Going to University


Use these 4 steps to ensure you make a good plan:

  1. Develop course ideas (by the end of Year 12)

Brian Heap (see his book in the sixth form study centre called University Degree Course Offers) writes that deciding your degree on the basis of your current studies is a “reasonably safe option since you are already familiar with the subjects themselves and what they involve” and that for many occupations “the degree subject is often not as important as the degree itself”. A large number of graduate jobs are open to graduates of any degree discipline and specialist training for many careers starts once you have your degree.

Brian Heap also advises that the subjects you are currently studying are part of a much larger family and have similarities to degree subjects that you may not have considered. Pages 2 - 6 of his book list examples of degree courses linked to your current subjects and pages 6 - 11 lists courses related to career areas.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a specific career in mind and need to take a certain type of higher education course?
  • Which subject(s) am I interested in studying?
  • Am I interested in a combined or joint honours degree?
  • Do I want to live at home or away from home?

You could decide to:

  • Continue with one of your present subjects.
  • Combine two or more of your current subjects.
  • Combine a subject that you are studying now with a new one.
  • Take a completely new subject or subjects.
  • Take a general vocational course linked to a broad occupational area, such as business studies, art and design or tourism & travel.

Choose a course related to a specific job. You can use the Fast Tomato website. If you have not previously used Fast Tomato you need to see Mrs Phillips in the sixth form study room to get our school code.

  1. Research course ideas (by the end of Year 12)
  2. Finalise course ideas (by beginning of Year 13)

For steps 2 and 3, check out university prospectuses, go to open days, contact admissions tutors, use the books available in the sixth form study room.

In particular, research the following:

  • The specific university course entry requirements to make sure you have the right subjects and the right UCAS Tariff points needed/grades.
  • Type of qualification on offer: For example, is it academic, vocational, single honours, joint honours, combined honours, modular or sandwich (sandwich means it usually includes a placement year)?
  • Reputation: What is the quality of teaching and research? What do recent students say about it?
  • Student satisfaction.
  • Academic facilities.
  • Course teaching methods: What is the balance between lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical or work-related activities?
  • Course assessment: Is it all examination-based or partly based on coursework?
  • Tuition fee costs.
  • Graduate destinations: How many find employment? What kind of careers do they go into?
  • Location and distance from home: Do you want to live in a big city or somewhere quieter?
  • Costs: Some places are cheaper to live in than others!
  • Accommodation: Are all first year students offered accommodation?
  • Is study or employment abroad part of the course?
  • Part-time and holiday work: Does the university help and encourage this and do they have a student employment service?
  • Social activities: What clubs, societies and sporting facilities are there?
  • Find out more about student finance here

4. Apply (autumn Year 13): Most applications for full-time HE courses are made through UCAS — the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Applications are made via the school. You need to complete various sections, such as personal details, education / employment history and a personal statement (this is key as you need to explain why you want to study your chosen course). Further information is on the UCAS website.

To apply for undergraduate and postgraduate performance-based courses studied at conservatoires you would apply through the UCAS Conservatoires section of their website via the school.


University league tables

University league tables can be used to compare universities. There are a number of different league tables available to use, although it’s worth knowing that they calculate their tables using different criteria and weighting. However, all should include student satisfaction scores; student to staff ratio; graduate prospects and entry grades.

Although they are a useful source of information, they do have their limitations! For example, not all indicators are updated yearly and student feedback may not be objective.

The Which? University website adds the following points:

  • Just because a university is at the top of a league table doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one for you.
  • League tables are often closely bunched together at the top, middle and bottom, so don’t read too much into universities placed five to 10 places apart. A university in 20th place can be separated by the one in 30th place by only a few percentage points. This is also why some universities and courses fluctuate from year to year – small differences in the score can mean big differences in the ranking order.
  • League tables don’t always tell you the full story as certain university courses may be well regarded by employers in specific career areas, even though the universities may not feature in the upper reaches of the tables. For example, Falmouth University and Sunderland University are known to produce high achieving graduates in journalism and animation respectively, but there’s little sense of that reflected in the league tables.

Here are two sources of league tables to check out:

Remember though, you need to choose the right course and university for you, based on factors that are important to you! You therefore need to decide your priorities – create your own list of key factors and do your research.

Some factors to consider include:

  • Location and distance from home
  • Campus or non campus university
  • Course content.
  • Entry requirements.
  • Academic facilities.
  • Course teaching methods.
  • Course assessment: Is it all examination-based or partly based on coursework?
  • Graduate destinations: How many find employment? What kind of careers do they go into?
  • Living costs – some places are cheaper to live in than others!
  • Student accommodation on offer.
  • Social activities: What clubs, societies and sporting facilities are there?


How to apply

You need to use the UCAS website to apply for most undergraduate courses, The Streetly Academy will guide you through this process.

The usual UCAS deadlines are:

  • 15 October for the universities of Oxford, Cambridge or any professional course in medicine, veterinary medicine / science and dentistry 
  • 15 January for the majority of courses
  • 24 March for some art and design courses.
  • UCAS Conservatoires - the usual application deadline for music courses starting the next year is early October. For most undergraduate dance, drama or screen production courses the deadline is 15 January. However, there are exceptions, please check with individual conservatoires for full details as dates do vary.

More information is available on the UCAS website.

