Can you help me with these queries?

(38 Posts)
universityadvisesought Mon 22-Aug-16 15:11:39

My DS thinks he's in a frustrations position he is applying for 2017 with his grades. A**, A, A, maths, (he has been formally assessed and found to be literally a maths genius but has absolutely no interest in the subject), a science and a humanity, but he seriously regrets his choice of subjects wishing he'd done at the very least one MFL. He only want to go to Scotland because he likes the way Scottish degrees are organised; you can study more than one subject in the first two years and he hopes at the very least this is a way into studying at least one if not two MFL (Italian and probably French), the university he's particularly interested in offer courses for "beginners"
My questions are can you apply to only one university? Can you apply for two completely unrelated courses at the same university, e.g. an MFL (an A level in a MFL is not required just proof of an aptitude for an MFL, he has three A*'s at IGCSE in MFL's lowest % was 97%, with zero work/effort on his part and he has an excellent ear for languages, he's an enthusiastic and fairly regular visitor to Italy and he unlike his mother demonstrates good understanding of spoken Italian and excellent pronunciation) and a subject like psychology? He doesn't know how competitive it is to get onto a MFL course so wonders if he's more likely to be accepted for a subject like psychology with his subjects and then he can hopefully pick up an MFL as one of his other subjects and he knows the university will let him change at the end of two years if he does well in it. Thirdly how do you word a personal statement if you applying for two completely unrelated subjects? So for example should he say he has travelled extensively in Italy? A few years ago he experienced a very traumatic event and is currently planning a journey in Italy on his own of over 1500km by public transport and on foot in the steps of his Italian hero, (think of the films Into The Wild or A Walk On The Wild Side, like the characters in the films I guess he's hoping to sort his head out) should mention this (not the trauma bit obviously)?
Hope this all makes sense.

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titchy Mon 22-Aug-16 15:44:04

He can apply for up to five places.

However the same personal statement will be read by all so it needs to be cleverly worded - maybe he could talk about an interest in language acquisition...?

Having said that a lot of places don't take that much notice of the PS.

Psychology vs MFL - psychology is very very competitive. MFL is very uncompetitive!

mummymeister Mon 22-Aug-16 16:05:33

Have you looked at the American universities and their systems? it sounds like they would suit your DC better. there are a huge number of very generous bursaries available and it is actually more straightforward to do this than I imagined it would be. they allow much more eclectic study than the rigid one or two subjects in the UK.

I cant see anywhere in the UK letting him study at degree level a language he doesn't have an a level in. if he is having a year off and not entering until 2017 wouldn't his time be better spent taking some intensive a level courses in the languages that he left behind. he would be better off doing this than his planned walk.

the bit about going away to get your head together makes me think of my nans advice - you always take your baggage with you. whilst this might be a fantastic way to spend a gap year, if he really wants to do a MFL at uni then he should be looking to spend his time working for that.

have a look at the American uni websites. they have a fair in the autumn I think and if he went along it would give him a good idea of what is on offer.

sendsummer Mon 22-Aug-16 16:08:08

He could also think about combined or flexible honours in English universities such as Kings College London, Durham, Exeter.
Many universities (UCL and Durham for example) also have language centres so doing a MFL does n't have to justified in the PS. It depends whether he is particularly interested in studying the literature, if so he should apply for the MFL as part of his degree.
One comment, your DS could be in the category of being so bright that he finds it hard to put in effort when things get harder hence his grades in his humanity and science compared to the maths. If so then he needs to learn to get through that hurdle whatever subjects he chooses. MFLs will require a lot of effort at a higher level (once past the beginner, intermediate stage). The danger is that he may shift preference from one subject to another as soon as the 'needing more effort' level is reached and thus never really settle to anything.

sendsummer Mon 22-Aug-16 16:12:55

mummymeister you can study languages from beginner level but not usually mainstream MFLs like French or Spanish and normally in combination with another subject as in the Scottish system or Flexible / combined honours or liberal arts. Otherwise as I said many universities have a language centre allowing a language as one module of a degree or extra study.

