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Uni and subject choices for DS, starting Y12 in September. How soon?

(42 Posts)
needastrongone Wed 10-Aug-16 16:50:28

DS1 is my first child, you may be able to tell, as this in new territory for me. I have professional qualifications, equivalent to degree, but haven't been to Uni so the process is unfamiliar.

DS is hoping (expecting, really) to do well at GCSE level. His wish so far is to go to an academic university, RG type.

His A Level choices are Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry, so you can see where his interests lie, although he's a solid overall performer and I would anticipate he will gain high grades in all subjects.

We are fully aware 3 subjects only count for UCAS, but, DS is a stubborn person and is unlikely to drop any A Level. He also performs very well in exams, prefers them really, and they do not stress him or cause him tension (DD is another matter....).

Given that he wishes to have a shot at gaining entry at Uni where the competition for places is high, I am wondering if he may need to start thinking already with regard to subjects.

My overall feeling is to let him settle into A Levels and see how the subjects differ, where his enjoyment then takes him, then review, but is this enough of a plan? I am aware that, as a parent, I am not very pushy. I leave him to it in the main but support his thoughts and chat when required. It's up to him at the end of the day.

For info, he very much enjoys astro physics and maths is intrinsic in his soul smile


haybott Wed 10-Aug-16 17:50:15

We are fully aware 3 subjects only count for UCAS, but, DS is a stubborn person and is unlikely to drop any A Level.
Where did you get that "only 3 subjects count for UCAS"?

Most universities will make an offer based on 3 A levels but the very top few universities will be selective i.e. they will not make offers to all those expected to achieve the offer grades. That means that successful applicants to such courses typically get grades beyond the offer.

It is currently far from unusual for applicants for maths, physical sciences and engineering to have four (or more) A2 when one is further maths - it is the norm for some STEM subjects at the very top couple of universities. I would be surprised if this changes with the new A levels.

I'm not really sure what the question is? He is going to start with four and see how it goes. If he finds it straightforward he can stick with four. If not he can drop one (and many students do find further maths hard and drop it). This seems a sensible plan.

sendsummer Wed 10-Aug-16 17:58:44

If you are asking whether anything else will help him make a decision of his university subject then it is worth him looking up some of the taster courses such as those by Headstart as the application deadlines can be quite early on in year 12 (end of first term I think).

needastrongone Wed 10-Aug-16 18:00:06

Apologies if the post was unclear. I had wanted to know if DS needs to be considering his degree choice at this stage, if he wishes to have a shot at a top Uni.

I had believed that only 3 A Levels were the sum of your UCAS points, but this is very new to me, and I haven't started to really focus on looking into it.

I may eat my words, but I doubt DS will drop an A Level. He has been given to believe that his FM A Level, combined with straightforward Maths, won't feel fully like 2 A Levels in any event.

Thanks for the reply, which is appreciated.

needastrongone Wed 10-Aug-16 18:01:05

Thank you send, we cross-posted.

haybott Wed 10-Aug-16 18:06:34

UCAS points have no meaning for the upper tier of universities - they make offers based on specific A level grades. It is rare for the offer to be based on more than three (but e.g. Imperial does make offers based on four).

UCAS points include not only points for A level grades but also points for stand alone AS, certain music and drama exams etc. UCAS points appear in league tables for universities but only the lower tier of universities makes offers in the form of UCAS points.

It doesn't make sense to start thinking about degrees until towards the end of year 12, when it becomes clear what kind of grades he could be expected to get.

needastrongone Wed 10-Aug-16 18:17:37

Right, that's clearer, thanks. I perhaps ought to have read further in the first instance. smile

errorofjudgement Wed 10-Aug-16 22:34:55

At the start of Y12 my DS (same subject choices plus Geography), went to 1 open day & sat in on talks in maths, engineering maths and engineering. It was really useful and helped him understand the differences between 3 similar courses.

bojorojo Wed 10-Aug-16 23:01:32

I think a bit of consideration in y12 is needed so you can book open days and universities and subject days and specific departments to visit. Therefore have a look at The Good University Guide for subjects he might be interested in and download the relevant part of the prospectus at the universities which seem the best. The courses are ranked in order of prestige based on a lot of factors.

Look at the Council of Engineering Institutions to see the whole range of engineering options available. There may also be other scientific subjects he has not considered and he may want to consider what job he wants. Does he want to be an academic or actually design something, such as in an engineering discipline?

A level grades are key and UCAS points won't matter at the better universities. The four he wants are great but you will need to book some open days in the spring term so keep an eye open regarding when booking opens. The guide will give the average UCAS points students actually have on the best courses so you can pitch at the right level. Just get a feel for what is available and also think if he would like city or campus. Near to home or is he prepared to travel?

senua Wed 10-Aug-16 23:06:03

I am wondering if he may need to start thinking already with regard to subjects.

You can input A Level subjects into this website and it tells you which degree subjects they lead to. Before you get too excited ... I put in your four subjects and it suggested a billion different degrees!

Have a look also at Headstart and Smallpiece.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 10-Aug-16 23:56:01

Those 4 subjects are a great combo! If he wants to do any of physics, most engineering or maths then the physics and 2maths are ideal, but other courses don't always like 3 A levels 2 of which are maths and chemistry keeps more doors open.
So, good idea to start on 4 until he's decided and then think later whether to continue them all or drop one if doing 4 would jeopardise getting good enough grades in the other 3...the best places for the above mentioned subjects will be looking for some combination of A* and A grades in 3 subjects.

