Applying for University can be the most stressful aspect of it all (even more stressful than the grades surprisingly!), especially like me, if you’re the first one to go from your family. (Being the second eldest of 4 and the first to take the leap out of the generations of the Davis/Jenkins clang, I had no-one to turn to for some advice. Apart from you Kerry Matthews, you were my saviour) but worry not kids, here’s my guide to getting through the decisions of where to go, what to do and that dreaded personal statement.
Take note; This is not a guide to University, It’s a guide to applying.
1. Take your interests and turn them into a career path.
You may think it’s absolutely ludicrous that you have to decide what you have to do with your life at the young age of 18. I for definite did not know what I wanted to spend the rest of my days doing, all I did know is that I wanted to spend most of my time picking up my dignity from Wind St cobbles. (I kid, I kid) Jokes aside, I did know what I was good at and what I enjoyed doing. As a kid I’d always found solace in writing about things, documenting them and blogging my life away for hours on Tumblr, I enjoyed writing and I enjoyed learning about the world. After studying Media Studies, Sociology and Art at college, I thought carefully and endlessly on the right career path that would showcase my loves and my strengths. Journalism fitted perfectly into both my interests and my capabilities. You need to find something you’re good at, something you enjoy and something that has possibility. There’s no point applying for a Medicine degree when you spent the last two years of your life studying Art and Physical Education. Be rational and if anything be realistic.
2. Research the entry requirements and the course itself.
This is probably one of the crucial parts of applying for university. You need to be aware of the entry requirements for your course, speak to your college/sixth form tutors and see what you’re capable of. There’s no point applying for a course that has entry requirements of ‘AAA’ when you’re more than likely going to get 3 B’s. We are all good at different things, however you need to be realistic of your capabilities. You only get 5 choices, there’s no point using one of your crucial choices on somewhere you’re more than likely not even going to get an offer from. Researching the course is also a vital part too. Knowing I wanted to stay in Wales, I applied for both Cardiff University and the University of South Wales (formerly The University of Glamorgan), only to find out that Cardiff University itself did not offer my course bilingually. I spoke to current Journalism students from both universities, took their comments on board and decided what course suited me best. Have a look at the percentage of people from the course that are actually getting graduate jobs, look at your checklist of needs and decide from there. Do not decide on a course just because in second year there’s a possibility that you may go to New York for a week. A week of sightseeing does not make up for you doing a course that you completely hate or a course that does not fit you educationally.
3. Attend Open days before you make the crucial decision.
Open days are such a good way of getting an insight into both the course and the area in which you’re more than likely going to move to. It’s well and good doing a course you enjoy but if you don’t like the place you’re going to be studying at, you’re going to be stuck living in that hell hole for 3 years. Speak to people around you at open days, ask them what it’s like living/studying there. You need to remember that you’re more than likely going to be moving out from home for the first time of your life to a place that’s more than likely going to be miles and miles away from your home comforts of cooked dinners and cuddles off Mum when you’re sick. I know, I struggled. Do not go to a University just because the girl you sit next to in English is going there. Support is good but going alone is better.
4. Halls for first year are a necessity.
You may think living with your current friends in a lovely little city pad is the best decision, especially after the horror stories of halls residence. Don’t let the £115 a week rent get to you, halls are a brilliant experience of University life. It’s the best way to make friends and maybe even enemies, still in halls, everyone is in the same boat and sometimes being thrown in the deep end is the best form of growing up. Research the halls available to you and your chosen University. Look for the closest, look at reviews from past and current students and more importantly do not sign a contract for halls residence that you cannot afford. Your student loan only stretches so far. Halls are great, DO IT. Apply as soon as you can however, some halls book out near enough straight away.
5. Do not choose a course just because you’ve had an Unconditional offer.
Unconditional offers are every A level students dream. I mean you can easily go out on the pop a night before an exam, turn up slightly drunk/hungover, fail the exam and still walk into a Higher education establishment come September. I know, I did it. However do not be lazy when it comes to actually working hard to get into university. Working hard to get into University sets you up for the next 3 years of your life. A degree is NOT a walk in the park or an excuse to go out and get blotto every night.
6. A Personal Statement is the worst thing you’re probably going to have to write.
Well apart from that dissertation in your third year but MERH you have three years to come to terms with that. Personal statements are the gateways to university. You need to sell yourself. Sell your passion. Show some personality. Just think of it like a massive tweet, restricted to a certain amount of characters, but something that needs to get your point across effectively. Although I’ve always been a writer, I found it difficult to excel myself into 4 short but important paragraphs. You are limited. There’s no point waffling on about how you were once the star in your primary school play when you were 7 years old, or how you once won that egg and spoon race all the way back in Blwyddyn 3. You need to add relevant and key factors of information into your statement, look at experiences that are relevant to the course you’re applying for, whether it being work experience or life experience. There’s no point mentioning that time you created a fashion show in Textiles class when you’re applying for Dentistry. Experience is crucial for any course you apply for and mentioning it in your personal statement is vital also. Mentioning your relevant experience is vital, however do not spend the whole thing talking about that one time you did a Vox Pox for the whole 5 paragraphs. Short and sweet snippets of information are key, words are limited, use them wisely. Diversity and the mention of interest of developing through studying your course is also a good point to push across in your statement also. You need to remember that there are thousands and thousands of applicants applying, you need to make yourself stand out from the rest.
7. Apply for Student Finance STRAIGHT AWAY. It is a nightmare.
Student Finance is the bane of my existence. (Well for most part of the year, it is also the best thing EVER!) Applying for student finance early is a no brainer. There’s so much evidence to find, paperwork to fill out and SO MUCH FRUSTRATION WITH IT. Nonetheless it is the best thing about being a student. (Minus the whole degree thing, that’s obviously the best outcome of university life, Obvs.) However if you do not fill out the correct information early enough, your payment of student loan can be delayed, meaning you may be starting freshers week with little or no money at all and with no bank of Mum and Dad to turn to, sometimes student loans are the only source of income for most students. Also have a look at what bursaries and grants are available to you, the more money you accumulate the better for you and your studies. (No not the more money you can spend on Jagerbombs in Tiger, Tiger.) Money is tight as a student, therefore any bursaries you can receive, whether they’re from the University themselves or otherwise, the less likely that you may have to get a part-time job to get by. Meaning more STUDY TIME and the likelihood of cooked meals, rather than 25p pizzas from Tesco.
8. AND lastly, think of your decision logically.
You used to think that deciding what GCSE options was the hardest and most important decision of your life, no it’s not, this is. No pressure.
P.S finding out you actually got into University is the best feeling ever.