Year 12 and making your mind up

(30 Posts)
MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 11:41:24

My daughter is finding the whole UCAS thing hard. She's just returned to school after study leave A/S levels. Both teachers and fellow students are talking about applications and open days.

Her situation is that she is interested in studying Politics but not 100% sure. They are just starting the A2 syllabus, and the different topics studied mean that she's less sure than she was about favourite subjects.

She worked very hard for AS levels and didn't really want to divert her energies by thinking a lot about open days. So some of the ones she was interested in are booked up. She's in a bit of a spin about the relative of virtues of 'old' universities (possibly snobby and in small towns vs new (big impersonal cities.)

One of the drawbacks for her is that she thinks about things very throughly, seeing the pluses and minuses of everything. And she would also find it easier to leave the whole process until after she's got her AS results. (I suspect that these will be very good indeed, but she's not the over confident type i.e. - she'd rather not think about the most sought-after universities until she knows it is likely she would get the grades.

I have said that her father and I will try and talk things through with her at the weekend. We are happy to visit some of the possible university towns and cities with her over the summer, if that helps.

Just wondered if others had had similar experiences. (Neither of us are micro-managing parents, and our daughter doesn't take that well to being micro-managed. It's more a matter of giving her the tools to help her move forward with something she doesn't find that easy.)

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uninovice Thu 12-Jun-14 16:06:33

We're booked onto some this month but are also waiting for AS results and then going to more in Sept.

uninovice Thu 12-Jun-14 16:08:11

I say 'we're' - DS is booked onto them and I'll take him to some and DH will take him to others.

lalamumto3 Thu 12-Jun-14 16:52:46

Hi, I totally agree it is really quite overwhelming for them. My daughter went to look at one uni, on her own and came back exhausted and upset as she did not like it, she was then concerned that she would not find a uni that she liked. I have only been to one open day with her so far, which was Exeter on Monday, we had a really nice time and it was really useful.

If you can I would draw up a short list of possible units and look at when there open days are. Pick a couple and just go along to the open day. I think that will give you quite a good feel for the Uni and the type of place she will be happy at. I think the days are typically open to all, but the individual lectures get booked up.

There was a lot to see at Exeter that was not pre bookable and there was a hall with a stand for each subject, we had a really long talk to the head of the course that she is interested in. You will probably find that there are also accommodation tours, sports tours etc. We found it really useful and I would personally go along even if you could not get in to any specific lectures by pre booking, as I'm sure they would let her in if they had space on the day.

I hope that helps.

ISingSoprano Thu 12-Jun-14 17:03:57

could she go and visit one or two now which are quite close to home just to get a feel for what she is looking at and what questions to ask? Having done that she may have a slightly better grasp of what to look for come the autumn. I would also suggest having a look at some campus and some city universities - she may be surprised with what she prefers. Also, everyone mentions it but the student room is very good for getting answers about specific courses, accommodation etc.

MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Jun-14 17:22:14

What else is she doing for A level? My DD did Government and Politics as one of 4 A2s but hated the 2nd year. It was boring and dry. She had believed she wanted to study Politics at University, but realised she loved languages more and was a natural at them. Brilliant results and, for her, less work and definitely less boring.

I don't actually think being cautious about AS results will make much difference as nearly anywhere any good will want As. You might as well get going or you will never make a start. If she gets Bs, you might just have to look at less demanding courses or universities. I would urgently draw up a short list and get visiting. The September open days might still be open for booking or see if you can do a private visit. Durham saw my DD like this and we just emailed the colleges and the faculty - MFL by then! If you leave it too late, she will be faced with A2 work so the best time to go is now. Cities are great so long as you choose a University in the city and not on a campus miles away. The old universities are not all in small towns, unless you mean St Andrews. Bristol, Leeds, UCL, Edinburgh would be good places to start looking. Why does she think some universities are snobby? Everywhere has a wide mix of students so there is bound to be someone to make friends with and maybe she will discover people are not stereotypical!

MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 17:23:37

Those are helpful ideas, which I'll flag up.

My daughter's clear she doesn't want to go to one of the highly rated universities in her chosen subject, which is less than thirty miles away.

One issue that's a bit on mind is that she's actually very young for her year - late August birthday. She is adamant that she doesn't want to do a gap year. I don't want to be overprotective, but part of me suspects that as someone who's still only 16, she simply doesn't feel quite ready for all the stuff that's looming up.

Her school doesn't want them taking more than a couple of days off in September for opening days - however I think the autumn open days could work better for her. I might ring the school and say I would like them to be flexible. (My daughter would definitely want to catch up on any work that she missed.)

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MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 17:27:32

Oh, she's currently doing French, English, History and Politics. Definitely carrying on with History. Probably dropping French.

One of the hesitations is that she's considering Cambridge - Human Political and Social Sciences - but wants to know that she's really done well in AS Levels - before coming out with this. (She has visited Cambridge on a residential, so has a sense of what the place is like.)

