The summer holidays are for relaxing and unwinding after a long year of studying and exams, but they’re also the ideal time to begin thinking about university applications if you’re about to start Year 12, Year 13, or a gap year.
Recent statistics show that more and more students are dropping out of university before finishing their courses. Whilst there are of course many reasons for this, one way of avoiding this situation is to plan well ahead when it comes to your university and course choices.
Hopefully you have visited some potential universities already, but if not, most universities have open days and clearing events in August where you can find out about each institution, the courses they offer, and the feel and culture of the campus. To find out which universities have upcoming open days, click here.
Maybe you already know what you want to study, or maybe you’re keeping your options open. Remember: you don’t always have to apply for a subject that you’re already studying; your A level choices may give you additional options. For example, if you study a language, courses such as Linguistics or additional languages are open to you; Maths and Economics A levels can lead to Accounting or Marketing degrees, and almost any combination of subjects could get you a place studying Anthropology.
It is also worth considering whether you want to study more than one subject, often referred to as ‘joint honours’ at university level. For example, at the University of Leeds, you can combine subjects as disparate as Music and English, or Mathematics and Philosophy. Some institutions, such as KCL, Durham, and Surrey, offer an even broader option of taking a Liberal Arts degree, allowing you the flexibility to build your own course.
Universities base the majority of their offers on your A level, IB, or Highers grades, or predicted grades for these provided by your teachers. It’s therefore important to make sure you are applying to a university that matches your academic potential – don’t set yourself up for failure by over-reaching, but also don’t be so cautious that you miss out on exciting opportunities.
If you are not sure what your predicted grades are, or if you’re planning to re-take any of your exams, talk to your teachers or tutors about them, or you can arrange an impartial academic assessment with us.
Not everything at university is about academia. Remember that you could spend three or four – or more – years of your life at your chosen university, and although working hard towards your degree is important, balance is even more so.
Think about what you enjoy doing in your free time now, and what you would like to try in the future. Are sports important to you? Do you want to be involved with music or drama once you leave school? Also consider the demographic of your shortlisted universities – do they look like places you could fit in and make like-minded friends? You could be accepted onto the best course at a top-ranking university, but if you’re miserable, your studies and your wellbeing will suffer.
University websites are a good place to start, as they contain detailed information about course content, entry requirements, and facilities available. Some even have student-created prospectuses, which give you more of an insight into both academic and non-academic life and activities. Other websites, such as UCAS and the Student Room, are helpful for filling in further blanks and for asking current students about their experiences. However, the best thing to do is to attend an official university open day. When you visit, there will be plenty of people – students, staff, and lecturers – on hand to speak to.