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Second language for university ?

(25 Posts)
Buffledmom Thu 26-Sep-19 12:47:58


I have decided to write here as I can't seem to find information about the topic anywhere on google or from friends !

Maybe there is someone here who could help me understand how the system operates in the UK !

As I'm not from here I have no knowledge but I heard once from a friend that knowing a second language will help gather some points that assist with universities. Is that true ? And how does that work?

And lastly, does it work the same way with knowing how to play an instrument? Like piano for example.

Thank you for your help!

titchy Thu 26-Sep-19 16:19:09

Absolutely not true no. Nor is playing the piano, unless you're applying to a conservatoire, doing DofE etc. Extra curricular that a directly relevant to the degree being applied for are good to write about in the personal statement, and maybe essential for a lot of medicine courses, but other than that they ARE NOT NECESSARY AND DO NOT MEAN THE APPLICANT IS MORE LIKELY TO GET AN OFFER.

PettsWoodParadise Fri 27-Sep-19 07:52:59

Grade 6 or above in a recognised music exam does carry UCAS points but these are usually irrelevant e.g a course for English Lit might ask for A*AA or equivalent Scottish or IB scores. The extra UCAS points for the music exam doesn’t give any extra clout as it isn’t directly relevant to the application - i’ve heard it might tip a choice where universities are looking at whether to make an offer to a student who has narrowly missed a required grade but don’t know how true this is.

LIZS Fri 27-Sep-19 07:59:35

Some lower ranked unis look at UCAS points rather than purely exam grades but vast majority will make a conditional offer based on predicted grades alone , be it A level, IB, btec level 3 etc. Such things are only worth doing if they enjoy them in their own right or have direct relevance to the chosen subject and substantiate motivation to apply.

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 08:03:38

I think someone who has grade 8 music, gold dofe, a second language, work experience or volunteering AND AAA or starred As is going to look pretty impressive

berlinbabylon Fri 27-Sep-19 08:35:05

A second language is useful for life, not just uni applications, so yes I would absolutely recommend learning one and even if you don't want to study it as part of a degree lots of unis have language centres now where you can learn a language as a hobby so you can still carry on with it.

HugoSpritz Fri 27-Sep-19 08:42:12

Trewser - I assume therefore that your child is not yet at uni application stage as uni admissions teams confirm they really don't care about extra curricular unless it directly relates to a course. Of course of a person wants to do those things for personal enrichment that is great.

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 08:44:52

hugo yes i have one that's gone and one that's going!

3 x As are ten a penny at dd2s school and so they tend to do lots of extra curricular. No idea if it makes them more attractive to unis or not, they certainly aren't short of offers!

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 08:48:46

And the not caring about extra curric unless its related which we hear a lot on mumsnet - dd1 got an unsual qualification which was mentioned and discussed with interest at the two unis where she had the chance to talk directly to tutors. Again, no idea if it helped her get offers but it was certainly something to talk about! Obviously only worth doing these things if you are genuinely interested but someone who has the discipline to get grade 8 in an instrument, learn a second language as a hobby, play a sport and still get 3 As probably won't struggle with the workload at uni!

chemenger Fri 27-Sep-19 08:51:49

In my experience extracurriculars make no difference to applications to university. Not every applicant has the opportunity to take piano lessons or do DofE so it would be against every principle of widening participation to give weight to those things. However, when looking for graduate jobs I’m not sure all companies are as good at levelling the playing field so that may be where an advantage may come. Doesn’t mean that extracurriculars are worthless though, there is more to life than university entrance and getting on a grad scheme, and it does no harm to remember that. We put too much pressure on young people to get into the right uni and progress on the standard path, which is imo damaging to their collective mental health. Life is not a series of tick boxes.

Buffledmom Fri 27-Sep-19 09:08:06

Thank you all for your responses! It makes me understand a little better how things work around here. My daughter speaks already a second language as I'm not from here and of course I believe learning an instrument is very good for every child (if they are interested) just didn't know if it's true that those matter for uni as they don't matter in my country! So thank you all for shedding the light !