GCSE results were very good, her predictions from teachers are excellent - it's more that her own nature is very, 'One step at a time.'

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MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Jun-14 18:09:43

I am not sure you can afford one step at a time with Cambridge because you have early closing for UCAS and then, hopefully, an interview. Time is what you don't have as others will have been plotting for a long time. I would keep the French as it opens up lots of possibilities of joint honours. MFL is historically easier to get onto. My DD was also late August birthday but we just went for it because she needed to know what to put on the UCAS form and in her personal statement (to her tutor at the end of September). They have to really think hard about what to write for maximum effect and there are usually lots of redrafts. Again, this is September. As you need to apply to another 4 universities, do you know if the courses are the same? How will this affect her personal statement? Lots to think about.

uninovice Thu 12-Jun-14 18:15:32

My DS is a July birthday and I know what you mean about them not being quite ready for the next stage. I"ve never been a fan of gap years, but am now wondering if it would be better - they can then apply knowing their grades and not have to endure the circus of waiting for A level results day.

MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 18:19:42

Daughter's school is very on the ball re timelines, UCAS, Oxbridge applications etc.

Mostly my job is just to offer a slightly broader perspective - as an alternative to the almost military-style educational processing that goes on there. (That general atmosphere of 'Don't you dare step out of line or do anything different or relax for one minute otherwise your entire life will beruined.')

Even as I was typing the earlier stuff my daughter seems to have bitten the bullet and found 3 open days at places she's interested in - and to have booked herself in.

She often goes through this pattern of preliminary angst followed by a display of fierce determination.

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MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 18:20:54

Oh and she has a French exchange coming up before the end of term. That may be quite helpful, one way and another.

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MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Jun-14 18:42:13

I know what you mean about deadlines and decisions. My DD felt she would get out of the discipline of learning with a gap year and very few in her school were planing one. Several more happened due to lower than expected results. She was also doing a 4 year degree with now 2 years at Law School. Gap years can be good if they are likely to enhance the application but bumming around and growing up don't feature that highly on a university personal statement. We felt our DDs year abroad at Uni was a gap year of sorts, mid degree, as there were opportunities to travel as well as study in two universities abroad.

creamteas Thu 12-Jun-14 20:23:00

If she is not sure what she wants to study then don't apply yet.

Do not let the school (or anyone else) put pressure on. People should go to university when they are ready and not before.

Being on the wrong course, or at the wrong university awful for students. Let alone the the fact they will be potentially paying for decades for this, or dropping out and getting nothing.

I actually feel very strongly about this and if I made the rules, post A level application would be the norm. And no one could apply until they had had at least one gap year.

So, go to some open days and get a feel of what is out there, but also make it clear that it is ok not to apply.

MarianneSolong Thu 12-Jun-14 21:16:19

I think she half-knows what she wants to study - or maybe three-quarters - but wavers around a bit, before coming to rest in a particular place.

I'd certainly never want to be over directive. For example there was a faint suggestion upthread that I might encourage her to keep on with a particular subject - regardless of whether that's the one she wants to keep on with - because it then might be easier to get her into an elite course or university. I wouldn't want to play that sort of game. I wouldn't want to do plotting and scheming. What I want is for my able daughter to grow up into a happy confident individual, who enjoys whatever course she goes on to do.

But I think she is a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place. At the moment she doesn't want to take a gap year - I think she doesn't have a sense of the kind of work (paid or voluntary) that she might attempt. So perhaps university, although expensive, does offer a kind of halfway house between dependence and independence. And my daughter does get very interested in her studies. It's more that she has the sort of mind which engages readily with many different subjects. Making it harder to sort out the ones she most wants to pursue/

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MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Jun-14 22:39:32

But Creamteas, the majority of young people really do know what they want and don't make mistakes or drop out! Being an August birthday has little to do with it because people who don't want to commit to a course might be September birthdays. I am not pressurising the OPs daughter to do anything but don't assume everyone needs a gap yah! They don't and shouldn't ! Some young people have it all worked out, even if they have an August birthday!

friendface Fri 13-Jun-14 00:09:16

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking this one step at a time, especially with it being such a costly decision! DS didn't even know what he wanted to study until he wrote his personal statement in the October of year 13. Granted he didn't apply to Oxbridge but the whole application process was around three weeks start to finish, with 5 RG university offers at the end of it. What I'm trying to say that decided after results day still leaves almost two months until the Oxbridge deadline, and even then interviews aren't until December. So, I would let her go at her own pace - she still has more than enough time!