If you miss the application deadline, late applications can be made up to 30 June. Your application will be classed as late but most universities will still look at your application if they have vacancies left on the course you apply for. There are no guarantees and this is even less likely for competitive courses.

You can choose up to five courses. There’s no preference order and your universities won’t see where else you’ve applied until after you reply to any offers you get.

However, you can only choose a maximum of four courses in any one of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science. Also, you can only apply to one course at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

After you’ve sent off your application you can see how it’s progressing by logging in to the UCAS system called Track.


Writing your Personal Statement

Course tutors use personal statements (plus estimated grades and references) to compare applicants, so make sure you sell yourself so that your application stands out from the rest!

UCAS advise you not to mention universities by name as you need to use the same personal statement for all the courses you apply for.

The UCAS website and Which University gives useful tips for writing your personal statement.

Also, in addition we offer 1:1 guidance via the sixth form staff to help to write your personal statement.


Admissions Tests and Interviews

You may need to take an Admissions test depending on what course you have applied for. This is most likely for competitive courses such as Law and Medicine and for certain universities such as Cambridge and Oxford.

Most admissions tests take place early in the school year, so if you do need to take one you’ll need to register for it early, possibly before you’ve sent your application off.

UCAS add that many of the courses that use admissions tests are also the courses that have the 15 October application deadline, so it’s worth checking these details on the UCAS website in advance.

You may also be interviewed for your course. Again, it’s more likely if you have applied for competitive courses. If you are invited for an interview you can use University Interviews Guide to prepare. This book is in the sixth form library and is arranged into an A-Z of more than 80 degree courses, each with subject specific advice and sample questions. It also includes a section on applications to all undergraduate UK Medical Schools, Oxbridge section and sections on Primary Teaching, Veterinary Science, Nursing and Midwifery.


Getting an offer - conditional and unconditional

A conditional offer usually means you are required to get certain grades or points in your A levels (or equivalent). This will mean waiting for results day in summer to see if your exam results meet the conditions.

An unconditional offer means you’ve already met the entry requirements, so the place is yours if you want it! By accepting an unconditional offer you are committing to go to that university, so you can’t make an insurance choice or be entered into Clearing.

If you have an unconditional offer you can select it to confirm your place. If your offers are conditional on exam results or other requirements, you can pick two - your first choice and a backup choice.

A firm acceptance is your first choice. If it’s an unconditional offer the place is yours! If it’s conditional the place is yours as long as you meet the entry requirements. An insurance acceptance is your back-up choice.

You will only attend your insurance choice if you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice but you do meet the conditions of your insurance offer. So make sure your insurance offer is somewhere you would also be happy going to.

You also have the option to decline offers. If you decline all offers, or are not made any offers, you can use UCAS Extra and / or Clearing.


UCAS Extra and Clearing

Extra is a way of making a further course choice. If you’ve used five choices and weren’t accepted or you decided to decline any offers you received, you can use UCAS Extra to apply for more courses (one at a time). It is open between 25 February and early July.

Clearing helps universities fill any places they have left on their courses and is available July to September each year. You can use it if you have no offers or didn’t meet your conditional offers.

Each year some applicants pass their exams with better results than expected. These students can use the UCAS Adjustment system to potentially swap courses for another one. It’s available from A level results day to 31 August. If you try Adjustment but you don’t find anything, you’ll still keep the course you gained on results day.


The UCAS Tariff

The UCAS Tariff is a means of allocating points to compare post-16 qualifications used for entry to higher education. However, it’s worth noting that only one-third of universities make tariff offers; meaning two-thirds of offers request specific grades.

The UCAS Tariff has changed for courses starting from September 2017. A key change is that the AS has been repositioned to 40% of the full A level. Universities will not generally count the tariff points from an AS level if the student has progressed to the full A level.

The new Tariff calculates the points total based on qualification size (there are 4 bands, 1 to 4) and the grade obtained (there are 12 grade bands across a value of 3 to 12). For example, A levels and BTEC subsidiary diplomas will be size band 4 (based on learning hours).

The Tariff numbers used are much lower – for example, an A* gets 56 points in the new Tariff, compared with 140 in the old one.

For more information about the new Tariff go to the UCAS website.


Study abroad

More and more students are considering this option due to the cost of UK university tuition fees. Use the following websites to carefully research your options and the financial implications:

  • A Star Future: Use to search for courses taught in English abroad.
  • The Student World: This gives guidance about where to study, why, the process and financial implications.
  • Eunicas: Enables UK and Irish students to apply to degree programmes, taught through English, in universities across Europe.
  • Fulbright Commission: Use to explore studying in the USA.
  • Study in the USA: Use to explore studying in the USA.
  • Study options: Use to explore studying in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Study portals: Provides a database of courses around the world.
  • StudyLink: Information and guidance about studying abroad.
  • Braintrack: Lists over 13,000 higher education institutions in 194 countries.
  • Study Overseas: A guide to studying in the Middle East.


Support from The Streetly Academy

Year 12 / 13 students will get help from their post-16 tutor, local universities and the school’s sixth form mentor, Mrs Phillips. This help will include:

  • Support to plan what to study and where.

  • Help to understand the UCAS process and how to apply.
  • Support to write your personal statement.
  • Preparation for university interviews.
  • Help to understand the student finance process.
  • 1:1 careers advice (if needed).






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