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History/History & Politics degree - wrong A levels admission advice please

(31 Posts)
sillysauages Sat 27-Jun-20 14:39:41

Hi, looking for some advice on admissions.

DD is planning to apply for university as a mature student in 2021 for History or History & Politics. She is mature (25) as since finishing school she has been experiencing mental health problems which she now has under control and is keen to move on.

She has good A levels (A's) and GCSEs (A*'s and A's), unfortunately her A level subjects are Biology, Chemistry and Maths.

Over the last year she has done two evening classes in psychology and history, each a single module in a Certificate of Higher Education, to get a taste of the subjects. Having only done one module, she obviously doesn't have an actual qualification.

So the questions are

Does she have a chance with her existing A levels?
Should she do an access course 2020 to 2021?
Should she do a history A level?
Or is there anything else she could do?

Thank you helpful mumsnetters!

OP’s posts: |
Piggywaspushed Sat 27-Jun-20 14:55:54

Have a look at some admissions requirements. Some courses say no specific A levels required . This may well be the case for politics.

The fact that's he ahs recently tried to make up for less relevant A Levels will definitely work in her favour.

notaladyinred Sat 27-Jun-20 15:01:32

Speak to the admissions tutor for the institutions she is interested in attending before signing up for any access courses etc.

I've been an admissions tutor for a similar degree and we would be very flexible for mature students as long as they could demonstrate a tangible interested in/commitment to the subject.

Piggywaspushed Sat 27-Jun-20 15:12:52

I wouldn't do an access course with her qualifications. History A Level might be a good idea.

starsintheskyy Sat 27-Jun-20 15:16:30

Generally when we look at admissions unless the course itself specified a specific requirement all that is required is the 3 letters specified e.g 3 A's.
However what we sometimes look for is relevant interests and experiences and a strong personal statement.
What do the entry requirements for the course say?

Extracurricularfatigue Sat 27-Jun-20 15:17:09

Access for mature students is very different than for post A levels. She has excellent A levels and a proven interest in the subject, and recent study experience.

I would echo the recommendation to speak to admissions tutors in the places she’s interested in attending but I would be surprised if they wanted her to do any sort of access course.

History degrees are about analysis and research as much as history itself; there are often no specific subject requirements. One core skill they will be interested in is essay writing, which her existing A levels won’t have included but her recent classes may well have done?

sillysauages Sat 27-Jun-20 15:27:26

Thank you for your prompt responses it sounds hopeful. Some of the courses do just have letter grades, others e.g. Kings says sometimes history others list history as a required. So would it be best to avoid the latter?

She is thinking of doing a non accredited city lit history course in September, will this help her personal statement?

OP’s posts: |
Fifthtimelucky Sat 27-Jun-20 15:39:22

History degrees will usually expect history A level I think. Politics won't expect politics A level. However, they may well want at least one A level in an essay subject.

I'd check admissions requirements for the unis she's interested in and then make sure that the personal statement is really strong, both in terms of why she is interested in the subject and as proof that she can write fluently, persuasively and grammatically!

Extracurricularfatigue Sat 27-Jun-20 15:39:55

Definitely it will, but talk to the universities whatever their requirements are, as they are not always the same for mature students. If she really likes the look of a course that lists history as required, she loses nothing from getting in touch to explain her circumstances and see how mature student applications are considered.

Disfordarkchocolate Sat 27-Jun-20 15:51:32

Perhaps a year doing some Open University work would help?

An access course is really good for forming good study skills and learning how to research, format an essay and manage your time. She will also be able to see how her mental health is while studying. She may also get extra support if it is classed as a disability because its a long term issue.

titchy Sat 27-Jun-20 17:00:58

Published entry requirements are generally for 18 year olds coming from sixth form. She should contact places she like the look of individually and ask whether they'd consider her as a mature students with some relevant HE credits completed. She should get positive responses. She could spend next year doing some one or two more CertHe History or Politics modules - would be better than a city lit course as those are at a lower level.

puffinkoala Sat 27-Jun-20 17:30:26

I'd take someone with science A levels onto a history/politics course if they had good Eng lit or Eng lang GCSEs (and ideally history GCSE too).