universityadvisesought Mon 22-Aug-16 18:03:33

Thank you.
He can study Italian at his choice of Scotish university without an MFL A level well at least that's what their website/prospectus states he's booked to go to their open day to check this out.
Re: psychology according to the two Scotish university websites he's been looking at he seems to have the right grades/subjects for that I think his interest in the subject is partly because it's new. I understand from various people who've studied it and even given up studying psychology at university is that there's a lot of maths, I'm not sure what sort of maths statistics perhaps, he got 100% in the stats part of his exam despite not really liking stats.
sendsummer an interesting point about him being so bright he doesn't need to put any effort in, he has always driven his teachers up the wall by his complete lack of effort in all subjects, but particularly for maths his teacher did not predict his grade no one denied his ability but he had made no effort at all in the subject for the whole two years.
mummymeister my DH thinks he'd be better at uni in the US where as you say the degrees are broader and more "eclectic". He's currently not keen (see my comment below) but he's about to go to the US for a couple of months so perhaps might change his mind. It's paying for it that concerns us so you comments interest me. Your point about baggage is a valid one, but he wishes to step out of the normal day to day life to get his head round what happened. I am actually relieved he is at last planing things and finding things he wants to actually do, 6 months ago he was just going through the physical motions of school, eating sleeping etc his mood was completely flat, he was frequently tearful and uninterested in anything, in the last few weeks he has started to laugh again and go out and be with friends so frankly I'm encouraging anything.
He's really quite dyslexic and although does read okish he wants to avoid a subject like English or history where there's loads and loads of reading.
I thought the personal statement would need to be carefully worded, he's got lots of interests, Italian art, music, architecture food wine, culture etc, he reasonable competent at one sport, he also kayaks regularly, has got into yoga (hence I think the improvement in his mood) and at 18 has fallen in love with horse riding and is currently working 11 hours a day at a local dressage yard for nothing in return for 1 riding lesson. I guess he could put this on his personal statement? Interesting the comment that they don't read it. Are they just looking at grades when the chips are down?

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Sofabitch Mon 22-Aug-16 20:30:14

At my university you can study a language along side the degree. Just as an extra.

Sucks to be awesome at something you hate though. He might find he enjoys the more abstract maths at degree level though.


Boogers Mon 22-Aug-16 21:20:44

Another option is a substitute personal statement which is used in for exactly this. It can be uploaded with the UCAS application and there should be information and guidance on their website.

rogueelement Mon 22-Aug-16 21:46:47

You can apply for joint honours. Some universities (particularly in Scotland) offer quite wild and wonderful joint honours subjects, and you still get the chance to add another subject. It's a great system for the undecided - I went through about 5 subjects before deciding on my final hours option.

Maths is a great background for psychology and people who go on to do very well in it often have a strong science background. Only a small proportion of a psychology degree involves studying therapy/counselling/mental illness (which is what most people think it is) - much more is about how the brain works, language and perception. Great subject for a curious generalist :-)

rogueelement Mon 22-Aug-16 22:04:09

As an addendum: psychology could be hard work if you don't like reading (lots and lots of papers to read & analyse). But with those grades the world's his oyster.

Exeter has combined degrees

St Andrews has a fabulous psychology department and great flexible options including Italian and Psychology (offer=AAA). Lots of Americans there these days.
And Strathclyde does a more applied version of the same, with a slightly lower entry requirement.
Best of luck!

M0rven Tue 23-Aug-16 07:42:31

I went to a Scottish university to study English and geography because, like your son, I couldn't decide.

I ended up doing psychology and there's not really any maths, just statistics in which I had a GCSE so I was fine.

The Scottish university system is well set up for what he wants and yes, you can do a MFL from beginners level of it says that's in the prospectus. How odd that someone woudl tell you they don't if the university say they do .

Most arts degrees in over three subject in the first and second years, while in others it's 5.

