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What advice to give to DD re choosing where to go for Uni.(56 Posts)
She knows she wants to do either a History degree (if it's a broad enough one) or an ancient History degree, or a combo of them both.
We live in N Wales.
She has her heart set on Cambridge, and her AS results in Aug will determine whether that goes on her application or whether she hasn't got the grades - stressful!
When I ask her where else she'd like to consider applying for, she says she doesn't know. And I don't envy her the decision.
When I went to uni, it was go to the closest one to home that I could commute to daily or don't go as we couldn't afford it and I wasn't encouraged to go away from home for Uni. We don't want to limit her, but don't really know how to help her decide.
How did your DD/you choose which Uni's to apply to?
A friend of mine has a daughter about to start uni in Holland in September. Think it's Utrecht. They've just started teaching in English. It's much cheaper than England. When I looked online it was £1500 (ish) per annum.
Dd1 - chose to apply to Oxford rather than Cambridge due to the course. Other places were a mixture to give her a spread of grades and places she just liked the look of (all other courses were pretty similar).
Dd2 - all about the course. For the two which were the best fit, it just came down to which city she preferred.
Ds - also just finishing y12 (btw come to the y12 thread!) - looked at a league table for his subject and basically crossed out London, Scotland, and out-of-town grassy campuses because he thinks he won't like them. Apply to the top 5 left!
She could (should):
- read lots of course descriptions to really get a sense of what is covered and when in the course
- plan plenty of open days at different tariffs (entry requirements) and settings (in a city, on a campus)
- look at transport to/from uni & home. Even if you plan to take her at start/end of term she may well want to come home mid term so how will she do that
- once AS results are out be realistic about potential final A level grades
- is there anyone in her/your sphere who has gone to uni (not necessarily the same course) who she can talk with. Are there any ex students from school who could be contacted (some schools have ex students willing to be contacted)
- start looking/thinking now as Y13 will be busy and the time runs away with itself (especially for Oxbridge applications which have an earlier closing date)
- be flexible about courses especially once AS results are out and she knows where her strengths lie
- dont get bogged down in the decision. Spend this summer looking at this but once Y13 starts the focus of attention needs to be on A levels
It’s a bit of a shame she has not engaged about other universities earlier due to the summer open day season. Cambridge also does subject days I believe. You also need to consider colleges. Cambridge is an early application - usually mid October.
Many young people would look at Durham, UCL, Bristol, Nottingham, Exeter, St Andrews, Edinburgh as being strong on History. Look at the core of the History syllabus and option modules. There might be more ancient options at some and less at others. Also definitely consider the city and Durham is collegiate which she might like. What hobbies does she have?
Many employers won’t look into what she studied in depth, but there are lots of History grads, so a good quality university matters.
She/We have started thinking about it. And started very like Atia's DS. We looked at the ranked list of unis for her subject, discounted ones that were in Scotland (too far) or London (too expensive) and others that were a ridiculous distance away. Then we made a list of them, inc their entrance requirement grades.
We drove 4 hours at 5am for her to attend a subject open day at Cambridge, then she was lucky enough to win a place on the Magdalene Outreach residential programme and stayed there for 2 nights. Went punting on the Cam, had a formal dinner etc. Loved it. If she gets her As she's applying.
We went to Durham, but she didn't think it was 'special' and isn't keen.
We've been to 2 in Liverpool as lower requirement choices - she really liked the ancient history in the University of Liverpool.
It's Bangor on Saturday, one of the higher rated ones in N Wales.
She went to Aberystwyth with her sixth form history dept for the day. It was 'ok'.
We also have an open day in York booked for Sept and our eye on another couple for Sept depending on the grades she gets.
Luckily, she's really good company for days out as she really appreciates me coming with her.
She does want a Uni that's well known/RG etc.
What does she enjoy? She has no fixed hobbies. She loves writing and really wants to be an author but is realistic that she can develop that herself whenever. She is buying and reading different history books and has a subscription to the BBC history Magazine. She loves museums and old places. In lieu of a party for her 18th (which she'd hate) we are having a Mum and daughter trip to Athens and she's planning to do her Welsh Bacc special project on how Greek and Roman myths have survived to modern day in different aspects.
