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Please help me understand

(28 Posts)
dodo3 Tue 25-Nov-14 08:27:46

University application process.

DD has just started 6th form, we have had a letter home to say she is likely to get all As if she continues to work as she is doing.
When should we book to look at unis?
Is there a A* grade at AS?
What type of uni should we look at ?
Her favourite subject is English Lit, what course should she look at?
As I understand it you have to choose a Uni, then a collage and then a course is that correct? Ahh its so confusing
Im doing the groundwork as DD doesn't have much spare time
I would really appreciate some help TIA

Thehedgehogsong Tue 25-Nov-14 08:34:52

A good place to start is to decide on a course or two first. Then look at the Universities that provide that course. They are ranked in league tables which can give some indication of the quality of the course. Once you have an idea of 4 or 5 universities you can then look at them in more detail. The accommodation, students union, how the campus is arranged (some universities have buildings spread out over a whole city and there's a lot of travel to get between lectures!)

Once you have an idea of them on paper, it's time to visit them. Don't leave it too late, now is a good time to start looking. Check when the open days are.

Most universities don't have a college system, the more old fashioned/elite ones do though so for those you will need to pick a college to apply to.

Don't userestimate how important it is that your daughter can get home if need be. Lots of students, especially high attaining students, find it all a bit of a shock and coming home for a weekend here and there can really help them feel more secure as they learn to look after themselves.

I hope that helps! I just did this with my brother and I'm a teacher of a-level students so I've been asked every question going!

TheWordFactory Tue 25-Nov-14 08:39:57

OP, now is a very good time for your DD to start looking, but there's no need to panic.

Her predicted grades are very good, so she should have plenty of choice.

First thing she needs to think about is the course. What would she like to study?

From there she needs to think about where she might like to study it? Large university or smaller? City or campus? Does she fancy London? What reputations do these universites have?

When she has a short list, she can start visiting them. Visit plenty.

Mindgone Tue 25-Nov-14 09:50:44

I would also suggest looking at the UCAS website, to get a good idea of how it all works, and a timeline for it all. There is a section for parents too.

senua Tue 25-Nov-14 09:54:13

Look at the UCAS website to get an idea of what courses are out there.
Look at a league table eg Guardian to get an idea of which courses are best; don't take this as gospel but as a start point. Some Universities tend to be good at a lot of subjects; some Universities do not have the overall reputation but are v good for specific subjects. Try to get a balance between 'a good-overall Uni' and 'the best place for my subject'.
Universities tend to do two tranches of Open Days. There are some in the summer, post exams, which are ideal for Y12s information-gathering. There are then another batch early in the autumn, when the Y13 are filling in their UCAS forms. The most sought-after places get booked out early so keep an eye on the University's website for when booking opens.
There is no A* at AS, only at A2.

It's great that you are helping her but make sure that she takes ownership of her decisions; it's her life, after all. Going to University is not just about academics, it's about negotiating all the peripherals, about learning how to be an autonomous adult - let her have that experience.

wonderstuff Tue 25-Nov-14 10:01:50

What I did, many years ago when I was looking was initially decide where in the country I wanted to be - for me I wanted to be far enough away from home to not be able to come back on a whim, but near enough that it wasn't too expensive a journey. Then I looked a universities that had courses I was interested in - and it's worth really looking because subjects not on offer at A-level might be good - I wish I'd looked at PPE, but I had no idea it existed then. So then I looked at prospectuses for the colleges - and then found the one with the most bars on site. Bingo.

Kez100 Tue 25-Nov-14 11:23:30

I also agree with letting her take charge of this. Honestly, it could come as quite a shock when she gets there and has to find time in her day to do Uni work, the washing and cooking!

As she is a capable girl then there will be a lot of choice open to her - courses she may never have thought of before and Universities she may have felt out of her reach. Does she have a very high overall GCSE profile too or is she just very good at her A level subjects?

If she looks at UCAS website, Unistats and Which? University online. Then get some prospectuses to arrive for her Christmas break. She can do some initial research then.

