modules and one of French ones to get a higher A hmm

He (we!) has been considering various Unis over recent months and has visited 4.
PS is all in hand as is extended project (whatever all that is about) but time is creeping by and not long now til his mid Oct deadline (one of his choices is Oxbridge)

There has been so much in the papers over recent days about the lack of places at University at the moment and stories of how so many good students did not get places as they didn't put 'insurance' choices.

How is everyone else coping and how do we get our children to make realistic choices?

webwiz Sat 21-Aug-10 18:14:48

I'm going through this second time round with DD2 and I can't believe how much the whole thing has gone mad in two years. DD1 sailed through the whole process, got 4 out of 5 offers, proceeded to not do any work in year 13 and missed her grades but still got into her first choice unihmm

DD2 has had a difficult last couple of terms with glandular fever and there were problems with the teaching in 3 of her 4 subjects (I could go into them but once I start it will turn into a rant!) so her AABC at AS was well deserved. The C was in chemistry and she will resit one of the modules in Jan to hopefully "fix" it - one of her teachers was off ill and a lot of the syllabus wasn't actually covered before the exam. DD2 did ask me for help but it was a bit late by then. Also as she had to teach herself the missing bits of the Maths syllabus and half the history it was a bit difficult to fit it all in. The teaching has been changed for A2 so hopefully next year will be better and DD2 never wants to do History again in her life!

Anyway she's applying for Maths and her A's were Maths and Further Maths so at least she seems to have chosen the right subject.

mumoverseas Sat 21-Aug-10 18:30:48

woo hoo, you are here! webwiz you are so wise and knowledgeable (sp?) about educational matters, so glad you've joined in.

God, sounds like your DD has done very well under the circumstances. DS had the problem with half the syllabus being covered when sitting his GCSEs. Its not on is it.
Has she narrowed down her choices of Unis yet?

DS wants to read law and most of the Unis we've looked at so far want AAA which is a bit of a worry.

JGBMum Sat 21-Aug-10 19:08:23

So pleased you've started this thread nice and early MOS <soggy wave from v wet Isle of Wight>.

We return home tomorrow so will hopefully know what DS scores were, so far we have AABB from AS exams, still have F/Maths score to find out.

DS is looking to study Engineering and has visited Bristol, Southampton, Cambridge and Surrey so far. He/we is hoping to get to the Warwick open day next month, but it's quite a long train journety from where we live so he's hoping to persuade encourage some friends to go with him.

Can I just say that I noticed one of the A level threads had a list and timetable of options and dates for getting hold of copies of your paper and getting re-marks. I thought that could be incredibly useful come March next year.<spot the pessimist in the group> grin

oldmum42 Sat 21-Aug-10 19:54:45

Great Idea for a thread, MUMOVERSEAS.

My DS is also making an Oxbridge application, tho' as he's applying to study Medicine, ALL 4 of his choices have to be in by the earlier 15th Oct deadline.

We are in the Scottish school system, so it's been amazing to read about the differences in the two, no resits here in Scotland (unless you do the whole year again!), non modular and although some subjects have a project which counts towards the exam, all the pressure is on the big exam at the end. You can't resit bits of the course to increase your grade envy!
But check your Uni choices, I know that for Medicine at least, some Uni's will not accept re-sits, and some will. It may be the same for other very competitive courses.

DS1 got 6A's at Scottish Higher, but of course the other kids chasing those places will all have very high grades too. Usually they sit 4, 5 for high-flyers, but I'm not sure the extra subject really gains DS1 anything.

We feel like he/we have just joined a circus, loads of hoops to jump through, 2 Uni entrance exams to sit (UKCAT and BMAT), a deadline of 15th Oct and a school which has very little experience (state school, very little help or prep available for exams, uni application, personal statements and no interview prep, maybe 1 Oxbridge applicant every other year), so we feel we (the parents) are DS1 support network, as he won't get it at school!

Re Law, Dundee is asking ABB at Alevel for Law, entry 2011, housing etc at Scottish Uni's is fairly cheap (except St Andrews and Edinburgh). If the DC is going to live away from home, it probably doesn't matter how far from home!

Re insurance offers - there's been a lot about this in the news recently, I think a lot of people use them in the wrong way - say they get 3 offers, they pick the two uni's they most want to go to - which sounds fine, but if both are asking for AAA at Alevel, but the 3rd Uni is asking for AAB, then you should surely pick the 3rd Uni as your second choice........ so if you drop a grade from your predicted AAA you still have a uni place

For my DS1, my main worries are - the school screwing up the application (due to the early deadline), and also what happens if he gets offers, but has not yet heard from the other Uni's he's applied to (it looks like interviews could take place anytime between the start of November to April)...... how long can you hold an offer before you either reject it or confirm it as your 1st choice or insurance offer? And can DS1 choose an insurance offer BEFORE he has chosen a firm place? He may well be in the situation that one of the Scottish Universities he's applying to may offer him an unconditional place based on his Highers (sometimes they ask for Advanced Highers too), and that would be great, but Oxford is definitely his first choice (very tough to get into, I know), and they interview from Nov right through to April....