Mindgone Fri 13-Jun-14 00:29:54

Well, my DS had it all worked out, and knew exactly what he wanted to do, and definitely didn't want a gap year. Then results day came! He actually did a lot better than he was even hoping for, so took an unplanned gap year and 'upgraded' from the course he had wanted to do. His 'gap yah' has been largely spent in Aldi (fab life experience) with a few nice holidays thrown in! My best advice is to keep an open mind smile

MarianneSolong Fri 13-Jun-14 07:21:36

In my mind the late August birthday does have quite a bit to do with it. People mature gradually and going to live in a town or city a long way from home, taking on responsibility for study (and debt) just after turning 18 is a pretty big step. Many other people taking that step will be nearer 19 - or twenty, if they have had a gap year.

In my own daughter in particular there has always been a slight mismatch between a mature intelligence, and a kind of emotional unreadiness.

For example his might sound a bit overprotective, but I feel quite odd that in just over a year's time I'll be sending out someone who - so far - has opted not to have any kind of sexual relationships into university life which is based on drinking culture and where a lot of male students are into picking women up. (Feel I am oversharing here, but I used to work on a phoneline. A lot of students do get assaulted while they are in the process of trying to make new friends)

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creamteas Fri 13-Jun-14 10:18:57

It is not just for subject choice that students should take a gap year.

In my experience, students that come straight from school are a lot less mature than ones that have been out in the world for a year.

Having a better understanding of the world (and this could be through stacking shelves rather than extensive travel) means they are also more likely to take university study seriously and not see it as an extension of school.

circular Tue 17-Jun-14 20:21:28

DD1 another August born, never had a boyfriend, not a party goer. Although has more boy 'friends' than girls. Also doesn't want a gap year, as not sure what she would do in that time.

First Uni we saw last Autumn totally overwhelmed her. Determined not to like it as had it in her mind she didn't want to go away, Ended up loving it, but since realised unlikely to make the grade. So not good starting too early, now leaving most till September, except one or two lower level.

May be worth calling those that are fully booked, as doubtful they will turn away. Unless certain poplar talks need advance booking.

TheWordFactory Wed 18-Jun-14 08:59:35

I think a fair few young people feel evry at sea about which course and university to choose. This seems exacerbated by friends with burning desires to become X, Y or Z.

You average 16/17 year old, has been on the old academic tread mill quite some time, full steam ahead, little opportunity to breathe and consider.

What seems to happen is that they begin to engage in the process over the summer holidays after AS. Most come to a decision in time. For those that really can't decide, I agree with creamteas - far better to take a year off, perhaps two, and make the right decision...

senua Wed 18-Jun-14 09:21:04

I know the school says don't-step-out-of-line but in RL detours are allowed:
-She could apply this autumn but not take up offers.
-She could accept offers but change her mind at the last minute.
-She could ask to defer.

There are all sorts of permutations available, she shouldn't feel bounced into any particular route. But, even then, nothing is really set in stone until very late in the day.

Am I right in my thinking about UCAS, in that you don't have to submit all five applications at the same time? So Oxbridge applications have to be in early but the remainder still have the usual January deadline.

Re the gap year: are there not exciting possibilities around just after a general election?

Slipshodsibyl Wed 18-Jun-14 10:12:12

I have one of these. It leads to indecision. She liked several subjects and was quite anxious about it. She had an experience which decided her choice at the end of year 12 and is due to start in October but I would not hesitate to suggest a gap year. It is not hard to find meaningful things to do ( though it can be a bit expensive). and gives them breathing space. I felt The 'what' is more important than 'where', just now so I would suggest that university visits are not a priority as they may be done post offer. Ours did one or two but no more.

I think that in a low key way, if she wants a Cambridge application to be viable, she needs to assume her results will allow her to do this so she can do some preparatory reading this Summer. It feels like tempting fate, I know, but will help her to know if the subject is of interest. If she does nothing, it will be a rush after August 14th, unless she is flexible about a gap year.

My approach was to see how it goes and a gap year was always strongly on the cards if the decision or the preparation or distraction from ALevels becomes hard in any way. I have three who did or do fairly similar subjects so I can pm you some of our gap year ideas, some completed, some not, if you like. I've not heard any of the students I know who took a gap year say they regret it (which is not the same as saying everything was perfect or easy)

BeckAndCall Wed 18-Jun-14 10:53:41

I agree with milly and slip that if Cambridge is an option and if she wants to apply for next year, she needs to get her ducks in a row now - there isn't time to mull it over as she will have to hit the ground running come 1st September with her application and extra reading etc. her personal statement will need to demonstrate her interest and wider reading so that needs to start being done now. Cambridge applications are just not like others. And she may have to sit the TSA depending on her college choice, so that practice needs to be factored in.

However, if shes happy not to apply this year and to take a gap year and apply post A2s, the she has time to take it more slowly.

Or if she decided not to apply to Oxbridge then there's time in hand.

You say that some of the places she's interested are already fully booked for open days - she should go any way - the open day will still be in full swing although she just may not be able to get to specific sessions she wants to attend. But in practice, they do try to squeeze in potential students to these sessions and lots of people don't actually turn up for their booked places.

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