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University entry requirements

(49 Posts)
catwalker Fri 02-Sep-11 17:24:39

DS is going into the sixth form with slightly disappointing GCSE results (see other threads) and this has set me off wondering about what A level results he would need to get into university should he want to go (his decision - no pressure from me). I've just googled the course I did at the university I went to (ahem) 30 years ago and the entry requirement is now three As at A level. When I did it I was asked for BBC, or it might even have been BCC. Anyway, I got ADD and they still let me in. All the courses at my old uni seem to ask for AAA or AAB. Is that what it takes these days?

Kez100 Fri 02-Sep-11 17:44:31

On the basis more children get A levels - about a quarter get A's - and the supply of places at the sort of Uni you went to has probably not changed anywhere near as much, then yes, that is what is needed to get there.

I would imagine there are many other Unis that take lower grades though - those who now cater for the thousands upon thousands of extra young people now going to Uni.

Back in my time - probably your time too - most young people didn't go to Uni. I've heard 5% mentioned but don't know if that's true. Of course another x% went to Polytechnic (most of those are called Unis now)

kritur Fri 02-Sep-11 20:36:20

A grade offers are common nowadays for popular courses and popular universities. I work at a Russell Gp uni and our standard offer in my dept is ABB, the university has a -1 quality policy. We won't take anyone with more than one grade less than their offer. I'm afraid it is quite cut throat at the top. That said there are plenty of universities that cater for the middle of the road and lower grade students (although in the era of 9k fees I would question the value for money of some qualifications from these unis.

BecauseImWorthIt Fri 02-Sep-11 20:41:44

He will be able to get a place at university - not everyone gets AAA! The key thing for him is to choose his universities very carefully. You should start reading up about universities now. I know from when DS1 went into the 6th form that the whole university thing totally took us by surprise and we were definitely under prepared.

What do you think he is likely to want to study?

Look at the university league tables - by subject - and find the ones you like the sound of, and then look at their websites and their requirements for entry.

Also, you also need to be aware that some universities will make their offers in terms of UCAS points. This means that they may not specify a specific grade in a specific subject, which can be helpful. It also means that he should look out for things that he can do which might earn him extra points - and he should certainly try and do 4 A levels, even if one of them is only an AS level.

Yellowstone Fri 02-Sep-11 22:52:33

BIWI 4 at AS and 3 at A2 is standard and by far the best option for a good student who has slightly underperformed at GCSE and needs to get the best quality grades he possibly can at A2.

Since an increasing number of unis will be asking for an A* as part of their offer, quality will trump quantity, surely?

EvilTwins Sat 03-Sep-11 00:16:11

Go to the ucas website, and you can do a course search (right hand side of the homepage) - you can search by subject, and the go through the various universities offering that course. Click on the "Course Requirements" link, and it will tell you what the university wants from students this year. Most also specify whether they want particular GCSE subjects and grades, and also whether they want specific A Level grades or a total of UCAS points. There's loads of information on there, which will mean you can help your DS to research appropriate courses.

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 03-Sep-11 00:32:18

Of course it is, Yellowstone, but not everyone gets those grades, and there are an awful lot of university places around for students with lower grades.

Obviously we all want our DC to get the best possible grades, but if the signs are there that the OP's son won't achieve that, then it is much better to be realistic about the places that will be attainable.

We have gone through just this with DS1 - CCCE grades at AS level. He had conditional offers from all five of the universities he applied to, including Essex and Kent, which are very respectable universities, especially for the course he had applied for.

(In the final event, he ended up with AABA*, so withdrew and re-applied, and is off to Sussex in a couple of weeks)

This also raises the issue of when you should apply to university. Most students are expected/pressured to apply before they have their actual grades. I think there is a very strong argument to take a gap year and only apply when you know what your grades are. It would have saved us a huge amount of time and worry!

thekidsmom Sat 03-Sep-11 07:56:10

Whilst appreciating exactly where this comment will take us, you need to consider whether it is worth it to you and him financially to do an academic subject (eg English or Maths) at a university which requires low grades comparatively.
If he wants to so something more vocational or very specifically oriented towards an industry - eg design, health professions etc then whatever grades he needs for those subjects at whatever universities those subjects are offered will be the prevailing standard and will therefore be worth it (in general).
I know we all said it on the other (extremely interesting, and at times, heated, thread) but it really all does depend on subject.
A very quick research method for you would be to log on to 3 or 4 univs of different types and browse their subjects: pick somewhere like Birmingham or Nottingham and see that they mostly need AAA/AAB, then look at Oxford Brookes or Nottingham Trent (both fantastic for their vocational offerings) then look at your local ex college of higher educaiton (eg Liverpool Edgehill or Uni of West London) then maybe look at a specialist institution for the arts (if that's relevant) - such as Falmouth or Bournemouth Institute. You will very quickly get an idea of the kind of grade entry requiremetns for different subjects in different types of places.
Alternatively, if web browsing is not your thing, request half a dozen prospecuses on line and have them delivered to your door for a flick through.