Anyone been through it before for their older DC?

snowmash Sat 21-Aug-10 21:03:01

Some of the cases I've seen in the paper have been students who haven't made their insurance choice an insurance choice (or even made any of their UCAS choices a lower grade).

They don't have to reply until UCAS has had all offers (from memory you choose firm and insurance at the same time).

FWIW, all medical schools are hard to get into, just in different ways. The London/Cambridge/Oxford system wouldn't suit all good candidates, just as some of the unis where they have clinical exposure from day 1 wouldn't suit all good candidates!

The parents' guide is useful here

Ponders Sat 21-Aug-10 21:34:12

can I be in your gang please?

DS got 3 As at AS, plus one dire D (subject he was dropping anyway but still, that won't look good on UCAS applicationsad). One of the As was 100%, which may help get him A* at A2, but I am worried about the D...he will be doing Critical Thinking at AS in Y13 but I don't think that will count for much?

He wants to do Politics with Philosophy or History & is looking at eg Edinburgh, York, Durham, LSE & Sheffield. We were sort of thinking about PPE at Oxford, but he's not doing Maths so probably has no chance there - the only other possible for him would be History with Politics & he's not so keen on that combination.

It's all very twitchy grin

oldmum42 Sat 21-Aug-10 21:54:25

Thanks for the link SNOWMASH, yes, we've spent time with DS going over some of the differences
in the med schools (DH is Dr, we have some contacts in several Uni's and all say the application process totally changed over the last few years, now very complex and many hoops to jump through)!

Oxford- DS1 likes it because of the very strong research bias - the info they gave him at the open day seemed to say they are actively looking for students who may wish to go into research during/after their medical degree, and DS1 is very interested in emerging technology - and the potential medical applications (he's been designing and building some interesting stuff in his spare time), but the pre-clinical years seem to be very much self-directed learning, and the interview process sounds really scary.

Edinburgh does not interview school leavers (usually), I see that as a plus! One less thing to potentially screw up.

Dundee has a fantastic set up, DS1 really likes the structure of the course, and the interview system is different to most - they get a series of 10min interviews with different people, so getting off on the wrong foot in one interview won't disadvantage you.

St Andrews is just finishing it's brand-new med school building, it only does pre-clinical, you then go elsewhere (often Dundee) for the clinical years.

Aberdeen seems to integrate the clinical/preclinical stuff a bit more.

Those are his 5 front runners just now (tho' he needs to cut it down to 4).

He may need to re-assess his choices Mid Sept
when he gets his UKCAT results - he's not submitting his application until he knows what he got (if he does less well, he will have to look hard at how each Uni uses the UKCAT results.....).

Thanks for the info regarding UCAS, so he doesn't need to decide until all 4 uni's have either rejected him or offered him a place? That's good.

mumoverseas Sat 21-Aug-10 22:19:53

hello all, some useful information on here already. We can get each other through this wink

Waves at JGBMum with equally damp hand from West Sussex. Just where is the summer I flew 3,000 miles to enjoy? hmm

DS has just (finally!) decided to apply to do the LNAT law test. Apparently some Unis require it and some doh't but to be on the safe side as he is still undecided where to apply he has applied to sit in and that is on 23rd September.

So far, his provisional choices are Cambridge, Southampton, one of the London ones, he is not sure which. He has visited those and has also recently mentioned Durham and Exeter. It is such a huge decision and I don't envy him.

snowmash, think you are right about the insurance thing. A lot of careful consideration required I think.

snowmash Sun 22-Aug-10 00:17:26

oldmum42: That's great that your DS has so much support...I'm only commenting based on friends' experiences (and the youngsters we've had shadowing research have tended to have the UKCAT book with them). It is a shame how much more complex it is become

oldmum42 Sun 22-Aug-10 09:15:33

Snowmash/mumOS, All these entrance exams are a bit of a stress - but the Uni's need some way of differentiating the top few % now so many get straight A at A level. Lots of extra work for the DC and extra cash for the exams and the books/internet study sites - we MAY also have to travel 70 miles to sit the Oxbridge BMAT, as we are still trying to find out if DS1 can do the exam at his school (if not, the nearest "open" exam centre for it is in Aberdeen, about an hour and a half away by car).