In 3 weeks she's at Birkbeck UCL for a week of history summer school in the Debate Society.
She just doesn't have 'the one' fixed in her head yet, unless it's Cambridge, but that's not necessarily the best one for her, I feel.
I just went on Amazon and looked at the first two screens of books on ancient history. Excluding American authors and freelances I found the following:
Michael Scott, University of Warwick
Mary Beard, University of Cambridge
Edith Hall, King's College London
Robin Lane Fox, University of Oxford
Ian Shaw, University of Liverpool
Toby Wilkinson, University of Cambridge
Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol
I also like Robert Bartlett's (St Andrews) books & television programmes about mediaeval history, although I know you've said Scotland is out.
Having a look at their books might point her in the direction of a couple of universities worth exploring. How much teaching is actually done by professors with book & television contracts, I don't know.
Incidentally, in UK universities history degrees usually begin in 1500 (or 1509, when Henry VIII came to the throne). If her particular interest is in earlier periods she'll probably need to look for ancient and/or mediaeval history. This will limit the choice of institutions a bit. Cardiff and Swansea both do ancient & mediaeval history, but I guess South Wales is pretty inaccessible from North Wales.
I've suggested she looks at Cardiff. A colleague of mine did ancient history there and loved it. Not that inaccessible, but not super easy either. We haven't really thought much beyond her taking the train or us picking her up/dropping her off.
She does really enjoy the more unusual topics. She was disappointed to find that she'd be learning (in greater depth) about some of the same time periods that she'd covered in GCSE.
It's lovely to listen to her talk about history. It really is her subject and she can talk (at length) with interest, passion and humour. It amazes me as it's not a subject I ever enjoyed.
I think Manchester is a good uni, but we've discounted it as when we went there for a concert, it just didn't seem safe. LOTS of homeless people being talked to by the police and we witnessed bag theft in broad daylight. She was put off by that.
I was going to offer a lot of advice, suggesting everything you've already done.
After that, I found with both my dc who have been through the process, it sis about the 'feeling' they get when they are there on the open days.
You've already done the research about the course content, and considered practical aspects like travel, and cost of living.
Reasonably accessible from many part of Wales?
Read a lot, then go and visit any that she's vaguely interested in and you can reasonably get to. Get her to make an account on the student room, there's reviews for most of the unis and places to ask questions of students who are already there.
I visited 5 unis, not many offered the course I wanted to do. One was a last resort, course was good but miles from home town, poor transport links, very isolated. Mam told me she wasn't keen on me going there. But we visited, walked out onto a part of campus overlooking the sea, and just felt at home. Met the course tutor and he was lovely, and a few days later sent a handwritten note saying how good it was to meet me and encouraging me to apply. Mam said she could instantly tell it was the right place for me.
I applied to all except one, a city campus with all the buildings spread among people's houses, public buildings, loads of hills. Hated that one. Got a scholarship to my 'last resort' uni, ended up loving every minute there.
I’m sorry that I rather inferred from your first post that you had not considered anywhere else. If your DD still doesn’t know after all this effort, I do feel you have a problem that isn’t quite the same as the one you first articulated.
She is wowed by Cambridge. She doesn’t get the same feel about anywhere else. I think she’s being ultra picky, to be honest. If she doesn’t get into Cambridge, she will be devastated and that will be a difficult problem to deal with. Therefore I would look a bit more rationally at the rather silly things that are getting in the way of making a decision about other universities. She may be a great young person, but she is displaying a few prejudices. She didn’t like homeless people or the Police talking to them. That means she’s been very sheltered. There are homeless people in Cambridge. Definitely loads in Oxford. If you don’t like homeless people and they make you feel unsafe when the Police are actually around, it’s difficult to know where to advise. I cannot imagine Liverpool, Cardiff or any major city is a bed of roses either. She will need to be a bit more street wise or go to a campus such as York or Warwick. It seems a bit unworldly not to look at Manchester because of homeless people.