My daughter actually went to her first open day in June of year 12 which was a good decision because there are only so many days available for open days in the autumn term and its not always possible to get to them all.

dodo3 Tue 25-Nov-14 12:04:05

Wow thanks so much for taking the time to comment the info given is really useful.

DD got all A*s and As at GCSE. Shes taking 6 AS she will drop 3 for next year so she has a lot of work and a horse. I said I would do some of the groundwork then she will take over during the holidays.
She made a mistake in her A level selection and took subjects because they were on informed choices rather than doing subjects she liked, therefore the only A levels she loves at the moment is Maths and English Lit. I dont want her to make the same mistake with a Uni.
Shes leaning towards studying in London so she can live at home, I would prefer her to stay on campus so she gets to experience uni life to the full and not spend hours on a train each day.
I would also like her to try out for Cambridge but shes not very confident and thinks shes not clever enough!!

senua Tue 25-Nov-14 12:19:00

she's not very confident and thinks shes not clever enough!!

Oxbridge is full of people like that.grin It's called 'impostor syndrome'

Don't forget that she will have to complete a Personal Statement as part of the UCAS application. She needs to demonstrate her interest in the subject, above and beyond that imposed by school. Putting "I was too busy to do anything else" won't cut it.

Kez100 Tue 25-Nov-14 13:29:24

Oxbridge and some courses - like vet, medicine and dentistry (I think) require and early application in year 13 - so maybe start with Cambridge/Oxford and see if she wants to rule them out or not.

It is probably best for her get an idea of the right course for her quite early so when she goes down to 3 A levels she picks the right ones for her future - that's an advantage for doing the 6 - she hasn't actually dropped much yet! No wonder she is busy.

GraceFox Tue 25-Nov-14 15:53:56

6 AS Levels! Can she drop at least one sooner rather than later? It seems an unnecessarily heavy work load.

With her profile there's absolutely no reason why she shouldn't try for Cambridge. Do you think she just needs a little reassuring nudge to aim high? She has as much chance as anyone else. My ds has applied to Cam for Eng Lit this year - without revealing all his other choices he looked at Bristol, Durham, St Andrews, Edinburgh, York, Exeter, UCL, Warwick, Birmingham, UEA. All are highly regarded, as are many other institutions. And don't forget Oxford!!

dodo3 Tue 25-Nov-14 16:50:17

Shes doing 4 A levels and 2 extra compulsory ASs general studies and Extended project so she can't drop any until next year. 6 sounds better than it actually is, as the last two are not respected but I think it broadens their outlook and gives them a few extra points.

Grace, I hope your son gets his first choice. What does he want to do after Uni?

My dh and I didn't go to Uni so its a real learning curve.

dodo3 Tue 25-Nov-14 17:18:47

Failed at the first hurdle.

I clicked on the UCL website, registered interest in English, Maths and Economics and then the email I received said I registered interest in a affiliate Uni abroad. I cant see where I went wrong.Ahh

Is there any companies that can help you do this type of thing, Im obviously too thick !!

ReadingEatingandSleeping Tue 25-Nov-14 18:24:31

I just wanted to say that you're not thick at all - it's a pretty confusing process for anyone, more so if you've never been through it yourself. As for companies that would help, I don't think so, but I'm a final year humanities student at Oxford (currently procrastinating!) and I came across this thread - I was the first in my family to go to Uni and even though my school were supportive it was tough to navigate the process. I've gone through it all now, and recently helped a couple of friends with their UCAS applications, so if you'd like any advice then feel free to ask or to pm me, I'm happy to help. Any questions are fine, even if you think they sound daft - I remember how confused I was!

GraceFox Tue 25-Nov-14 19:36:43

Ah I see now why it's 6 AS levels. Your dd is obviously very able, a strong candidate for good universities. Although dh and I went to university (he went to Oxford, unusual at his school, unheard of within the family) we were both from very modest backgrounds so it was for each of us a steep learning curve just getting those applications in!

But don't be daunted and may your dd find a course she loves. Aim high: somebody has to win each of those places at the best institutions- why not your dd?