What gets me about the lack of help available at a lot of state schools here(maybe it's a bit better in England), is that very able kids are missing out on the chance to apply to the most highly competitive courses as they are not advised that for things like Med,VetMed and Dentistry, you need to start planning your application 2 years before you apply - to give time to build the kind of CV that admissions tutors for these subjects require (Duke of Edinburgh, Medlink/vetlink, community volunteering, several hobbies done regularly, extra curricular actives at school).
Some parents don't have the financial resources or ability/knowledge/contacts to best help their DC, if the school won't - and that's just a waste of talent.

We have been informally advising friends of DS1 and 2 about what they could/should be doing to improve their chances, as many will be the first in their family to go to university, and a number have started volunteer work, Rangers, Duke of Edinburgh etc as a result. (my DC are very bright, and like to hang with other very bright kids, but I'm proud to say they don't give a s**t about whether they live in a mansion or a council flat).
I was the first in my family to go to Uni (but it was a lot easier 20 years ago!), so I do enjoy doing my wee bit to encourage others in the same situation - but the point is, I shouldn't have to, the schools should get their act together and run some sort of advice scheme from the time the kids are about 14 right through to Uni entrance. Fat chance of that happening though!

mumoverseas Sun 22-Aug-10 09:29:52

oldmum that is terrible the lack of support and information.

I suppose I'm lucky in that DSs school appears to be very good with regards to that however we have had to remind them a few times that he intends applying to Oxbridge therefore will need support/advice early on in the term when he returns in a few weeks.

I received a lot of helpful advice and information on a thread on here last year. A lovely group of mums started a similar thread to this and although I was a year below them/their DC I gatecrashed and they were fabulous, really helpful and supportive.

I received lots of advice about how important the PS is and how a demonstrated interest in the chosen area of study will (hopefully!) help the application.

DS wants to read law and become a barrister aand in the last year I've/we've managed to sort him quite a bit of work experience. He idid a year in my old firm of Solicitors last summer and this year he sorted himself a week an another firm and we managed to get him a mini-pupillage at a barristers chambers where he really landed on his feet and spent a week in court on a final hearing with the head of chambers. Fingers crossed that this sets him apart from the hundreds of others.

I agree that there should be a lot more advice given to the kids much earlier on. DD has just chosen her options last term which she starts next month and fingers crossed she has made sensible choices which will allow her to follow her chosen career path. In the last few years she has gone from wanting to be a marine biologist, riding instructor, WAG (yes, a footballers wife/girlfriend!) a nurse (until DS helpfully pointed out to her that she struggles to wipe her own arse let alone anyone elses!) and now (thankfully) she wants to be a teacher of either history or english.

I really feel for the poor kids at the moment who have just done their AS levels and are already reading that it is all doom and gloom and many of them won't get a Uni place no matter how well they do.

Lilymaid Sun 22-Aug-10 11:01:59

Well, this is fortunately all behind me now, so shall give my words of wisdom from having two go through the system (one highly academic all As, top independent day school; the other middling - BBC):

1. Despite what some say, I reckon a decent personal statement must have some effect and DCs spent a long time on these with us helping to edit and suggesting how to bring out all the positives.
2. If you have a clever DC and they want to do a highly competitive subject it is always a good idea to have at least one university in their list that isn't stellar but that they would be reasonably happy to attend. We've all seen the stories of the all A student who has been rejected by 5 top universities.
3. Whilst there is still the possibility of retaking modules in January or even June, this should be considered. Also, don't be afraid to investigate remarking if your DCs mark is just off a higher grade/unexpectedly low. I put this on another thread, but it is worth duplicating here (A2 results were on 19.8):
i. Priority remark - for students whose university place depends on the remark. You don't see the script before the remark is done. Costs £50 - apply by 26.8ii. Photocopy script - usually returned within 7 days. Costs £16.00 - apply by 26.8
iii. Clerical check at exam board of marks (not a remark of script). Costs £16 - apply by 16.9
iv. Remark by senior examiner plus checking of marks and totalling. Costs £45 - apply by 16.9
4. There weren't many places available for clearing this summer and if you have to do this you need to act quickly. I checked the sites of my old university (1994 group) and the university DS2 will be going to (pre-1992 university, but well known as an insurance choice/clearing university) and there were no vacancies at all for home/EU students by Saturday evening and none in DC2's subject area ever appeared in clearing for these universities).
5. There is always the chance to retake in a gap year. If you have the money there are very good colleges for retakes, otherwise, the student can generally retake at their previous school/college but will probably need to pay for private tuition.

Good luck ... moves over to empty nesters thread and starts sorting out bed linen and promised laptop ...

oldmum42 Sun 22-Aug-10 12:13:06

Very sound advice re PS lilymaid, The "how to get into medschool" books we bought certainly push the PS as being INCREDIBLY important, so yes there will be plenty of editing/suggestions in the coming weeks (DS1 has sat with me and jotted down pages of notes, but it's not even a rough draft yet).

I'm sure the rest of the advice is fantastic too, for those in the English system, but does not apply to those of us in the Scottish system where we can't ask for remarks,clerical error etc, and any appeal is in the hands of the school (the state ones generally will only allow an appeal if you DC has done very badly indeed and/or there was a serious illness or similar at the time of the exam). Our school told us before the exams, if you are predicted an A and get a C, they will appeal....if they think its warranted!

MumOS, sounds like your DS has exactly the kind of work experience that will make his application shine - well done to you, it's very hard to find even when using all your contacts, IME! DS1 has managed to get a week work experience in a medical setting, and several 1 day sessions with Out of Hours provision and NHS24. Legal issues make it hard to get more, though he's been volunteering in a Barnardo's charity shop for a year too so hope that counts for something.

Yes, we also intend to remind the school regularly that DS1 application has an early deadline - we only know of one other kid in the school who's applying for a similar course (vetmed) which also has the early deadline, so the school may not be on top of it, if not gently reminded by DS1 on a regular basis. I've advised him (of course!) that there are ways of doing this without making the school feel like you don't trust them.....(I don't!), approach the referee with a question about your application, or ask if he needs any more info before the 15th, etc.

sarah293 Sun 22-Aug-10 12:17:35

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PixieOnaLeaf Sun 22-Aug-10 12:40:45

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mumoverseas Sun 22-Aug-10 12:43:23

welcome Riven, good to see you here.
Poor DS, missing out by 1 point is just awful, thank god/allah for re-sits grin
Is it worth him asking for a re-mark to hopefully scrape that extra one point?

DS was a bit worried about his predicted grades as he is probably going to need all As but hopefully the school will be helpful in this regard.
Riven, how do you feel about your DS wanting to stay close to home? I'm sure he will get a lot of consideration due to your home circs and helping with your DD.

Agree with everything said about the PS, it really is important. On a thread last year a few people were saying paid employment is also quite important (think actually there may be a question about it on UCAS application) but realistically, how do they expect all these 16 & 17 year olds to get paid work?

oldmum42 Sun 22-Aug-10 12:48:24

Riven, saw your comments on the other thread - Very well done to your DD on her results/oxbride success.
Your DS1's results are far from terrible and with the option of retakes, they can be improved upon..... if his chosen Uni does base an offer on BBBC, will they not just make it conditional on certain grades next year? So time to improve there too.

Or he could apply next year after he has his Alevel results - and spend a year doing work experience or similar?

I would have thought that the Home-schooling issue would work in his favour and he'd get cut some slack because of coming in late to the school system.

sarah293 Sun 22-Aug-10 12:51:42

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Ponders Sun 22-Aug-10 12:54:14

Riven, with one child already at university &, presumably, fairly low family income, I think next year both your student children should be entitled to maximum state grant & probably extra grant/bursary/other funding from the university?

sarah293 Sun 22-Aug-10 12:56:55

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Ponders Sun 22-Aug-10 13:07:36

yes, they are, but I think you may be able to get financial help with them when you're on low-income/benefits, either from govt or from the university.

Ponders Sun 22-Aug-10 13:12:34

Bristol University Access to Learning Funds

I think all universities offer this kind of assistance

Ponders Sun 22-Aug-10 13:18:29

ah, I've just been rummaging around the website & you're right, there seems to be absolutely no reduction on tuition fees - we're all stuck with those.

"Neither the tuition fee nor the tuition fees loan is linked to household income. Since the loan is paid directly to the University and is not repayable until after graduation, there is no need for additional help with paying fees."

ajandjjmum Sun 22-Aug-10 13:18:59

This is depressing. DD will be doing her UCAS application shortly, so I shall be watching this thread intently.

But....after getting DS's results on Thursday, we're still waiting to see where he'll be going!!!

He applied to 5 top unis (not Oxbridge though grin) and got offers from all, ranging from AAA to ABB. He actually achieved A*, A and B, so although his insurance have confirmed his offer, his firm are still considering.

I thought I'd be out buying bedlinen now - infact it's still constant checking on track!!

I really think that DS's PS and reference paid a big part, as although his GCSE's were good, they weren't exceptional.

For the medics, he has a friend who had no offer and came out with A*, A, A, A, who is now forced into a gap year. He applied to 4 top unis rather than going for one that was not so ambitious that would offer a fall back. Might be worth thinking about.

Sorry - long post!

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