I’m struggling to agree with her about Durham. Why didn’t she like it? Is it simply because it’s not Cambridge? You also seem to dismiss travelling when thousands of students do this to get to a suitable good university. Has she articulated why she hadn’t looked at Nottingham, Exeter, Warwick, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol or Cardiff? If she wants well known RG but won’t consider London or Scotland or St Andrews, then your pool is smaller than it should be, but it does include all the ones I’ve suggested. I’m surprised she didn’t find Aberystwyth and Bangor to her liking as they are Welsh and fairly safe, although not really stellar at History. You seem to have visited a lot of universities but only two exceptional ones. Three are not RG so not quite sure why she went to them and not Warwick, UCL and Nottingham.
I think you also have to come to terms with the fact that History courses are not designed around the niche interests of undergrads. They are built around core subjects and options which are the specialisms of the lecturers. Undergrads won’t get taught be the well known ones. You would be very lucky to get one of them. You can of course look at every course in forensic detail to see what is available.
If she wants to be an author, is she intending to write history books? Or fiction? I think her lack of hobbies isn’t helping with the choice either because she’s not looking enthusiastically at sports facilities, debating societies, music opportunities or theatres and the fun things in a university city. Therefore they might all be a bit meh!
I hope you enjoy York but I think you do need a serious talk about cities being safe, (and for university students they are) learning to accept the good and the slightly annoying aspects of course content and that a high quality RG might have to include places that are a bit further to get to. No one comes home all the time so it’s not the biggest deal in the world if it means getting on the right course should Cambridge sink.
She just doesn't have 'the one' fixed in her head yet, unless it's Cambridge, but that's not necessarily the best one for her, I feel.
You don't need 'the one', just a few possibles. And thinking Cambridge is actually 'the one' is a bit dangerous, seeing as most people don't get in. Also, if she likes Cambridge that much, just apply, don't fret over the AS results!
I do agree with Bubbles to be honest. There are a lot of lovely, well-regarded campus unis that maybe she should be thinking about.
Leeds might feel like a friendlier city? They do a huge number of joint courses (it's their usp really) so could probably cover older and more recent.
(As a side note - one of ds's friends returned from a Bristol open day traumatised () by the hills and the amount of homeless people. So maybe that's not a good option I haven't noticed too many people sleeping rough in Newcastle, the weather probably keeps them away. Oxford is horrendous as Bubbles said.)
My DD chose the university that was the best in the country for her specific course. The one that had the best links with industry and future employment prospects.
It's not a RG but rated as one of the top unis in the country. The uni has the most incredible facilities for her course- way better than any RG. She has had a high level of contact with tutors/ lectures etc and we feel as though she has got better value for money than some of my friend's DCs, some of whom seem to only have had 6 or seven hours of lectures a week...
Newcastle has a fairly lary nightlife though. It definitely attracts good time students. It’s loud and lively.
To be honest, Brigits, History will only have minimal contact time because students have to self study in the Library. These are the skills they are honing. Research and writing essays about what you are researching. It’s not taught day in day out. Therefore value is not about contact time for arts degrees, it’s far more about cachet of university and the skills you take out of the course. Less about what History you learn as far as employment is concerned.
I don’t think History courses have industry links. What you would look for is grad recruiters visiting and a university where alumni have successfully gained places on high quality grad schemes after graduating. Competition is fierce.
However, op’s DD wants to be an author so that aspect doesn’t really matter but it might if she matured into wanting a career.
The point I took from BrigitsBigKnickers was not to get caught in the illusion of a place. The idea that anywhere other than Oxbridge will be second rate.
It is all about getting the right 'fit'.
She needs to focus on the course and whether she wants to do a History degree or an Ancient History degree. Once she's decided on the course - which is the most important element - then she will have a narrower field to choose from.
FWIW, my DD is studying Ancient History at Exeter and is loving it. Warwick was her 2nd choice - brilliant uni too, fab history department, but the campus isn't a patch on Exeter. She turned down Durham as it was too far away and she felt it was claustrophobic. Newcastle is also great - really good course, place, campus etc
start with the course and work from there.