Yellowstone Sat 03-Sep-11 08:44:30

BIWI you advised that OP's DS 'should certainly try and do 4 A Levels even if only at AS Level'.

For a student who has slipped down a notch at GCSE I would have thought that three A Levels to try and maximise quality and redeem himself for uni would be the far better way to go, particularly with higher ed changing so fast. I didn't say quality and quantity is better, that would be daft. But if one of those things has to be compromised by a student who didn't do his best at GCSE, then it should be quantity.

Yellowstone Sat 03-Sep-11 08:47:45

' even if one of them is only at AS Level' (sloppy quoting).

ellisbell Sat 03-Sep-11 08:48:02

It really does depend on what he wants to study and where. Popular courses and popular universities ask for AAA and sometimes A*AA. Offers tend to be increasing to match grades and people sometimes get AA*A offers now, expect your son to need at least one A* for popular courses. It's increasingly common for universities to want a fourth subject at AS but generally the grade can be lower, even a c.

There are a few "tricks of the trade" that help. One or two good universities accept General Studies as an A level, most don't accept it even at AS. Some less academic children still get As in General Studies. Some universities are geographically isolated and have to make lower offers to attract enough applicants. Bangor, Plymouth, Stirling are universities with generally lower requirements. Some universities make point based offers, extras like music exams may bump up points.

A bright child who has poor GSCE results may be less physically advanced than others. It's well known that the education system favours the physically advanced and that differences persist until A level. Taking a gap year can be beneficial.

gingeroots Sat 03-Sep-11 08:48:46

I totally agree with BecauseImworthit - I used to think that gap years were only for well off and priveleged people .
But we found the whole applying to university during year13 really difficult .
You have to work out what and where you want to go - not easy when starting from scratch ,do the PS thing - all while studying and only half way through your A levels ( when you might even be doubting your subject choices ) . And at a school like DS's where you're mainly left to do it all yourself ,it's very hard .
Once you have replies from University it seems you have to confirm and sort out your accommodation at the speed of light in order to get what you want .

I went to university 40 years ago and got a good degree ,I've never been a high flyer ( and have been criticised for not using my degree ) or had a well paid job or career . But I benefited enormously from leaving home ,making life long friends ,and ,not so much growing up ,but broadening my experience .

I think all the hype around the increased fees is a bit of a red herring - it still seems a good deal to me - and I personally agree with this quote
"the most valuable thing you get from education is a space in which you can make friends ,gain experience,and figure a few things out " .

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 03-Sep-11 09:37:20

Yellowstone - yes, it may be better to do 3 good full A levels rather than include a year of doing a 4th - but that depends on the individual student.

But most 6th forms/colleges will expect them to start off doing 4, unless they think they really can't cope. In which case there may be other options that might earn them extra UCAS points - such as General Studies, as mentioned above.

DS1's E in AS French isn't really worth much, but it did add a few valuable points to his overall score, which he would really have needed if he ended up with the poor predicted grades in the end!

Re the gap year thing - it's such a business now that, frankly, for most children doing it it's not much more than a long, paid for holiday. We hadn't planned for DS1 to have one, and he didn't have any money to travel anywhere (and we certainly weren't going to fund it). He ended up finding a job in a shop and has worked for most of the year. He has been promoted and is now part of their management team <proud>. This has been extremely valuable and he has matured an awful lot. More than anything, though, it has confirmed to him rather than to us, his parents, that he wants to go to university, and that a degree will be valuable to him.

Yellowstone Sat 03-Sep-11 09:38:02

Gap years can be incredibly dull too, especially for ordinary kids who have to work for months on end in a tedious job to earn enough to spend a couple of months in Australia. It can be very hard being left behind when all your friends are off to a new life at uni. Gap 'year' is a misnomer too: it's well over a year.

The PS is fairly manageably done in the summer holiday and the UCAS form is available then to be filled in too - all the exam info is in the students' possession by the middle of Aug at the latest.

Mine are keener on a gap year after uni, a gap year then can make a great deal of sense.