CripsSandwiches Fri 27-Sep-19 09:53:56

I did admissions for an Oxbridge college (in a STEM subject) and unless you are studying a course for which languages are important it will only make a very minimal amount of difference. Being fluent in a number of languages does give a general impression of someone who is intelligent and successful but ultimately we wanted someone who was good at the subject and would be able to cope with the course and flourish so 99% of the selection was based on performance on subject specific interview questions and tests.

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 10:32:38

Not sure about languages but a relative was rejected from oxford this year. Feedback said he didn't have enough interests outside of his subjects! He ended up getting 100 percent in one paper and has gone to an excellent RG but it was interesting.

titchy Fri 27-Sep-19 11:16:16

I think someone who has grade 8 music, gold dofe, a second language, work experience or volunteering AND AAA or starred As is going to look pretty impressive

Very impressive yes! Won't influence whether they get an offer though - not allowed.

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 11:24:08

so how DO they sort between candidates that all have As and A*s? Or do they just blindly offer to all of them?

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 11:24:28

Or is it random?

chemenger Fri 27-Sep-19 12:09:01

At my university highly competitive programmes do look at personal statements, but they are not looking for things that might not be accessible to less privileged applicants. When we used PSs we looked for expressions of genuine interest in our subject and evidence of some understanding of what chemical engineering is about. What ever extracurricular activities are included the important thing is reflection on how those activities have led to personal development. So it isn’t the absolute attainment that counts but the experience of getting it. Which could come from doing a paper round just as easily as doing DofE.

chemenger Fri 27-Sep-19 12:12:24

At the moment we don’t use PSs; we put all applicants in order of academic attainment and use experience to judge where to draw the line. Sometimes we get too many students sometimes we undershoot, and we just have to suck it up. Everyone above the line gets an offer, we don’t choose between two students with 2As and a B.

titchy Fri 27-Sep-19 13:56:02

so how DO they sort between candidates that all have As and A*s? Or do they just blindly offer to all of them?

Mostly they'll all get offers if their predicted meets their standard offer. If any course suddenly had an unexpected influx of incredibly well qualified applicants (see the Brian Cox effect grin) then offers would probably be made in order of highest predicted, possibly using relevant activities noted in the PS as a differentiator - but certainly not 'offer first to Dof E holders). It would be very unusual to be in that position though - mostly the university senior managers would be saying offer them all!!!!

Trewser Fri 27-Sep-19 15:35:33

Birmingham says

"Qualifications over and above your main exams (such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Understanding Industry Award or General Studies) will strengthen your application by demonstrating that you have sought to develop skills that will be useful in higher education study.

Although we do not normally make offers based on such qualifications, we do encourage applicants to take them and note them on their application forms"

Hoghgyni Fri 27-Sep-19 22:10:17

Universities only expect a GCSE in MFL if you plan to study languages. You can often start to learn a language at university alongside another subject.

My DD included one or two sentences at the end of her Personal Statement to say that she is a qualified sports coach and was head girl. Her school reference didn't refer to anything extra curricular. It was hard enough to stick to the character & line limit without cluttering it up with information which is of no relevance to her academic ability or interest in her chosen subject. Then again, she doesn't have the advantage of a private education where straight As are ten a penny, so she doesn't need lots of extra curricular activities to make her stand out against the rest of her year group when universities benchmark by school & background.

MollyButton Fri 27-Sep-19 22:23:21

The only University I know of that wants a MFL for non MFL subjects (and related like Classics or linguistics) is UCL, and if you don't have one you can do it as part of your degree.
An instrument only helps if it is relevant to the course - and I have known people pass the Audition to be a Choral Scholar at Oxbridge and then not pass the interview - so it doesn't even help then.

Fifthtimelucky Sat 28-Sep-19 10:30:00

Well quite. The auditions for choral scholars are to establish whether or not their voices are good enough, not whether or not they are good enough at the subject they want to study.

MollyButton Sat 28-Sep-19 12:38:59

@Fifthtimelucky actually I think she was perfectly "good enough" but probably it became clear that her passion was Music rather than Classics.

Fifthtimelucky Sat 28-Sep-19 14:22:45

Obviously I don't know the person you have in mind, but there will be other people who may be brilliant singers, but not good enough at the subject they want to study to get an offer of an academic place.

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