Taking the plunge into further education

Well, it’s that time of year again. Cue the simultaneous groans from the newly fledged year 13’s in colleges and sixth forms all over the country. 

This is the just beginning of the next chapter of your life, when you start applying to university. The most important letters of the next 12 months will be “U”, “C”, “A” & “S”. Well, second most important, after your A Level results, whether they be AAA or BCD.

UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, and will no doubt be your lifeline and first port of call if you’re thinking about applying to university. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s no easy feat, but it can be done.

The first step is deciding if you even want to go into further education. University isn’t for everyone and some people are better suited going straight into work or finding an apprenticeship after higher education. If this is most likely you, chances are the rest of this article is as much use to you as a BTEC in Media Studies when applying to Oxbridge.

After pondering it over, you’ll have to work on your personal statement; the 4000 word limited piece that gives you the chance to sell yourself. This is the first thing a university will see when deciding whether or not to consider you. First impressions count for everything. And I mean everything. An interesting but succinct personal statement makes all the difference. A good personal statement will give you the edge over your other fellow applicants, and believe me when I say some courses are extremely competitive.

You’ll fork over £23 to apply to 5 separate courses/institutions for the 2013 application cycle, or £13 for one, but it’s better common sense & value for money to pay the extra tenner and have four more choice to rely on. Anyway, after your forth or so personal statement draft is penned comes the next step; open days.

Here’s your chance to hot trot round the country, hapless parents in tow, venturing from Land’s End (University of Exeter) to John O’ Groats (St. Andrews).

Your first impressions of your prospective future home are just as important as what your university will see of you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, go on tours and speak to students and staff about the course you’re interested in.

These experiences are crucial. It took me 3 open days to find my perfect university. And when you find that perfect place, you’ll know. Had I not gone and taken the time to look around I could’ve firmed the wrong place and had a miserable 3 years ahead of me.

“Firm” and “insurance” is UCAS lingo for first choice and second choice university, respectively. Think long and hard over what you want your top two choices to be. It’s best to pick a second choice that you wouldn’t mind spending the next three or four year at, don’t pin all your hopes into your firm.

So you’ve done it, there it is. You’ve written your personal statement and sold yourself, as it were. You’ve been on countless open days and probably blagged enough free pens from universities to open your own WH Smiths franchise. You’ve made your choices and eventually confirmed your firm and insurance choices. The hard part is over. Now you’ve just gotta get the grades.


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