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A Level Choices and "facilitating subjects"

(62 Posts)
Phaedra11 Sat 08-Feb-14 10:00:42

My son is in Year 11 at a local state school which doesn't have a sixth college. He hopes to continue with A levels at the nearby sixth college which has a very good reputation. The A levels he wishes to do are: English Lit, Law, Sociology and IT. I am aware that A level Law is widely thought of as irreverent, even if you go on to study Law at university but he really wants to do it, partly because he thinks it would show him whether he does want to pursue it further and also he's really attracted to the mock trials that the college participates in. He wants to study the other subjects because he enjoys them.

I've always thought that studying the subjects you have a passion for was the best bet, but was concerned to read on another thread that to stand a chance of getting into a decent university, you need to have A levels in two facilitating/traditional subjects. I assume English Lit would qualify but not the others. He definitely does not want to study Maths or Sciences, though he already has A grades in GCSE Maths and Biology and is predicted As for Chemistry, Physics and Further Maths. History is a possibility but I know he would rather study the other subjects and I have been told by a friend with insider knowledge that the teaching of History at the college has been comparatively weak recently with a fast turnover of history staff.

I don't know whether to say anything to DS about this or not. He is already feeling the pressure of imminent GCSEs. We did discuss initially whether History might be a better option if he does go further with Law but in the end he decided against it. I think it is possible/quite likely that he would achieve better grades in the subjects he prefers. He has no particular ambitions for Oxbridge but does hope to go to university. The school has given guidance on applying for college but not on A level choices. The Sixth Form college has said that they are flexible about A level choices at this point and it is quite possible to change options in the initial induction period.

Any advice?

Phaedra11 Sun 16-Feb-14 20:31:22

Thanks lljkk, that's really helpful.

lljkk Sun 16-Feb-14 20:29:50

Another good looking table.

lljkk Sun 16-Feb-14 20:27:59

There are lots of league tables for different subjects.
This a good a start as any. You know where your local Uni is on that table; I would have guessed aim for the top 1/2 of the table.

Phaedra11 Sun 16-Feb-14 20:23:19

Thanks all. I've also been finding this helpful, even though not directly related to my original post, now that DS is aiming for Law.

I work for an advice charity where we have a lot of volunteers who are Law students, mostly from the local (non-RG) university. I suppose I'm bound to see the ones who haven't yet been been successful, but many of them seem to struggle to find training contracts and some have said that they often question their decision to study Law.

Saharap and chocolatewombat, what you say about universities with good reputations and academic profile makes a lot of sense, given what a competitive area Law is. What I'm wondering now is, which are the universities with good reputations for Law? Just the RG ones or are there others?

DalmationDots Sun 16-Feb-14 15:45:57

Thanks for your input Saharap, very useful, I will post it on to DN.

ChocolateWombat Sat 15-Feb-14 19:13:47

Isn't the key thing to getting either a training contract or a job later without one, your academic profile. As the previous poster said, having a Law degree isn't essential, but a very impressive academic profile is. That means great A Levels, having been to a top Uni, getting at least a 2.1 in a well regarded subject. Might be law. History or other mainstream competitive subjects just as good. People with these profiles can get onto the next courses, get sponsorship, training contracts and jobs. They have a chance to have it all. People who can't get to the stage after degree, but to something in their academic profile letting them down, may pay to get onto the course, unsponsored, but are likely to have difficulties in the next stage, because their academic profile will let them down then too.
Not sure how all this relates to the OP, but am I broadly right in my understands g, that academic profile is the thing that makes or breaks it all.

Saharap2 Sat 15-Feb-14 19:05:21

Hi Dalmation. I'm training at one of the big City law firms so I wanted to give my 2p on your DN's situation as I remember being there not too long ago!

First of all, not doing a law degree or having law A level will not be a hindrance to her. Plenty of lawyers at my firm and across the city are arts grads (sciences also fine but rarer among lawyers). You see a lot of people with history, English, foreign languages, politics etc. I went the GDL route too and generally about 40-50% of the intake at the big firms will be from the GDL. I get the impression that marks and university reputation are more important than the actual subject. She needs to be getting consistent 2:1s or 1sts.

I can't really speculate on the reasons why she has not got anywhere with her vac scheme applications but a certain amount of rejection is definitely completely normal and not necessarily cause for concern. There is an element of numbers game to it. However if she has submitted a fair few applications it might be a good idea if she could get someone to have a look and give some guidance. Has she been to see her university careers centre or talked to law firm graduate recruitment people at law fairs? As a non law student I think writing what the firms want to hear in "commercial awareness" questions is sometimes a struggle and she might need to get some pointers on this.

It is also worth pointing out that as a second year non law student she might not even be eligible yet for a lot of schemes, as it's normal for law grads to apply in second year and non law people in their final year.