And thank you for your kind words about ds2. His school career was a bit chequered but he is back on track and hoping very much that he gets into Cambridge. He wants to be a writer btw but appreciates a day job will be needed too!

Finally ds1 is a first term Oxford humanities student and has made new friends from all sorts of schools. He went to 2 or 3 open days, inc firm and insurance choice, and for his other choices (xy) reckoned he'd visit only IF he got an offer he was unsure of accepting. That entailed being relaxed enough to choose xy unseen, but others may prefer to research more comprehensively.

senua Tue 25-Nov-14 19:55:07

Are you saying that the Extended Project is not respected? We have no direct experience but I thought that it was looked on fairly favourably. It is like a mini-thesis and therefore shows the ability to study independently i.e. shows that you are not just a school pupil but are already on the way to being a University student.
I think that they don't make a great deal of it because it tends to be done by naice middle-class children and Universities don't want to indirectly discriminate against those who have not had the chance to do it.

ReadingEatingandSleeping Tue 25-Nov-14 20:36:39

Re extended project, I know that Oxford told me not to bother with it and just to focus on my A levels, and that it wasn't something they'd place any weight on so long as the candidate could show evidence of interest/experience in the relevant field. I'm sure it would never hurt, but I know for me i was being lazy and refusing to do the EP so my head of sixth form rang Oxford to ask them to tell me how important it was (!!) and they said they didn't care at all grin

skylark2 Wed 26-Nov-14 08:28:41

If your DD doesn't have enough time to do basic research into what she wants to do after sixth form, she needs to drop at least one course (AS General Studies is an utter waste of time for a potential Cambridge applicant, the school wants to put her in purely to move themselves up the league tables. She shouldn't go to another lesson.). She will burn out long before she reaches A2.

I know it's new and different and you're used to being the safety net, but this is the point where it needs to stop. You do not research universities. You do not decide where she should apply. You do not send off for prospectuses. You do not arrange visits. She does all that and she does it now, at the same time as her schoolwork, not in the holidays. She's got to have some not-working-flat-out time during term time.

As a very basic first thing, she needs to think about what subject she wants to study. She doesn't need to be sure yet, but she has to be trying to narrow it down. If she doesn't know what she wants to study, then start with what she doesn't want to study.

DontGotoRoehampton Wed 26-Nov-14 10:19:49

If she doesn't know what she wants to study, then start with what she doesn't want to study.
excellent advice! (not just for unis) - will advise DS2 to think about this ( for another context) - thanks!

titchy Wed 26-Nov-14 10:44:14

can i add, if she doesn't know what she wants to study, then university isn't necessarily a good idea. Studying a subject at degree level should be something you actively opt into, not something you passively end up with, which is what it is is your starting point is to exclude what you don't want to do, with a view to doing what's left.

staplemind Wed 26-Nov-14 10:57:52

UCL expects every candidate to have done Foreign Lang at gcse

Lilymaid Wed 26-Nov-14 11:43:15

AS General Studies was described by DS1 as a "doss". He sat the exam without any preparation - hadn't even seen an exam paper and got an A. Some of his friends got 300/300 (but they had seen some exam papers). This was a few years ago, but it, perhaps, explains why it isn't well respected.

dodo3 Wed 26-Nov-14 13:33:21

Readingeating, thats so kind of you, thank you.

DD also has a horse to look after before and after school and a job on Saturdays in a charity shop.
It cant hurt for me to do a bit of the boring leg work for her. I have to understand the process too to be in a position to offer advice should she need it.
She is coping fine with the workload the reason why she doesn't know what she wants to do at Uni is because she loves all her subjects. I think quite common for 16/17 year olds to not know what they want to do. If she decides not to go to Uni then that's also up to her.

Staplemind, Its now compulsory for children to take a language up to GCSE.

staplemind Wed 26-Nov-14 13:48:25

no, it isn't compulsory for kids to take a language at gcse

dodo3 Wed 26-Nov-14 13:57:39

Ah ok I thought it was, it is at the schools my children attend. Such a shame it not at all schools.

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