Liquid error: Could not find asset snippets/loyaltylion.liquid

UCAS Applications - I've sent my application in...

How UCAS Points Work
Primrose Kitten June 28, 2019

How UCAS Points Work

You are going to need a certain number of UCAS tariff points to get into university, but what are they? How do you get them? What can you do with them?

You must have heard of UCAS points when you were looking through the prospectus, seeing what courses you want to apply for. Some of them are going to talk about grades, some of them are going to talk about points, and some of them are going to talk about a combination of the two.

You can get UCAS points from a range of different things. You can get them through A-Levels, AS-Levels, the Extended Project Qualification, Scottish Highers, Scottish Advanced Highers, Scottish Baccalaureate, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International Pre-U Diploma, Cambridge Technicals, or the Welsh Baccalaureate International Diploma. I'm not going to go into every single one here, because the UCAS guide on this is 170 pages long. It is thoroughly comprehensive. The reason they've moved towards points instead of grades is to level the playing field for people that are coming in who haven't done A-Levels, or who are coming through a somewhat non-traditional route. This makes it easy for universities to see and compare somebody who has A-Levels, somebody who has NVQs, and somebody who has an International Baccalaureate.

Your offer might say you need 112 points. It might mean you need 112 points from three A-Levels, or it might say you need 112 points from at least two A-Levels. You need to be careful that you understand the specifics when you’re applying to a course. The point system cannot be played, simple as that. You can't just do seven AS-Levels, get your 112 points, and think that you managed to get around not doing full A-Levels. It doesn't work like that. AS-Levels you only get about 40% of the points that you get for a whole A-Level.

  

A-Levels and Highers

Grade

A-Level

AS-Level

EPQ

Advanced Highers

Highers

A*

56

 

28

 

 

A

48

20

24

56

33

B

40

16

20

48

27

C

32

12

16

40

21

D

24

10

12

32

15

E

10

6

8

 

 

 

International Baccalaureate - IBO Certificate 

Grade

Higher Level

Grade

Standard Level

Grade

Extended Essay

H7

56

S7

28

A

12

H6

48

S6

24

B

10

H5

32

S5

16

C

8

H4

24

S4

12

D

6

H3

12

S3

6

E

4

H2

0

S2

0

 

 

H1

0

S1

0

 

 

 

AP (Advanced Placement) Exams

Grade

Points

5

28

4

24

3

20

2

16

1

12

  

Gaokao 

Grade

Points

Top tier

64

Second tier

48

Third tier

40

 

The UCAS guide covers GNVQs, all kinds of baccalaureates, YMCA qualifications, and loads and loads of other qualifications you wouldn't necessarily have thought of.

 

Read more →

Unconditional Offers
Primrose Kitten June 28, 2019

Unconditional Offers

Unconditional offers are a double-edged sword. If you get an unconditional offer, it can be really flattering because the university is telling you that they really want you to come to the university. It’s their way of saying that your interview, your personal statement, and your admissions test were all so amazing that it doesn't matter what A-Level results you get, they still want you to come. But so often I see students accept unconditional offers, and then relax a little too much; some of them barely scrape by with three Ds when they should be on for three As.

There are a few ways that you can get an unconditional offer, and the stats from UCAS show that unconditional offers are on a massive increase. Whereas previously they used to be very rare, now each university is giving out five to ten, whereas before you wouldn't see any. If you have shown in your interview that you have an overwhelming passion for this subject—that you live and breathe this subject, that you've put the effort in, that you've gone over and above your A-Level studies to do extra independent research—then the person interviewing you is generally going to be really impressed by this. This is how I got my unconditional offer at university, and I was told in the interview that they were going to send me an unconditional offer.

Because so few students sit AS exams anymore, pre-interview assessments, tests, and written work are really on the rise. You may be asked to take a test or exam, or you may be asked to submit written work, or you may be asked to submit a portfolio or a couple of audition pieces, and based on the strength of these, you may get an unconditional offer. If your test results or your portfolio was truly outstanding, this can heavily influence the university’s decision to accept you no matter what you get in your A-Levels. You are also more likely to get an unconditional offer if you have your grades already. For example, if you've taken a gap year after school, then you already know what your A-Level results are before applying to university. We don't have to wait and find out what your grades are, so in that circumstance, universities may give you an unconditional offer. 

While it’s great that you're not stressed about your exams anymore, it is important to take your A-Levels seriously. Your A-Level results stay with you, and you're going to be writing them on your CV for the rest of your life. And if for any reason you decide to change courses or change careers, later on, having poor A-Levels will make this more difficult for you.

It’s also important to realize that just because you've relaxed because you've got this unconditional offer, that does not mean your teachers are going to relax. Your teachers will know if you've accepted the unconditional offer, and we will know that you are going to be relaxing. However, your exam results are going to be a reflection of your teacher, and a reflection of your school. Your teachers are still going hassle you to do the work, and they might even be hassling you a bit more because they know you've relaxed a little bit. Don't expect your teachers to think that your unconditional offer is a fantastic thing; they're actually going to be slightly worried because we've seen what could happen.

