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taster courses at uni for 6th formers - what do you know?

(57 Posts)
andisa Sat 04-Feb-12 09:25:57

My son wants to do engineering at Uni. but does not know in which speciality. He is in Yr 11 and we have heard and seen on web that Universities run taster courses. I have contacted 2 universities but they do not get back.

Have your children been on taster summer schools? How did you get enrolled? Was it helpful?

BackforGood Tue 07-Feb-12 22:43:10

Agree - betternextlife already said that on Sunday.
I'm with webwiz - I know many, many youngsters now at University (ie, applied in last 5 years or so) yet I know no-one who has been on a taster course.
Agree with senua about how worrying it is for parents to read a comment saying "He will have to do a taster course", when clearly that's just not true.

asiatic Wed 08-Feb-12 21:40:21

Well, I am finding these comments very differentt o my own experiences. Maybe our kids are applying to more popular courses, with more competition, but many are turned down, and we encourage them all to ask for a reason for every rejection.Lack of taster courses is one of the main reasons we get. Also, very few taster courses saeem to require application, it is normally just first come first serve, students have to book it themselves, many many are emailed to the school, too many for me te read all the emails, to be honest. Some students get personal invitations, it depends onwhat activities they have been on previously.

Loshad Wed 08-Feb-12 21:56:42

could be that your kids aren't good enough shock
very few of our kids do taster courses, odd one does medlink, we have loads of offers - some have 5 offers, for lots of popular courses at top unis. We certainly don't recieve loads of info as a school about taster courses and don't push them - medlink forms on noticeboard, smallpice and that is about it.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 08-Feb-12 22:37:39

I look at it from the other end.
DH used to run an RG summer school under the Aimhigher umbrella
there is NO requirement to have done 'taster courses' in engineering.
But having visited a couple of faculty open days (National Science and Engineering week is a great opportunity) will do no harm to understand what degree courses are actually about

gelatinous Wed 08-Feb-12 22:53:53

Would competition finals count? I'm thinking of things like the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge or the National Informatics Olympiad or the UKMT maths summer schools, where the top so many get invited for a week or a long weekend at a university do do more whatever. The Chemistry & maths ones are kind of taster events, but the informatics is a final where they do more challenges. Those are just ones I know of but there must be others. To go your child would have to enter and do rather well at the relevant competition.

campergirls Wed 08-Feb-12 23:00:13

I've done admissions for a very popular humanities subject at more than one RG university and I am truly astonished by asiatic's comments, which in no way correspond to my experience. In fact, as her comments also reveal, any fool can get on a taster course, so how/why would it be valuable to us in selecting between applicants? I can't explain why your rejected students have been getting that feedback asiatic, but it certainly wouldn't have come from us!

SarkyWench Wed 08-Feb-12 23:03:59

I have done admissions for a highly competitive RG course. The vast majority of applicants have not done a taster course but most have done something to show they have taken this decision seriously and researched their chosen course.

And we only offer taster courses to a set of local 'widening participation' schools.

I agree that these courses are an excellent idea though.

asiatic Thu 09-Feb-12 06:03:30

Loshad. You are right about our kids being at the lowest end of the spectrum. We are in a very disadvantaged area, and we take rejects from other schools Many havebeen expelled, have criminal records, are new to speaking english, etc.
Sarkywench, you say "most have done something to show that they have taken this decision seriously", that is what we mean by "taster courses". Some are called master classes, open participation, subject workshops etc
campergirls you say "any fool can get on a taster course", precislely! so the only reason not to is apathy, and showing apathy or not, certainly is a way of differentiating between candidates!
Very few of my students apply to university without that section on the UCAS formed filled in with three taster courses they have done. If they don't, I wouldn't expect them to get an offer. They do mostly apply to local universities, and those universities are likely to have visited the school on recruitment, as well as invited our students to a range of events. They would certainly expect them to have participated

gettingalifenow Thu 09-Feb-12 07:40:57

To answer the OP's quest ion, for engineering course try 'Headstart' - they do lots of courses around the country. My DS did one at Heriot Watt between lower and upper sixth. He also did a physics taster at Southampton ( arranged directly thru their website).

The value of the taster course was that he could choose between the 2 subjects as he didn't know which he really wanted to do.

JoantheFennel Thu 09-Feb-12 07:51:10

Going on a taster does help with a UCAS app.

gettingalifenow Thu 09-Feb-12 09:12:32

The university of London produces a brochure for all of their taster courses for all colleges of all subjects ( I can't link from my iPad, sorry) - includes all of the diff engineering disciplines

SarkyWench Thu 09-Feb-12 09:17:22

Some have done the things you list but not all. Others have read widely (beyond the A-level syllabus) or attended public lectures. Or done work experience. Formal Master classes/taster courses/workshops that are organised by the uni are (unfortunately) still the exception IME.