I think someone with science A levels can do an essay subject, the reverse is not true.

There was a lady on my law degree course who had done chemistry, biology and German A levels.

In her shoes I would do a couple of Futurelearn MOOCs in history or politics courses to have something for the personal statement.

Good luck - I don't think science A levels are in any way an impediment!

sillysauages Sat 27-Jun-20 17:38:35

Thanks for all your responses. I think she will start by contacting individual university admissions departments and then make decisions from there. I will let you know how she gets on.smile

OP’s posts: |
Extracurricularfatigue Sat 27-Jun-20 18:07:34

Good luck! I think she’ll have some really good conversations.

My0My Sun 28-Jun-20 08:06:58

I would also suggest she gets involved with a local history group and adds something to her PS that doesn’t require money to pay for it. It shows she has the motivation to do something that she is personally interested in rather than go on a paid course that follows a curriculum.

I know it’s early, but does she have a job in mind? I would consider which universities have a better outcome for grads doing this course too.

AlwaysColdHands Sun 28-Jun-20 08:09:09

Good advice here about speaking to admissions tutors. Also I’d recommended a History / Politics OpenLearn course or two

bigbluebus Sun 28-Jun-20 15:44:11

My DS did Maths Physics Chemistry A levels as he wanted to do Engineering. After 1 year he decided he no longer wished to continue with Engineering and left Uni. After a year out he applied to several different Unis to study History. He got an unconditional offer from Hull Uni based on his existing A level results. During his year off he did A level history independently (in 6 months) via an on line college - although in addition to the course fee and exam fees we had to pay for 6 x 1 hour 1:1 tutoring for his coursework element so that they knew it was his work. (Exam board requirement for the board he used). Other Unis gave conditional offers based on his History result but having visited Leicester and Hull he actually preferred Hull (the city gets bad press but he's loved it so much he's going back to do his Masters).

Extracurricularfatigue Mon 29-Jun-20 09:17:06

That's really interesting, bigbluebus. As I'm sure you know, Politics at Hull is superb so I wonder if they take the same approach on requirements as History?

SarahAndQuack Mon 29-Jun-20 09:22:42

I would also suggest she gets involved with a local history group and adds something to her PS that doesn’t require money to pay for it. It shows she has the motivation to do something that she is personally interested in rather than go on a paid course that follows a curriculum.

I totally agree with advice that this is a matter for admissions tutors at the specific universities, but FWIW, I would be a little bit cautious of this. If I were looking at a mature student, the thing I'd most want to know was whether or not they could write an essay. I would also be a right snob about (some) local history groups. Some of them are probably great but it can be a bit like someone saying 'I want to study English Lit and I'm a real regular at my local book club!' I mean, fine, you do what you like in your free time.

Extracurricularfatigue Mon 29-Jun-20 09:31:32

SarahAndQuack

*I would also suggest she gets involved with a local history group and adds something to her PS that doesn’t require money to pay for it. It shows she has the motivation to do something that she is personally interested in rather than go on a paid course that follows a curriculum.*

I totally agree with advice that this is a matter for admissions tutors at the specific universities, but FWIW, I would be a little bit cautious of this. If I were looking at a mature student, the thing I'd most want to know was whether or not they could write an essay. I would also be a right snob about (some) local history groups. Some of them are probably great but it can be a bit like someone saying 'I want to study English Lit and I'm a real regular at my local book club!' I mean, fine, you do what you like in your free time.

But being a member of a book club could well be something that an admissions tutor would be interested in, depending on what sort of book club it was and how you talked about it in your personal statement. Anything that demonstrates that you commit yourself to a subject and go outside a school syllabus is good to include. I wouldn't have thought of local history, but actually spending your free time researching, discussing history, getting involved, why wouldn't that be an indicator of a genuine passion for something? It's only one facet of a personal statement. I read History and my subject interview was barely about the essay I'd brought along and far more about a history society I belonged to and the ideas it promoted (admittedly not local but I think if it had been, it would have been down to me to talk about it in the right way).

Extracurricularfatigue Mon 29-Jun-20 09:34:41

I would also say that my husband has a doctorate, and has published a fair bit, and is also the secretary of a local history society!