Remember, if you get an unconditional offer, this is the university enticing you, trying to get you to come to them. You don't have to accept it. If you don't think you're going to be happy there, if you don't think it's an exact right fit there, then don't fall for it. 

My Story – How I Got an Unconditional Offer

Some lucky people are getting unconditional offers, just as I did years and years and years ago. I didn't take it up, though, because I changed my mind. I didn't want to go there, but how did I get this fabled, amazing, unconditional offer? Your personal statement gets you an interview and your interview gets you the place. Now, unconditional offers are very, very rarely given out, but they are given to people who show passion for the subject that they are applying for.

So, in my interview (and this was quite a few years ago), I'd already decided that I didn't want to stay in London for university, and the only reason I want to the interview was I fancied a day off school. I went along to the interview so relaxed, because if they gave me an offer, then they gave me an offer; if they didn't, then they didn't. On the train on the way in, I picked up a New Scientist and the main article that week was about heat shock proteins.

The interview started off with a fairly like standard question, “Tell me something you've read recently that interested you.” And I went blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, heat shock proteins, and literally, the guy couldn't get a word in edgeways for about 15 minutes because I was just going off about how interesting I thought heat shock proteins were. Now, you've probably never heard of heat shock proteins, and that's absolutely fine because they're not part of the A-Level course. Because I could talk for so long and so passionately about something that hadn't come up in my A-Level course, the guy just sat there and then said I've got no other questions for you. I mean, don't go on for much longer than 15 minutes, because the person interviewing you will probably get bored! But you need to be able to talk passionately and confidently about a small, unusual subject because that, in essence, is what becoming a student is.

A-Levels give you a very broad introduction to things. But to get that unconditional offer, you have to show that you are well on your way to becoming an expert in something. Now, you don't have to pick a different thing for every university, just pick something and become interested in it. If you're not entirely sure what you're interested in, that's fine. You need to show passion for your subject; you need to show that you are the most committed and enthusiastic person they're ever, ever met, and they can't afford not to have you at university. I didn't take up my unconditional offer because I didn't want to stay in London; I wanted to go to Bath, which is the best university in the world. So just get out there and get reading and get researching!

 

Read more →

What to Do if You Don’t Get any Offers – UCAS Extra
Primrose Kitten June 28, 2019

What to Do if You Don’t Get any Offers – UCAS Extra

If you don't end up with any offers from universities, don’t panic—you have a chance to put an extra choice on. If you've been rejected from all of your five choices, or if you only applied to one and you got rejected, then you can have another go. But the process is slightly different.

This second chance happens after the UCAS deadline has passed, so we have from mid-February until mid-July to get this sorted out. You need to look through the UCAS website and find courses that have spaces available on them. Then you need to contact the university directly and see if they'll consider you for a place. You can then go and add your next choice onto your UCAS Track. Then we just need to wait for the university's decision. Now, the university may reject you. It may ignore you. If it ignores you for three weeks, then you can go through the process again and pick another course. They may offer you a place and you accept it, in which case, brilliant. Or they might offer you a place, and you might have changed your mind, in which case you can reject it and pick another course. And we can keep picking courses and keep picking courses until you find one that suits you.

If you are in this position, and there aren't courses coming up that you think are going to be a good fit for you, then you can consider taking a gap year and applying straight away in September with your A-Level grades already in hand. This can reduce your stress levels because so much depends on what happens on results day in August. If you apply next year with your results already sorted, then you might get an unconditional offer. You can also tailor which university is your priority based on your grades.

Read more →

10 Worst Ways to Pick between University Offers
Primrose Kitten June 28, 2019

10 Worst Ways to Pick between University Offers

I have talked a lot about how to pick between your offers, but here are 10, terrible ways to pick between your offers.

 

  1. Do not accept an offer just because it is an unconditional offer. Unconditional offers are given out by universities to tempt you in, to try and encourage you to go there—but if you're not confident that you're going to be happy there, do not accept it just because it's an unconditional offer.

 

  1. 2. Do not follow your boyfriend or your girlfriend. This is a bad idea! You are a different person than them, and you may not be happy at the same university as them. If your relationship is meant to be, it will last long distance.

 

  1. Do not go somewhere just because your parents went there. I have seen this so many times before, with friends, with colleagues, with people I’ve met in my career. You are not your parents, so do not feel pressured by them to follow the family tradition or family history.

 

  1. Do not go somewhere just because somebody famous is there. Don't go to a university because there’s a famous lecturer, or because there’s a famous person enrolled as a student. As an undergraduate, you will probably never see the famous lecturers. If there is an academic who you are desperate to work with, your best chance to work with them is as a postgraduate. As an undergraduate, you're probably not going to see them.

 

  1. Do not pick somewhere based on the weather, because the weather is changeable. I know that up north sometimes it can be a bit cold and rainy, but that doesn't mean you're not going to have an absolutely fantastic time. Down south is generally sunnier, but not always, so don't pick a university based on what you think the weather's going to be like.