I'd suggest he goes to a few open days this sept/oct to help think about which subject he's most interested in, then next summer/Autumn he can focus on the particular courses deciding where he wants to apply. It can help if they decide on their discipline sooner rather than later so they can get involved in relevant super-curricular activities.

needastrongone Thu 11-Aug-16 00:01:53

Thank you for the further replies. It's such a massive thing for him to consider isn't it?

At the minute, he's perfectly prepared to travel. He feels he isn't practical (I agree), more that he understands intellectual concepts really easily, I see him more in a lab iyswim? But this may be just confidence. Structure suits him well, a Uni that offered Halls the whole way would be ideal, he'd cope whatever though.

Maths has always been his 'thing' but Physics has really interested him this year, Chemistry he finds 'easy' at present. I see a lot of opportunity with a Chemistry based degree, because of my line of work, but it's not my call to make.

I've had a look at the links, the Headstart one is brilliant, thank you. I really need to explore that further.

This all depends on at least starting with getting his predicted GCSE results...............

needastrongone Thu 11-Aug-16 00:10:28

Cross post again.

I assume being predicted A*'s or A's in all his GSCE subjects (bar German, it's a safe bet translation will never be a fall back earner for him!), will hopefully translate into equal A Level grades predictions?

He's a worker when focused on achieving something. He focused on doing well at A Level, and knows he has the capability to achieve well.

He's a shy guy though, and finds it difficult to converse easily by nature, which may hinder him.

goodbyestranger Thu 11-Aug-16 00:20:34

OP he hasn't even got his GCSE results yet, so steady on! I can't see any point at all fixating on degrees at all just yet, he needs to go through Y12 and see how he feels during the course of it. Some of my DC had a very clear idea of which degree course they wanted to study aged 14 or so (and stuck to it), but the others meandered until they found the right thing, as late as the end of Y12. Relax!

PurpleDaisies Thu 11-Aug-16 00:27:00

Maths has always been his 'thing' but Physics has really interested him this year, Chemistry he finds 'easy' at present.

Wait and see what happens. All those subjects are a massive step up to a level. Often kids who've flown though GCSE with no problems at all really struggle, especially in chemistry. He might be absolutely fine but don't assume that an A* at GCSE will necessarily translate to an easy ride at A level.

hellsbells99 Thu 11-Aug-16 00:34:15

DD has friends who got an A* in maths GCSE and then a D at AS level. As Purple said, A levels are a massive step up.

Just5minswithDacre Thu 11-Aug-16 00:49:29

STEM A-levels close very few doors.

DS took a similar spread of subjects to the ones you mention and we currently waiting to see if he meets his Oxbridge offer for an essay writing subject.

Does that partly answer your question?

sluj Thu 11-Aug-16 00:51:15

You can make a great start by sending off for a handful of prospectuses as they will show him a whole range of subjects he has never even thought of. They will also tell you what A levels are needed and what careers can follow. Good luck, it's an exciting time

ErrolTheDragon Thu 11-Aug-16 08:36:51

If he's 'not practical' then sounds like the maths/mathematical physics/theoretical physics/physics spectrum of choices may be most apt rather than engineering or chemistry. You have to do a lot of practical lab work in a chemistry degree!

needastrongone Thu 11-Aug-16 13:15:14

Ha, Errol, he could manage that, but making a lab bench that stayed up for his practical work might be trickier. grin

I'm not particularly stressed about this, merely musing whether it is appropriate or necessary to have an initial think or give consideration to subjects, he's our eldest DC and I haven't done this before, nor has DH. I know very little.

Thank you for the further replies. I did do A Levels, I remember the step up too from GCSE.

needastrongone Thu 11-Aug-16 13:17:42

Sluj Thanks, no harm in him getting some prospectuses to peruse. Easy for him to organise himself too.

GinandJag Thu 11-Aug-16 13:30:52

Don't worry about UCAS points. Very few FM students will be looking at "points" universities. The combo of Maths, Further Maths and Physics will feel more like 2 A-levels rather than 3 to an able mathematician. In fact, many school will allocate only half the normal number of lessons for FM.

With those A levels, he will be open to a huge number of degree courses. If he doesn't already know what he wants to do, he might as well wait for another six or so months before really worrying about it. Chemistry at A-level, for example, is a whole new subject compared to the GCSE, so he may not yet know what he is letting himself in for.

My DS1 did those A-levels, as well as French AS, and went on to get a degree in Electronic Engineering. My DD1 did those Subjects and well as G&P and is currently reading Economics and Politics.

GinandJag Thu 11-Aug-16 13:36:46

As a non-physicist (engineer), who has taught A-level Physics, it is my strong belief that the main benefit to the subject is to demonstrate problem solving skills and perseverance rather than being the next Einstein.

I say this not to denigrate Physics but to make it an attractive subject to students who would not particularly want to make it their life's work. It is a subject that opens doors and gives employers confidence in you.

aginghippy Thu 11-Aug-16 13:47:19

I would also say wait and see. A lot can happen in a year. My dd did those subjects in Y12, now waiting for her AS results. FWIW she has really matured during the past year. It's partly that big leap academically, but also being in the sixth form environment where they are expected to use their own initiative and treated more like adults.

sluj Thu 11-Aug-16 13:53:48

Watch out for some degree courses not accepting maths and further maths as two eligible A levels. I certainly saw this when my DS was applying for medicinema last year.
P'S Keep the prospectuses in the loo if you want him to read them 😁

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