Whether you are a teacher or parent, advising students on applying to university and making those all important decisions about future pathways can often be a challenge. We have worked with thousands of teachers and plenty of parents over the years to offer advice and guidance on how you can support your student. Through reading the articles on our website and in APPLY and making the most of our partner opportunities, student can gain a comprehensive understanding on what they need to do to successfully apply to their first-choice university or secure that all-important job.
Information for Teachers
At present, only half as many students in the state sector who achieve AAB at A-level go on to pursue a course at a Russell Group university, compared with the independent sector. It is sometimes difficult for teachers to offer the extensive subject – as well as university – specific advice which is often an integral part of encouraging applicants to aim high, so this is where we can help. Since our inception in 2005 we have advised tens of thousands of students with their university applications. Your students can receive advice on their UCAS application, to student finance, interview skills, school leaver opportunities and much more through our website and magazine APPLY.
Information for Parents
As a parent you’ll no doubt want to support your child’s application to university or a school leaver programme as much as you can, but how? We’ve listed a few key areas and important decisions where you might offer guidance and advice.
Higher education and school leaver programmes can open many doors to new and exciting opportunities which your son or daughter can benefit from. This page covers higher education, or click on the link to find out more about school leaver programmes where your child would gain a qualification ‘on the job’ and earn money at the same time.
The University Route
A degree helps a student to develop and refine skills, gain valuable experience in a particular academic field and shows employers that they are a good investment for the future. Going to university can help your child to gain life skills such as independence and maturity, make those all-important life-long friends and to develop their interests through joining clubs and societies. If your child enjoys academic work and is keen to go to university, there will definitely be a course and institution out there for him or her. It’s important to encourage your child to fulfill their potential and aim high, while being realistic about their capabilities and motivation; it would be a pity to get their hopes up only to be disappointed.
The UCAS application allows each applicant to choose five different universities to apply to. It is sensible to apply to a range of universities, with perhaps a ‘top two’ and three ‘fall back’ options. It may also be helpful to speak to the school and ask what kind of support they can offer. If your son or daughter is unsure whether or not they want to go to university, remind them that they can always apply this year and change their mind or defer their course if they want to take a gap year.
Worried about Student Finance?
It will be useful to do some research into finance as many students worry about the financial implications going to university can have on their family, especially with the increase of tuition fees in England. Your child will need support and guidance and probably a little help at first with budgeting. The most important thing to convey to your child is that there is a great deal of financial help available such as bursaries, government loans, scholarships and grants. Your son or daughter should consider going to university as an investment in their future, one which they will reap the benefits from once they graduate and enter the job market. Despite the recent media headlines, students should not be put off applying to higher education because of financial worries, but we suggest investigating the university finance options so you and your child know exactly what financial help is available. Your son or daughter may be hesitant to apply to university due to the financial strain on the family – it may be helpful to reassure them that you will offer all the support and guidance they need over the coming years. Our student finance section will help you to understand everything there is to know about student finance and is a useful resource for your child.
Picking the Right Course
It’s very common for students to want to go to university, but we often find that many students have no idea what they want to study! Speaking to your child about their future hopes and ambitions is essential. The overriding factor when making their decision should be picking a subject they enjoy – either in school or outside of school, therefore, it’s essential to get this point across to your child. They will have to immerse themselves into this subject for the next 3 years or more, so picking a subject because they think they should, or because they got a grade A in on their modules. It will be useful to obtain a list of courses available, of which there are literally hundreds – degree choices should not be restricted to subjects enjoyed at A-Level, so encourage your child to think about what they enjoy and why.
The UCAS website provides a full list of courses available with their entrance requirements. Universities often have subject-specific open days which can give a better idea of what the course will involve. It’s important to make your child aware that selecting a course doesn’t always mean they are selecting their future career (unless they are studying a vocational course such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, etc.). We meet many students who study a particular course at university, who then go on to work in industries completely unrelated to their degree, but the skills they developed whilst at university allowed them to get to where they are now. This is why it’s important to encourage your child to select a course they are passionate about and enjoy.
When choosing what to study and at which university, it is important to bear in mind geography – is it miles away from home? How much will it cost for them to come home during the holidays? How will they transport all their belongings from home to their halls of residence?
The UCAS Form
UCAS – the University and Colleges Admissions Service – is the centralised body which coordinates all applications to undergraduate degrees at UK universities.
Every university applicant must apply through UCAS by filling in what is known as the UCAS form. The most important section of the form is the personal statement, where applicants write about 600 words about their personal background and their reasons for choosing their course. You can help your child with their personal statement by encouraging them to start working on it over the summer holidays and offering to proof their drafts. Applications open on 1st September, and it’s known that those students who apply early stand a higher chance of securing a place an offer. For further information on this please look at our Personal Statement Library.
A keen interest in the subject is one of the most important deciding factors when admissions tutors offer places. It’s important to read outside of the recommended curriculum books and to be familiar with current affairs, especially within the sector of the subject. Broadsheet newspapers will offer news on all subjects, and The Week offers an overview of all newspapers on a weekly basis. Students wanting to study Economics and finance for example, will find publications like The Economist useful, whilst medics might want to read the New Scientist. Encourage your child to read around their subject might be something that the school can help with, or most universities publish reading lists on their websites.
The interview is often considered the most daunting part of the application process. Not all universities or all subjects require the applicant to come to interview and it’s worth doing some research. It’s likely to be the first time your child has ever had an interview and naturally they will be nervous! Take a look at our interview preparation page for tips on how to prepare thoroughly and to remain calm and confident on the day. Reassure your child and talk to them about your own (positive) experiences of being interviewed to boost their confidence. You can even do some interview practice with them before the ‘big day’ – you can find sample interview questions in the university section of our website.
Outcome of the Application
If the outcome of the application should be unsuccessful, it can be very hard for your child – it may be the first time they have ever worked hard towards something and failed. As a parent it will be important to encourage your child to refocus on their academic work to ensure they do the best they can in their exams and coursework.
Remind them that all is not yet lost – they can always reapply next year, or go through Clearing in August when their exam results are released. Get your son or daughter to have a think about why they didn’t get in and how they can improve their application next year. The skills they have learnt with their application will be useful for job and other university applications in the future. Competition for places is fiercer than ever due to funding cuts and a shortage of spaces.
School Leaver Programmes
We are big fans of university – it can allow you to immerse yourself in a subject you enjoy for three years or more, participate in a number of university antics and leave with a qualification which is recognised around the world. You can probably work out that we are also huge fans of school leaver programmes too! They can offer you the chance to kick-start your career, earn a competitive salary and gain excellent qualifications.
There is no right or wrong choice, nor is one better than the other, but it’s important to find the right fit for you. All we ask is that you consider both sides so you can make an informed decision about your future, and this booklet will certainly help you with this. Download our free booklet to get an overview of what school leaver programmes and apprenticeships are all about.
We have supported thousands of students, teachers and parents over the past nine years, and plenty of our students have gone on to achieve some amazing things. Take a look at our video below for a taster of what they have achieved and why so many teachers and parents recommend us: