From a very young age it has pretty much always been the norm that after one leaves college/sixth form, they go on to university to study for an undergraduate degree. However, with the growth of internships, apprenticeships and routes to full time employment, there are so many options available!
Nationwide, there are over three hundred THOUSAND university courses, so if you are already dead set on something, don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons! But if you are stuck. don’t worry, get ready to be mind blown with some tips that have helped me on my journey of looking at universities and other advice from family, friends and people at college/UCAS events.
- Your exams have finished (or probably nearly have) – whatever happens happens, you cannot change the result you will see after opening that envelope. Whether you worked your socks off or didn’t take this year very seriously, or experienced unavoidable problems, it is indeed a learning curve. For example, I’ve learnt that taking a chill pill and relaxing a little more would be a good idea rather than being so uptight about my studies. Don’t dwell too much!
- Make a list of what YOU enjoy or would like to try, whether it be sports, art or cooking and apply this to anything you’re applying for! That’s right, what YOU enjoy! Myself being one, has always had to listen to professionals in my family who take a fancy in trying to sway my way of thought regarding education and my career aspirations. I cannot emphasise enough that if you do not decide on something you truly want to do, there is a likelihood you will not enjoy the duration of the course (this is also applicable for prospective A level students). During the current economic climate it is correct to say that jobs are scarce and that hunting for them is harder. Despite this, the chances you will receive in qualifying at something you LOVE, rather than something you’re pretty, “average” or “standard” at, means you will be one of the best in the field, where your enthusiasm will shine. To reiterate, if you do not pursue what you enjoy or take interest in, someone else will snap up those opportunities. Please don’t get me wrong, people can learn to love subjects, however, as long as you are happy with your choice, no one can tell you any different.
- Use all the resources you have been given and do further research: it is ironic that we are called the Social Media Generation, with information at our fingertips yet I feel that people are starting to take for granted the amazing technology and resources we have at hand to use for broadening our knowledge. There are so many websites which have been made to aid in college, university and job hunting process, which have settings which can cater for your needs. For example, I have been using timetables for exam revision for the past two years from a website which is so easy to understand and navigate (I will leave a link at the bottom). Regarding further research, whether it be for a subject or when looking for universities and jobs, it is the best thing you can do. People think that researching an institution or company for an interview will show you have knowledge. However, what it really shows is the initiative you possess and the extent to which you enjoy learning while seeking to find out about new places. The latter is especially important when writing about the things you enjoy in pieces of text about yourself e.g. a personal statement or CV. Academically, however, it can also benefit you with a broad understanding of an area in a subject that may be confusing… Moral – use everything and go the extra mile to broaden your knowledge and learning capacity.
- DO NOT – I REPEAT DO NOT – UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES follow your friends into what they are doing. This will not get you very far. I recall that it was only my friendship group, in school, who actually split up and thought about our academic strengths and weaknesses in order to find where we would be suited to. It is identifiable that many friendship groups will stick together, I have never understood why. There will be time outside of school or college to see them, and by going separate ways, your own confidence will thrive in making new friends and talking to new people. When thinking about college, or indeed university, think about the benefits you will have as a person and how you will flourish confidence wise, in addition to academically and socially.
- Organisation! The activity my friends think I am obsessed with. Teachers were right – the demands of further higher education are colossal. The transition of the workload is immense and by the end of the week you will feel like you have learnt more than a week compared to your whole life. Although this is slightly exaggerated, it is true. The move from GCSE to A level / BTEC work is major, and with this comes a great deal of responsibility and organisation needed to be successful in your own studies. Despite the fact that I know people who are pretty good at winging homework, losing papers and getting away with it, not being afraid of exams, if you are organised, everything will be so much easier. Additionally, you will give a very good impression to your peers and teachers. – One massive piece of advise would be getting into a realistic and easy to follow routine: mine is simply preparing my bag the night before college, setting my clothes out, waking up at 7am – having breakfast, leaving my house (prior to the traffic build up) and coming home to complete my work the day it is set. Unless you have been set an essay, this is the best strategy for keeping on top of work. Folders and polly pockets are also amazing! One mistake I did make was not getting big notepads for my subjects, this would have saved time having to file everything away and sometimes rewrite my work. DIARIES ARE ALSO A MUST – when you’ve done a task complete it and prioritise from hardest to easiest.
- Positive Mental Attitude – it is ironic, again, that I am writing this because towards the end of every term I get grouchy, irritable and glum. Although it is inevitable to have bad days, the best thing you can do it grit your teeth and try your best, trust me, it will pay off!
- Asking for help – This is the sad part. For many months during my first year of college, although I had organisation skills and was coping well, I missed my old routine and peers, keeping it to myself landed me in to a period of depression. The one thing I will ask you to do is seek a friend, parents or teachers’ advice if you are feeling stressed, anxious or just need someone to talk to. Although I did not seek the help of my Student Services department in college, every institution will always have people who you can talk to about how you feel. Let me remind you, you are NOT burden to them – it is their job to help! *Shout out to my college g’s who helped me through a bad time!!! Don’t be scared to raise your hand or go to a teacher if you don’t understand something.
- Last one. ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY! It is quite satisfying that someone will, hopefully, learn from my mistakes and experiences, next of which will be the last one I mention. From September to around February I hardly had a social life, this is NOT the way! Go out when you have free time – to the park or to meet some friends, join a society or start a student blog (I did give up after a day though). Everything about higher education is meant to help you grow in independence as well as improving your skills along the way – these aren’t just academic ones.
That’s pretty much it for the prospective college student part of my blog; I loved my first year of college, the broad range of people I have met, friends I have made, things I have learnt about my subjects and indeed myself have accumulated into a successful first year at college, I wish you good luck for wherever you go and whatever you decide to do!
Now for my college students:
The website I have been using to compare universities is http://www.whatuni.com/- on this, you can look for courses, keep track of the timeline we have during the application process and compare universities. Although this was introduced to me during school, it is regularly updated and has information on university rankings, suggestions (after you put in your predicted/desired grades), accommodation and the cost of living in that area. From the former you can see whether or not a university in the south east of England is more expensive than one in Birmingham… Some may also like this next bit – the website actually tells you how much a pint of beer is in comparison to the national average, how cool.
Open days are also a good option – check out this link to go directly to dates of forthcoming ones: http://www.whatuni.com/open-days/
I would also look at the student satisfaction rates and right before we go to leave for university, make sure you have accommodation with well known and verified landlords, that is if you are off campus. I learned this on an open day with my sister, usually a university will have a ‘blacklist’ of landlords to avoid due to their notoriety regarding the poor quality they offer their tenants.
Lastly, PERSONAL STATEMENTS – one thing we all hate; you don’t want to sound boring or as if you are boasting, we want a medium. I’d highly recommend writing drafts after drafts after drafts, also, show these to your form tutors or teachers of subjects which link. They will be able to help you perfect it. Make sure you stick to deadlines, less stress means more time to think about whatever it is you’re doing.
To conclude, do your research, go to open days and have a wonderful, relaxed summer before the new term starts because it’ll be hard work! Good luck for results day, regardless, there’s always room for improvement.