I would be very wary of suggesting to her that there is any advantage in doing the GDL/LPC unsponsored and without a training contract lined up. Beck's DD's situation is different as she is veering between the solicitor and barrister routes, but for someone set on a career as a solicitor I think they should absolutely be trying to get sponsorship before paying out their own cash for law school. She will be able to get on the course regardless as the providers will take anyone with a 2:2 who can pay - they are businesses and about bums on seats but it's an expensive gamble to go it alone when a law firm would pay fees + maintenance grants and you miss out on the stress of job hunting while doing your GDL course and exams. She has plenty of time to sort it though as she can't actually apply for a training contract until next year anyway!

DalmationDots Sat 15-Feb-14 11:13:30

That is great to hear beck I will pass on your comments to my DN! She will be really relived and she was starting to panic. She is so desperate to do law and feeling like she is hitting dead ends wherever she tries.
I think part of DN thinks there is shame in not having sponsorship in that it might decrease job prospects, but I can see your DD is absolutely right. Having thought of it from your DD's perspective, I can actually see the advantages of going it 'alone' until you know which firm is right for you, have more experience and know where you want to be located smile
Good luck to your DD!

BeckAndCall Sat 15-Feb-14 09:32:44

Hi Dalmation. My DD applied fro the GDL without any thought of sponsorship - she didn't want to actually tie herself down to a future employer at that stage so decided fro herself that she would be going solo, so to speak. Your DN will not be disadvantaged in any way by not have sponsorship I'm sure.

dD also applied for those same summer schemes and didn't even get a sniff of an interview from a solicitors firm and was a bit disheartened. She did however get two mini pupillages, which pay nothing of course, but which have helped her CV.

DalmationDots Fri 14-Feb-14 10:47:11

Sorry this may be a silly question!! But my DN is going the law route and was having a very similar conversation with me the other day.
DN is in 2nd year of uni, applying to get vacation schemes/sponsorship but not getting far. So far DN has work experience offers but nothing more and nothing likely to secure sponsorship. She is at a good RG uni and did (can't remember exactly but something like) English, History, Politics A levels. DN started wondering the other day if doing Law a level and/or a law degree would have made any difference.
Just wondering Beck did your DD choose to do GDL without sponsorship (i.e. not apply) or was she in the situation my DN is in? How easy is it to get a place on a GDL without sponsorship? Does it hinder the application in any way? Is your DD starting to apply for sponsorship now or is she now waiting for 2nd year? I hope all these Qs makes sense!!
My sister is getting quite worried as it is DNs real passion and DN is getting very demotivated by all the rejections.

BeckAndCall Thu 13-Feb-14 12:40:52

Thanks namechanger that's helpful - I'll suggest she at least looks at the Inns as a potential source of funding!

And luckily, or sensibly, or by good design, she's going to a law college local to us ( the same one her dad went to many moons ago) so will live at home for the year, saving heaps of costs plus she has a very flexible shift type casual job when shes at home so she's expecting to work maybe 15 hours a week to keep afloat for spending money.

Namechanger012345 Thu 13-Feb-14 11:54:22

Beck and call, your DD should look into scholarships from the inns of court but it is certainly a lot harder to get financial support as a prospective barrister than solicitor.

I think there are some loans available through the law schools for GDL but don't think the terms are particularly favourable - certainly not like a "student loan". Another option could be to work and take the GDL part time, spreading the cost and giving the student chance to earn enough money for fees. Some students are already doing it this way although yes the majority are probably relying on bank of mum and dad if they don't have law firm sponsorship.

BeckAndCall Thu 13-Feb-14 06:33:00

On the expense of law school, my DD will be doing the GDL this year and doesn't have sponsorship - she wants to be a barrister ( may change after she does the course - dad is a solicitor so may go in that direction) and I would sincerely hope she would get sponsorship for the second year ( can't remember what the barrister equivalent of the LPC is)

But in the meantime, the fees for the GDL are £10k but there is no student loan available - so that's the bank of mum and dad, then. ( unless anyone knows of any other options?)

Namechanger012345 Wed 12-Feb-14 22:42:35

Law school does not have to be expensive. I know its a long way into the future for him but if he wants to go into law in the city, most of those firms will pay the law school fees plus a maintenance grant.

Phaedra11 Wed 12-Feb-14 20:28:50

Thanks ISing. That's lovely of you.

Thanks slow and wombat. I am really glad that wombat and others have passed on the information about university admissions. DS has now given serious consideration to Maths A level but decided against it. Whilst eventually acknowledging it was a possibility, he decided to go with his strengths instead, which for the reasons you raise, slow, is probably a good thing. Studying History and English seems to play to his strengths and they are facilitating subjects, recommended for Law.

A positive thing that has come out of all this is finding out where DS's motivations lie. I had thought he was ambivalent about Law but it turned out he was worried about the expense of the LPC etc more than anything else. Once we reassured him that we would do our best to support him financially, he was full of renewed enthusiasm. We know plenty of people in various stages of legal training (because of my job), so are pretty aware of the cost, possible length of time involved and extremely competitive nature of it, all the way along. Regarding Computer Studies, he now seems okay to keep that as an interest which may or may not lead him somewhere.