 

  1. Do not believe the advertising. Universities want you to go there, so they pay a lot of money for advertising, and they pay a lot of money to try and entice you to come. Do not believe the advertising, do not believe the hype. Do your own research.

 

  1. Do not pick a university based upon its position in a league table. League tables are constantly changing, and it doesn't necessarily tell you whether the course is going to be suited to you, or what type of course is going to be best for you. Whether it's part of the Russell Group or not part of the Russell Group; whether it's a Red Brick university or not a Red Brick university; these are all just labels.

 

  1. Do not pick a university just for the nightlife. Yes, your social life is important, but you can always take a train to a big city to get your nightlife. The most important thing is you being happy with your university and your course. Don't just pick somewhere because it has a good club scene.

 

  1. By no means should you go completely random and pull something out of a hat. This is so bad, just don't do it.

 

  1. Do not go to university because you can't think of anything better to do. University is expensive, university is time-consuming, and university is a lot of work. If you can't think of anything better to do, then maybe try a gap year and think about what you actually want to do.

 

This is a big, big decision. Do not feel rushed into it. Do not feel pressured to make a decision that somebody else wants you to make. You need to make the right decision that is best for you, not what is best for other people. This is a really stressful time, but it’s also a really exciting time for you.

 

Read more →

How to decide between university offers
Primrose Kitten June 28, 2019

How to decide between university offers

When you get all of your offers in, you need to make some decisions. You need to pick a firm choice, and you need to pick an insurance choice. But how do you make the right decision?

You should wait until you have all of your offers in. I know this can be really, really hard. In my case, my dream university didn't send me an offer until the end of March when my first offers were coming in before Christmas. Some of the courses send out offers really quickly, whereas others take a bit more time over their decisions. Your friends may already have all of their offers in before you even get any through!

As I have said many times before, I think you should go to the place where you are going to be happiest, and hopefully, you've got an offer through from them and that can be your firm choice. But if you haven't gotten that offer, or if you're wondering how to decide on your insurance choices, then there are a quite a few things you need to take into account. 

First, you need to make sure your insurance choice has lower grades than your firm choice. This is because your insurance choice is where you're going to go if you don't get the grades for your firm choice. I don't mean just one grade below in one subject; it's generally a good idea to go at least one grade below in all subjects. That way it can be a proper safety net if your exam results aren't exactly what you need. You could decide to take the risk and put down an insurance choice that is only just below your firm choice, but you're going to have to acknowledge that this is a risk. 

If you have no one particular university in mind, or if you're not sure what to pick as your insurance choices, then there are quite a few different factors you can take into account when making your decision. The first thing would be your grades. Are there two courses where you'd be equally happy on either, but one has quite high grades and one has grades which are a bit more attainable? If you went for the one that has the higher grades, would you be spending next few months really stressed and trying to push yourself a little bit too hard? Maybe if you went for the one that had lower grades, you could relax a little bit and not be quite so stressed over the exam periods, slightly surer that you would actually get those grades.

If you can afford it and have the time, you can go and visit your choices. This could just be for a day trip, and you could just go and do all the touristy things. Go and spend some time in the city or just hang out at the university. This may give you a particular inclination towards a given university, or it may completely put you off the place.

You could be really brave and call the universities you are choosing between. Most universities have students' unions that are really enthusiastic and want to share their enthusiasm with loads of other people. If you don't want to call them up, universities these days have a big presence on social media, and all of them are going to have Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts (which are usually managed by students), or volunteers who are there to answer your questions. There are also loads of student vloggers that you can catch on YouTube, and many of them will be studying your course or studying at the university you’re looking at (I’ve made a list of vloggers in a previous section).

 

You can spend some time delving deep into the course units and the modules. You might have done this when you were applying for courses, but that was probably a few months ago now, and you might have forgotten. So spend a bit of extra time and look in detail at exactly what each course entails. Does one course stand out a little bit more to you? Does one course have something you're not sure about? Look at how they assess—is one course really exam-based, and the other really coursework-based? Ask yourself which style of assessment is going to suit you best.

And then lastly, before you actually fill in UCAS Track, you should make a firm decision, and then sleep on it. If you’re still happy with your decision when you wake up in the morning, you can be fairly sure that you've made the right choice. If in the morning you're still unsure, and you're not very confident with the decision, make a different choice and sleep on it again. This is probably the biggest decision you’ve made in your life thus far, so give it the time it needs. There’s no need to rush!

Don’t forget that you can decline all of your offers if you change your mind, or if none of the offers are what you really want. If you're not confident that you're going to be happy in these courses, or confident that you're going to be happy at this university, then you can decline all of the offers. You can apply through Clearing, or you can take a gap year, or you can just start again next year and apply fresh with your results already in hand. You have lots of options, but even if you make the wrong decision, it is not the end of the world.

 

Read more →