SarahAndQuack Mon 29-Jun-20 09:39:49

Hmm, I'm not sure I agree.

If I'm looking at a personal statement, yes, almost anything could be of interest 'depending how you talked about it'. But it'd be the talking about it that'd count.

'Passion' is one of those red-flag words on a personal statement. You're not there to demonstrate 'passion' (obviously, it is nice for you if you love what you're doing). You're there to demonstrate potential and commitment. For the OP it's especially important to show she has the capacity to manage the course, because she doesn't have essay-writing A Levels.

I also have a doctorate and I've been involved in plenty of book clubs and have dropped in on history societies in various places I've lived - I'm not saying having academic training automatically makes you not enjoy going to these things. I'm just saying it wouldn't demonstrate essay-writing capacity, and I would think that would be the priority.

For a mature student, demonstrating ability to go off the curriculum will be much less important than for an 18 year old.

SarahAndQuack Mon 29-Jun-20 09:50:28

Btw, my vested interest here is that I think people often get a bit of a wrong impression about arts degrees like history. They think you choose a subject like history because you like learning about the past, and obviously that's part of it, but it's also a lot about analysis and applying different theoretical frameworks and constructing arguments.

I totally love finding out all the best stories from the past, and having endless discussions about what was wrong with Henry VIII's fertility or whether he's a goodie or a baddie. I can definitely get passionate about it. But it's not got a huge bearing on how good a historian I might be. So that's why I get a bit suspicious of the idea of 'demonstrating passion' rather than demonstrating academic capability.

(Also, sorry, in my last post I referred to the OP when I should have said the OP's DD).

Extracurricularfatigue Mon 29-Jun-20 10:34:44

I do have a history degree, and my job, whilst not in academia, rests heavily on the analytical and evidential skills that I learned while studying it, so I entirely agree with you that enjoying stories from history really isn't the important thing here. (I was rather taken aback but pleased on my first day for my boss to say 'I hope you've got a history degree so you know how to deal with evidence already'.) I rather wish I hadn't had to fall back on my husband as an example, which always annoys me on here, as it always sounds like you're just regurgitating what someone else knows or has said, but I have never had any dealings with local history myself. But I do think as part of a wider application then demonstrating an interest in a more practical way than just reading about history or watching documentaries can't hurt at all, and might build confidence in someone who is worried that they look too scientific on paper.

You clearly do university admissions, which I don't, so I would defer to your knowledge if wider interests really wouldn't be a great addition. I do however recruit for fairly competitive graduate posts, and I am always drawn to those people who have taken some effort to do something to demonstrate their commitment which isn't the usual route, and isn't particularly glamorous or fashionable.

My other half's local history society has a journal (possibly it's one that you wouldn't be sniffy about :-)) which often contains articles from academics with an interest in the area as well as enthusastic amateurs so there's scope to contribute in that way. The society I belonged to was national, and also has a journal with a similar mix. So a local history society could be a good way of getting going on writing in that way. I wouldn't have thought of it myself, and wouldn't suggest it would be more useful than getting used to essay-writing. It would at least demonstrate that someone is aware that history isn't all about Kings and Queens and wars.

SarahAndQuack Mon 29-Jun-20 10:52:10

Well, I will join you in regurgitating other people's examples, and say my grandpa was an amateur historian and published for a local journal, and I found out very recently that the discovery he made in one of them is still being quoted in academic books! I was delighted.

So yes, I know there are good local history societies and I'm not knocking them, more questioning why that would be preferred over doing a qualification (if that is a decision the OP's DD even has to make; it may well not be).

It's not that wider interests aren't good, it's that people sometimes have the idea that doing something extra-curricular is the crucial thing. I do also think if you're looking at a 25 year old you do look for slightly different things - they've been out in the world and gained a bit of capacity for independence in a way most 18 year olds don't have the opportunity to do.

But as I say, definitely a matter for individual admissions tutors and I wouldn't want to pretend I know. I've done admissions, but (weirdly, as I'm an academic historian) not in a History department, and I only know enough to know they'll all be keen to give a prospective student advice.

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