If he has dyslexia then you need to get him a proper assessment by an educational psychologist . You submit this to the university and they will make appropriate accommodations to the course eg give him extra time to do some work or in exams .

M0rven Tue 23-Aug-16 07:46:21

Italian and psychology, included a year in Italy . They have a class for those without an A level in Italian

M0rven Tue 23-Aug-16 07:51:14

Glasgow university also take beginners in Italian who can prove aptitude in MFL, offer AAB. You take two other subjects in first year.,programmestructure

Fadingmemory Tue 23-Aug-16 10:19:21

A friend studied Spanish from scratch at Edinburgh University. Her degree was in Anthropology. Very hard going, she had to be very disciplined but it's possible.

universityadvisesought Tue 23-Aug-16 10:55:08

Great info.
He has an ed psych report (that's how we know about the maths) but I know it's too old for universities. Glasgow is one of his choices.
I think the Scotish system is brilliant for those are not sure what they want to do. The more parents I talk too with similar aged children the more common I realise this is I'm surprised how many don't know how the Scotish uni system works, it does make it a four year degree but the cost for the actual course is the same.
I have come to the conclusion that the daft thing is that children are usually being made to choose subjects both GCSE and A level at such a young age.

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InformalRoman Tue 23-Aug-16 15:48:24

St Andrews has some flexible course structures - Joint Honours degree in Italian and Psychology (no previous Italian necessary) and Honours in MFL and Business or International Relations for example.

sendsummer Tue 23-Aug-16 18:40:36

Scotish system is brilliant for those are not sure what they want to do.
I don't disagree with this but as said above if you look into Flexible Honours type degrees at eg Durham, Exeter they give a similar choice and flexibility.
However are you sure that your DS will not just move from one comfort zone of his abilities to another by shifting preferences to new subjects? To put it bluntly although you may be hoping that once he finds what interests him his enthusiasm will make him work it is also possible that when things get tough in any subject he will either wing it and thus reach a self inflicted ceiling in that subject or have some other new enthusiasm.
The dyslexia is a hurdle but doing something boring and repetitive or spending some time fruitlessly trying to solve a frustrating problem or hours trying to read difficult texts are important steps to get to more interesting subject matters, specialisations or careers. Sorry to dwell on this but I have observed a number of people with brilliant minds never find satisfaction or focus in a subject through mental laziness.

The next few weeks would be a good time for him to read a first year degree level psychology textbook or decide whether he is really interested in developing the advanced skills for MFL literature essays.

He could also consider degrees that blend psychology with language sciences and the possibility of a MFL such as at UCL.

universityadvisesought Tue 23-Aug-16 21:53:04

sendsummer you make an interesting and valid point and he might indeed do as you say but I'm not sure what the solution to this is. I welcome any comments ideas.
In his defence he realised fairly soon in yr 12 that he'd choosen the "wrong subjects" in particular the science, the areas covered have never really interested him, he's always been more interested in the theoretical side than the practical aspects, I think he thought at a higher level it would become more theoretical. He was considered by his school to be exceedingly good at the science, it combined well with math and so was very much encouraged to go down this road at the time I think he choose the easy route as he wasn't in the slightest bit interested. He doesn't totally regret taking math but he doesn't want to carry on with it as he can't see for him what it might lead on too. He nearly chose the language over the humanity at A level but was encouraged by a good friend who was half way through the course to chose the latter.
Neither Durham or Exeter or St Andrews for that matter interest him as places to be, born in London he likes a proper city, with all it has to offer.

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sendsummer Tue 23-Aug-16 23:51:00

From what you say about the science I am guessing it was physics? Might he still be interested in theoretical physics as there are degrees in that which he could combine with a language and a year abroad? He might need to self teach himself further maths A level to show his aptitude and to increase his grades for some courses.
What about the UCL psychology linguistics degree above?
Unfortunately understandable as it is that he would like a major city it will limit his degree choices.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 24-Aug-16 07:10:32

Does he really want to study the MFL or just learn to speak it better? In most universities, students can go to cheap or free language classes in their own time.