ChocolateWombat Wed 12-Feb-14 19:44:39

Top universities are inundated with applications. They can be picky about who to give offers to. One of their ways of binning applications is on subjects that have been studied. They DO give offers to candidates with the more challenging facilitating subjects (2 required). They do require certain predictions. Many will not even read the personal statement or reference, because the piles of applications are too big.

They will sift people, first using predicted grades, then subjects, and then, when the pile is still so big, they will look at the personal statement or reference. The only thing you can control at this stage, is having the right subject.
It is right to choose things you enjoy. But you need to be wise to university admissions procedures. See the Sutton Trust INFORMED CHOICES document about admission to RG Unis.

SlowlorisIncognito Wed 12-Feb-14 19:22:49

Very few universities ask for a 4th AS level in their entry requirements, although it is usually expected. However doing a BTEC will compensate for this, and BTECs are now accepted by many top universities. They will tailor their offers to his qualifications if they will accept them.

I think there is a lot of recieved wisdom about A-level choices which to some extent contradicts the reality of university admissions. In an "all other things being equal" situation, those with subjects considered less accademic may be edged out in favour of those with more accademic subjects. However, this will be a later consideration, after the grades (achieved and predicted), PS and reference are considered.

Your DS needs to study subjects that he enjoys and will do well in. There is no point pressuring him into a Maths A-level he doesn't think he will enjoy or do as well in as another subject. If he ends up with a B or a C in maths, instead of an A in another subject, this will limit his choices much more than chosing an A-level which is slightly less well respected.

ISingSoprano Wed 12-Feb-14 08:17:40

Sounds to me like your ds has his head screwed on - I really hope he does well. Very best of luck to him.

Phaedra11 Tue 11-Feb-14 19:19:19

Should have been " unrespected"!

Phaedra11 Tue 11-Feb-14 19:18:08

Thanks again, ChocolateWombat. Really, you've all been so helpful with this, it is deeply appreciated. I was wondering what was to be gained by those extra ASs when they seemed so respected. It seems like it depends on how high you're aiming.

DS had his interview with the Sixth Form College today and has been offered a place. He gave them his preferred options as above and has been told there is still flexibility to change his mind. After the GCSEs the college is running three days of sample lessons, to help them with their final decisions.

In a surprise development, today DS said that he can see that Maths A level would be incredibly useful and is planning to have a look at some past papers and talk to his Maths teacher about whether an A grade might be a realistic aspiration! Seems like a good idea though I suppose the past papers could scare him off completely!

ChocolateWombat Mon 10-Feb-14 20:40:28

TBH, I would avoid those 'extras'. They take up your precious time,mbut count for little. If you have 4 AS or equivalent of, that is enough. NOn RG Unis may be prepared to accept those qualifications, so for some, they work if they do poorly in one of their main ASs.

Phaedra11 Mon 10-Feb-14 19:39:00

Thanks Hmm and Wombat. He may also be taking an additional AS level in the first year but all the options for this have names like Critical Thinking and World Development which seem to be discounted by the RG universities so probably not helpful in that respect.

ChocolateWombat Mon 10-Feb-14 19:19:57

Great to hear he has chosen. The A Levels sound a good combination.
I would just check that the Unis he is interested in will accept the BTECS and not expect 4 AS levels. It may well be fine, as offers at A2 are for 3 subjects, not 4. It would be unusual for people entering the top Unis to have a BTECS rather than 4th AS, but that doesn't mean it isn't allowable.
If you look at some Uni websites Law sections, they should be able to tell you that.

Best of luck to him now and in the future.

HmmAnOxfordComma Mon 10-Feb-14 17:53:19

That sounds like a fine choice. Two facilitating academic subjects, one vocational/academic and one vocational.

Also keeps his options open if he decides against law.

He's mentioned the mock trials a few times, but he should possibly try and join the college's debating team if they have one as that would be helpful in developing his spoken and argumentative skills too.

Good luck to your ds in getting his GCSEs in the meantime.

Phaedra11 Mon 10-Feb-14 17:18:12

After much discussion, soul searching and reading of documents, DS has come to the following conclusions.

He is very committed to studying Law. He appreciates that it is a very competitive field and that giving himself a disadvantage at the first hurdle would be a bad idea. Maths A level would be torture to him and he is not confident he could get an A. He has an interest in History and a teacher has told him he's capable of getting an A* at History A level. He knows Law A level isn't essential when applying for a Law degree but wants to take it at A level anyway and thinks the mock trials will be good experience. He does not want to give up Computer studies completely and can't help feeling it might be useful if the whole Law thing falls apart and he's after an office job.

He has therefore decided on the following three a levels: English Literature, History and Law plus a BTEC A level equivalent Computers thing. Not perfect I know but I'm happy as we seem to come to an informed decision and we weren't informed before.

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