If you are a keen student and choosing a subject like history then find out how many essays are required by term. You get better at the subject and all the additional skills that Bubbles mentioned by doing the essays. A couple of essays a term is n't much good to achieve that. A record of good feedback is also helpful of course. Not much point writing essays if you don't get some pointers.
Another comment, this time about the choice for ancient history versus history.
I have been told that having some Latin or even Greek helps to get the most out ancient history when studying it at some of the highly ranked courses. Obviously not a requirement for entry though but might impact on enjoyment of ancient history depending on how the subject is taught and the choice of modules.
Newcastle has a fairly lary nightlife though. It definitely attracts good time students.
It does attract plenty of others too, honest!
Send Latin or Greek is a 1st year requirement for many Ancient History degrees - certainly at Exeter. You don't need it beforehand but you do need it to take it and pass it.
And Atia is right - you don't need to be a good time girl/boy to enjoy Newcastle. I was shy wallflower (in the 70s) and I still managed to love it
Twitter so choosing ancient history often means having to be a good linguist as well, especially if learning ab initio. Not all historians will be attracted by that even if they are interested in the period of ancient history.
Send yes. Those students who don't want to / can't learn the language need to choose a different course - one that might still be AH but doesn't require Latin or Greek. One of my DD's passions is ancient vases, so for her, having Latin means she can read, translate and understand primary sources. This is why I've said upthread that the most important element in choosing a uni is what course you want to do.
My Dd is going into her final year as a joint honours student (history with ancient history) at Uni of Reading.She loves it there, is academically flying and has been lesrn8ng Greek and Latin from scratch. It also has an excellent reputation for ancient history and the Classics. She was an A*AA student and went briefing into Adjustment on results day but still plumped for Reading as there were so many things about it that she loved. Good luck to your daughter whatever she decides.
I'm not looking forward to results day just in case it's 'all hopes dashed'. She's due 2 high As according to her teachers, but might only get a B in the third one. She may still apply anyway.
I feel I need to defend her a bit! I suppose she is a bit sheltered. We live in N Wales in a small town. But she's not prejudiced re homeless. There are many in Chester and Liverpool which we go to frequently, there were just so many more in Manchester. Seeing blatant theft in broad daylight suprised her. It's not common here.
What didn't she like about Durham? The town was q small and quiet, but obv all the students have gone home so that's not a true reflection. Mostly it was because they were very prescriptive in what the history degree had to have in terms of time periods, whereas other unis she's looking at have much broader choices. So she's not after niche, but the chance to explore a wide range and to choose from a range of modules, which they weren't offering. Also, the bloke who was selling the course/subject didn't speak well, couldn't really answer the questions that the students/parents were asking in the q&a session. The student ambassadors did a better job. DD hasn't completely discounted it, but she didn't come away excited about applying there.
There are plenty of RG choices that are are within 4 hours travel from home and she's going to start with checking them out and seeing what the courses are like and what the reviews on studentroom are. University of Liverpool (visited and liked), Manchester (already mentioned), Leeds (open day booked for Sept) , Sheffield, Cardiff (could be visited in Oct if she's interested) , Nottingham, York (to be visited in Sept) Birmingham (Another Oct one).
Mostly she's finding the wealth of choice overwhelming I think. And the uncertainty of what grades she's likely to get until she gets an indication from her AS levels in mid Aug isn't helping. If she knew ones with certain grades were out as too high it would help her limit her choices. If she gets the grades she wants then it will knock others of her list if she doesn't need to consider Unis with requirements that are below what she's likely to get.
She won't be swayed to one place or another by her hobbies or social life either. She does debating at sixth form, and might carry that on, but mostly she just enjoys the learning and studying. She's always loved writing but likes writing fan fiction and her own fantasy style novels. Not that useful for her in terms of a career, but something that she could develop herself one day. She's very reserved socially, which I wish she wasn't but is not under my control, but it hasn't stopped her signing up for volunteering in the local library for the summer.