Has he seen Human Sciences degrees? They might give the breadth he's interested in.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 24-Aug-16 07:15:31

Human Sciences at UCL gives a MFL as an optional module.

universityadvisesought Wed 24-Aug-16 08:49:54

This is most helpful, thank you for your suggestions having made the wrong choices for A level it's good to have lots of suggestions. I think the UCL course looks interesting, he's no biology fan but it's definitely worth looking into further.
Atiao he obviously want to be fluent in another MFL as he enjoys forming and speaking another language and he also loves everything Italian, art, culture architecture, films, wine, food etc he's not experienced any Italian literature although he has done Latin to AS and therefore is familiar with Virgil Plinny etc. It's hard to know what to do when you don't have any definite career plans, again he's not the only one in this position, I was talking to two 2nd year university students yesterday neither knew what they were fought to do when they finished, both choose their subjects because these were their best grades one was very much regretting her choice. I guess if you have no career plans then you might as well start with looking at things that already interest you.
sendsummer he's looked at theoretical physics most degree combine theoretical physics with what I can only describe as normal physics although at Galsgow for example he may be able to do just a theoretical physics module, he needs to look into this in more detail. Ultimately he's no physics enthusiast, just because something is easy doesn't mean you like it.
I firmly believe that how well you relate to the person teaching and how good a teacher they are is also important, you feeling about a subject can quickly change if you experience poor teaching or don't get on with the teachers/ lectures teaching style. I had an amazing lecturer at university who could have made the science of paint drying fascinating, his modules were always over subscribed however uninteresting the topic appeared on paper. Another lecturer removed in his field was terrible, no one wanted to do his subjects, I did the particular subject/went to this university because of his subject but once there couldn't wait to get beyond the first year to drop it.
A friends DD is at a very well known/well regarded uni and was telling me how awful 1 lecturer is, another one is frankly mediocre and 1 brilliant despite teaching a subject most hate.

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bojorojo Wed 24-Aug-16 09:53:23

There is a limited number of universities that will offer an initio Italian but where it is available, lots of students do it because it is not widely taught in schools. However doing languages is tough! They might be easier to get onto but that is because so few people can do the subjects! I would look at which main subject interests him for a main subject and then see if it can be combined with Italian. I do know that Sheffield, for example does not offer Italian. To become fluent though, there must be a year abroad and not just a few modules. The degree with a language will be 4 years. Doing French ab initio is rarely offered. If he wants to do MFL, ab initio will be the best way.

soapybox Wed 24-Aug-16 09:59:08

Leeds do ab initio Italian and you can combine an MFL there with hundreds of other subjects.

universityadvisesought Wed 24-Aug-16 11:25:16

bojorojo unfortunately he is not interested in the subjects he studied at A level, psychology was my suggestion I also suggested business studies, ("why"), classical civ/Latin, (reluctant "maybe I could look at it") Russian ("not sure I fancy a year in Russia") politics, economics, philosophy all those type of subject ("might be too much reading but I'll look at it"). He's not dismissing them but at the end of the day he is interested in everything Italian, he's a natural linguist so it seems sensible to seriously consider something you love rather than subjects your being encouraged to think about. As I said above the good thing about the Scottish system is that you can apply for one subject but you have to do two others and if at the end of two years you discover Gaelic is your thing rather than Italian you can change over.
Up until recently he wasn't keen to go to university one reason being he didn't want to "spend 3/4 years studying something that he wasn't interested in and generate a large debt in the process". I've always told him you get the most out of university if you love the subjec(s) your studying. His cousin who has just spent 3 years at Oxford told him the same thing, he was doing a subject that he realised after a couple of terms that 1. he actually wasn't that good at and 2. didn't like, this is now sadly reflected not only in his final grade but now he has no idea what he wants to do.
From the research he's done Italian is usually a four year often five year degree because it's often an MA, with a year abroad, perfect if you're an Italophile.

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