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 03-Sep-11 09:41:12

The way employment is at the moment, YS, I think they'll all be having a gap year (or two!) after they graduate ... sad

margerykemp Sat 03-Sep-11 09:45:58

I just looked up my old course (graduated less than a decade ago) and the requirements have shifted from bbbb to aaaa (at higher). I am stunned.

gingeroots Sat 03-Sep-11 09:59:08

Everyone is different aren't they ?

DS is summer born ,not particularly mature and wouldn't have been ready to choose his courses and university ( which I think you need to know before you can write a decent personal statement ) in the summer after year 12 .

As it turns out he messed up his year13 and ended up leaving ( did he jump or was he pushed ? ) in April so has had several months off .
Although we've had battles over too much screen time those months have seen him regain his confidence ,develop friendships which he didn't seem to have time to have while at school and gain valuable voluntary work experience .

I guess 12 months + might have been a different proposition ,but I'm still a convert to applying after grades are known .

catwalker Sat 03-Sep-11 10:57:11

A gap year to take stock (rather than travel) makes an awful lot of sense for ds. He really doesn't have a clue what he wants to do (of course this may change over the coming year). He says he wants to go into the sixth form but that may be because he can't think of an alternative. He's "not sure" about university and I certainly don't want him to go down that route because he can't think of an alternative! A shop job or something equivalent might be just what he needs to motivate him or help him identify what he would like to do with his life. It's not that unusual for children to lose direction in their late teens but then decide in their early 20s that uni is the route for them. Examples I can think of amongst friends' kids have ended up with excellent degrees - no doubt because they have taken control of their lives rather than just gone with the flow.

The situation is not helped by the fact that I went to uni but have never really used my degree and gave up any thoughts of advancing my career when I had children. DH left school at 16 with barely a couple of O'levels to his name and has been extremely successful. Not brilliant role models for a 16 year old boy!

I think ds is emotionally rather than physically immature. His younger brother has a completely different approach to school - I don't think he likes it any better but appreciates the benefits of hard work. He even revises for exams without being asked!!!

gingeroots Sat 03-Sep-11 11:23:36

Snap catwalker - DP retired ,and I'm a carer ( despite my degree ) .
DS seems emotionally years behind what I assume most teenagers are like - no drinking ,no facebook .
Great I know ,but also = no social life or developed social skills to speak of .

TheFallenMadonna Sat 03-Sep-11 11:30:11

This year, our higher performing sixth formers held grade-based offers (only ever for 3 A2s) from the more prestigious universities, and our lower performing sixth formers held points based offers from the less prestigious. For the latter, the 4th subject dropped after AS made a difference, for the former, it didn't.

quirrelquarrel Sat 03-Sep-11 11:46:43

Stories about CCCC at AS being turned into AAAA at A2 are great, but they aren't much use to people who apply from 2011 on. Probably all state schools and most private schools will cash in grades due to the rule changing, which means that unis will have another criterion to help them decide about making offers. Instead of relying on teacher's predictions, which could be unrealistic (i.e. 3A* from 4B), they'll take the AS grades into consideration for the first time. It'll be much harder to go up a grade or two without resits to bump grades up and you apply before January, which is when you resit, so you can only improve your final grade and that was only really useful if you had to meet a high offer. So it's much harder to get into Russel Group etc unis when you're disappointed with AS results.

* don't take me as an authority on anything, it's just what I've gleaned from TSR, but my sixth form said something about it too earlier this year.

gingeroots Sat 03-Sep-11 11:53:28

Fallenmaddona - yes you're right ,DS fell into the weaker candidate category and needed his 4th AS level for points .

quirrelquarrel Sat 03-Sep-11 11:55:16

Not that many unis ask for four AS levels...I think UCL is one of the few who do (AAAe-BBBe), just a pass grade. But it's always good to have some leeway when it comes to choosing which one to drop in Y13.

For the competitive courses there are A*s appearing, LSE and Cambridge, those sorts of places. If the standard offer ever got to something like 3A* and then certain scores in the STEP or whatever the other tests are...we'd have to admit about grade inflation!

Are more people going to Oxbridge than before? Would be interesting to see if the standard there had dropped at all, and in what proportion to the rest.

crazymum53 Sat 03-Sep-11 12:33:51

The offer for my degree course is now at least AAA when I was offered BBB. My second choice university offered me CCC and is now AAA or AAB as well!
There is an excellent book called "Degree Course Offers" by Brian Heap which gives a list of offers for different courses by subject across all universities. This book is very useful and would recommend it highly!

eatyourveg Sat 03-Sep-11 13:05:59

I got hold of a copy of that book (see here) and would second the recommendation. Not cheap but you can always browse through it in the library and all 6th forms/FE colleges will have a copy

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