The reason for my post was that i didn't want parents to panic if their kids have not done the things that you list. I think they are a great idea, but by no means mandatory and there have been some very misleading posts on this thread IME.

SarkyWench Thu 09-Feb-12 09:19:05

And this is (I think) the link mentioned by gettingalifenow

London Tasters

hellsbells99 Thu 09-Feb-12 12:08:24

Friends DS did taster engineering course at Sheffield Uni. Thoroughly enjoyed it and is now in 1st year there.

kingprawntikka Thu 09-Feb-12 12:21:13

Hi Andisa, there are taster courses for engineering. They are run through an organisation called Headstart.
If you google it it will link to the courses. They run at several unis. Some are specific to one branch of engineering, some are broad based.
My son attended one. He is now at a Russell group uni doing EE engineering. I definitely think it helped with his personal statement, as like you say engineering isn't taught in most schools. He got offers from all the unis he applied to. It meant he could confirm exactly which type of engineering he wanted to do and say what he particularly liked about it.
The courses are residential and usually last 4 days. The students stay in uni accommodation. There is a comprehensive study and recreational programme for the 4 days. My son loved it.
We had to apply and pay for it ourselves. It cost in the region of £250, which included all study, recreational activities and meals. I think part of the form needed a reference from sixth form..?

campergirls Thu 09-Feb-12 12:34:26

'They do mostly apply to local universities, and those universities are likely to have visited the school on recruitment, as well as invited our students to a range of events' - OK this makes more sense of our differing perspectives. We are talking about very different pools of students and very different kinds of institutions, I think. We recruit nationally and our standard offers are AAA/B, so the kind of apathy you are talking about is not going to be found among our potential applicants.

I would see the value of taster days more from the student's perspective - that it can be a really good way to get insight into a new subject.

andisa Thu 09-Feb-12 15:30:40

Thank you for all the posts. Most illuminating! I've taken a note of websites and I hope to be booking something very soon.

Main point is Engineering is not taught at most schools so taster courses will help him be clear in which field he wants to specialize.

Must say, I'm now worried these tasters will be competitive too! shockIt is daunting how hard it seems to be now to gain a uni. place . I suppose, being a knowing parent ( now I have your expert advice!) I want him to have the best chance and to make the most informed choice. It would be an expens8ive mistake to apply for the wrong course.

kingprawntikka Thu 09-Feb-12 15:40:17

The uni open days are also quite useful for helping chose which course. My son decided not to apply to some because the open days made it clear the first year was broad based, then specialised in year two, and he had already decided which branch of engineering to specialise in.

andisa Thu 09-Feb-12 19:38:21

Headstart? Is there a web name as can't quite locate it?

gettingalifenow Thu 09-Feb-12 20:02:53

<must learn to link>

Headstart can be found at

asiatic Fri 10-Feb-12 06:05:00

I think you are right, camper girl, we have never had an AAA/B student! We mostly take students from the "NEET" pool ( not in work, education or training), and we are really good and giving another oppertunity to those who realise they've messed up their education, and want to turn it around before they are 20 ( we take 14-20). Most are aiming for a C in my subject. Some get there. D is more common, occasionally B. Probably universities are looking more for other things in their applications, to compensate for the lower grades.

Good luck, OP, hope your DS gets on the course he wants

kingprawntikka Fri 10-Feb-12 08:51:10

Link For Headstart.

JustGettingByMum Fri 17-Feb-12 11:53:49

Hi I followed this thread with interest and just wanted to add that my DS has today received an offer from headstart to take part in a general engineering course at Imperial in July.
His older brother did a similar course at Southampton 2 years ago and subsequently made it his firm choice and began studying there last October.
I think these courses are really good, but tbh I am not sure of the entry criteria as they both went to an outstanding comp with excellent results and were/are on track for top grades.

andisa Fri 17-Feb-12 20:46:26

Update! I have successfully manged to enrol my son on a smallpiece trust course, thanks to this site and have found the taster courses he wants to apply to for Yr 12. Feel very positive that he can get a real chance to find out what kind of engineering he wants to do with these opportunities, so thanks everyone.

Next question - work experience? How do you find engineering firms - I may sound dim but it is so out of my field of experience?

senua Sat 18-Feb-12 09:16:36

Yay! Good news. Hope he enjoys it.grin

No idea about work experience. Does your local Uni/Tech College have contacts?

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