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Advice: applying to university with ASD(18 Posts)
Sorry if this is the wrong place or a subject done to death. My son has ASD and is about to sit GCSEs. He is very bright at maths and computing but does very little work, certainly doesn't complete extension work set, and in other subjects is set to get results ranging from a 7 to a D (old style marking). He also does no extra curricular at all beyond D&D.
He is talking about Oxbridge. I know the conventional wisdom on here is that subject knowledge is all and extra-curriculars don't really matter (and he went on a school visit where he was pretty much told that) but I don't think his likely GCSEs will get him even to interview stage. Are other universities as forgiving about outside interests if an applicant is good in their field? And are any allowances made anywhere for ASD applicants with less than brilliant results?
I know he'll probably get on a computing course somewhere, and we aren't bothered in the slightest where it is, but it would be useful to know how his application might be viewed by universities. He's likely to do Computer Studies, Maths, Further Maths and Physics for A level (IF he can get a good enough science grade - not a certainty right now as the other sciences are weaker).
Forgiving of lack of outside interests - yes certainly, particularly with an applicant with ASD. Forgiving of lots of Ds at GCSE due to lack of effort - not so much. Oxbridge - almost certainly not, unless he is truly gifted - winning International Olympiad type giftedness. Is he that calibre?
I have a son in Y12 who has ASD; and who plays D&D
He wants to study Physics rather than Computer Science, so is studying Maths, F.Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels.
He has done some research on several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. He has visited three universities so far, and been to talks by admissions tutors. Each university has its own admissions process, but they all use similar methods. These methods usually look at measurable things, such as the score in an aptitude test, the GCSE results and the predicted A-level results.
Some "contextual" factors are taken into consideration in university applications, for example coming from an area where few children go on to higher education (again this is measureable using a scale), or coming from a school where the GCSE results are below the national average.
As far as I know, ASD is not taken into account, although obviously it would be taken into consideration if special arrangements are needed to access an admissions test or an interview.
I don't think a lot of universities will be make-or-break about extra-curricular activities.
I would worry about lack of effort. But he's still got a long time to go. He's pre GCSE. The question is, what's going to happen in the next couple of years? Why doesn't he complete work? Is he bored, or not properly supported with the ASD, or what?
I think a lot of universities will have seen bright students who had uneven academic records. But, realistically, if he is bright and good at Maths, Oxbridge or Warwick or LSE or somewhere like that might be a very good place for him to be, as they will be well used to students with ASD and not remotely fussed about interests outside that. So, if that's what he wants to do, he probably needs to pick up the pace now, and get to work on that extension work, if he possibly can.
He is very bright at maths and computing but does very little work, certainly doesn't complete extension work set
This could be a problem when studying A-level courses, let alone a degree. Bright pupils who are able to coast through GCSE often find that they actually have to work hard at A-level.
My son is reasonably bright at Maths (9 at GCSE, 97% in his Level 2 F.Maths, gold certificates in all the UKMT challenges) but he still found that he is having to put effort in for A-level Maths, and approaches his teachers to ask for extension work.
Perhaps your son will develop that attitiude as he matures though.
In terms of ASD-friendly universities, my son felt very comfortable when he visited Southampton and Birmingham.
Bath holds a residential summer school (long weekend) which is not subject-specific but focuses on life skills, independent living and the social side of being a student.
My son who has asd is in his second year at university on a computer science (information security) masters. His extra curricular stuff in the cyber security field - outside of school, got him an unconditional offer to his top choice uni/course - which was outside of oxbridge because he was looking for specific things in his course. His results were good - he got 3xA at a level (maths, further maths, physics) without particularly pushing himself but it was his ability and passion for his field, plus his engagement with cyber challenge uk that really secured his offer.
Thanks so much, everyone. Sorry, life got in the way of a response!
He was only diagnosed very recently so, although we were pretty sure he had ASD and had been trying to get the diagnosis for a very long time, he has never been able to access formal support. He's had a variety of informal support around organisation but nothing tailored to work.
He is bright enough that until he started GCSEs and had to fit a format, and study work and revise over a period of time, he had got by perfectly well with minimum effort. I think it's a combination of laziness, inability to concentrate and what we are told is a very common ASD approach of not seeing the point in revision and being unable just to 'play the game'.
He's likely to perform below his level of ability in most subjects but the only one he's in danger of failing that matters is English. The D is in an arts subject that in retrospect he should never have taken but everything else is likely to be 6 and above (IF he can pull the English through) and hopefully 7s for some things. His target grades are mostly 8s though. He's on course for a 9 in computer science and maths but recently got a Bronze in the UKMC so not winning any international awards. I think unfortunately he thinks he is more clever than he is as he is unable to accept constructive criticism, reading it as a personal attack and ignoring it if it comes from a teacher he doesn't respect, which is most of them. I know that's also characteristic of ASD in some people.
Lots of ideas here, thanks. I don't know if maturity in the shape described on here will help him but we can hope. He does willingly do extra computer stuff already and very occasionally maths.
Well, one thing to be aware of for the future is that it's quite normal for both personal statements and references to put this sort of thing in context. When he comes to apply to university - if there are still concerns - he might for example have his referee explain that he was only diagnosed quite late on, and this had an impact on his GCSE choices and results.
There are minimum requirements for a lot of universities in the key subjects. I'm sorry - I don't know how they translate to the new grades as I'm not interviewing this year (and they'd not have come through anyway). But, I'd check those and urge him to make sure he gets them!
Hmm, my DS2 with ASD got into a very competitive Uni humanities course, the only extra curricular he mentioned was starting and running the school Warhammer club! However, he is very conscientious work wise and worked very hard to get the marks he needed to go to his chosen Uni, ( where he's the D&D club rep but studying harder than ever). His older brother sounds more like your DS and I did not encourage him to try Higher Education, he has a job and may study later when he really needs to for something specific but he would not have been able to cope with the workload.
Applying post-results might be something to think about if he can pull off great A level results but has weaker GCSEs.
We're urging hard but there's a limit to what we can achieve sadly. We're both high achievers who have always done what we're told basically so we struggle enormously with a child who just doesn't seem to care if homework goes undone, grades are lower than they could be and teachers are unhappy. The school flips between sending us letters saying he's not doing enough work and needs to revise harder and meetings where they recognise that he struggles hugely to do the work. I suspect though that he'll get the right grades in the relevant subjects.
And sorry, it's good to know about the reference.
He is very keen on university so I don't know how easy it would be to change that although we've been looking into modern apprenticeships. He did a two week work experience stint in an IT services unit and was the happiest he's ever been, and was invited back for paid summer work.
There are also BTEC routes to university, particularly for computing. There’s less exam pressure but he’d need to work consistently on assignments to get good grades.
Your DS sounds similar to my DS2, (though he was DXed at 3!) with a similar pattern of abilities, but possibly my DS is lower achieving. DS2 got an A in maths, Bs in double science, geography and IT and Cs in computing, English lang and lit, and catering, D in RE. I didn’t feel these were good enough to take A levels and he did a level 3 BTEC in computing. Unfortunately his work ethic isn’t great and he got MMP, (equivalent to CDD at A level) not really good enough for uni.
My friend’s DS also has ASD. He worked hard on his engineering BTEC and got D* D* D equiv to A* A* A at A level and has started an engineering degree. He had similar GCSE grades to my DS.
I think BTECs suit those who become overwhelmed by revision and exams but can work consistently. That might not suit your DS. Also, only lower ranked unis take them as equivalent to A levels.
My DS is currently doing an HNC in computing, again doing the bare minimum to get by, but he’s not ready at 19 to get a job. He’s emotionally more like an early teenager. I hope he’ll get a job in computing at some point.
Thanks, EllenJanes. Really interesting. DS neither works consistently or revises! He has got along on innate intelligence up to now.
But he did really enjoy work experience, where they treated him as a young genius. His social skills are such that he seems polite on the surface (i.e. our friends and his friends' parents will say how charming he is) but he has a small number of stock phrases and once those are exhausted he doesn't know where to go. He's very happy talking about computers but anything else is a big struggle unless he knows someone very well, and social interaction with strangers makes him very anxious. So I don't know how he would cope in a work environment at this point.
My plan is to keep DS in education for as long as humanly possible, grades not particularly important, just keeping him routinely occupied and having to interact with others. He’s 19 now and will hopefully go on to do the HND next year, equivalent to 2nd year uni. He gets a student loan which is important as I can’t afford for him not to bring in some money unfortunately.
Really, though, ASD is such a wide spectrum that what suits one person may be completely inappropriate for another but it’s useful to know what options are out there. Good luck with your DS’s GCSEs. Passing English and maths keeps lots of options open.
Putting aside the likely grades your dc will achieve, studying for a degree is totally unlike school. Students may have 2 or 3 hours lectures a week but are expected to work without supervision for much of the rest of the time. No-one will chase him to put in work. Will he be self motivated and focussed enough to manage 80% of his time himself?
He is incredibly focussed on his interests so he will if the degree he does engages him. I'm not saying I can't imagine things drifting, especially if there are parts of a course he just isn't fussed about.
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