A Student's Diary – Applying to University
Year 12 is one of the most crucial years when thinking about university. This is the year of choices: What course? What university? Do I want an apprenticeship? Do I want gap year? What kind of grades am I aiming for? Are just some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself.
The first step for me was looking at advice websites like the Complete University Guide, I knew my predicted grades and I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do (I’ve since been through about 5 changes of mind but that’s beside the point). League tables were important for both myself and my parents, although they were looking more at things like graduate prospects, and I was more focussed on the student experience.
It seems ridiculous to ask us, at 16 or 17 years old, to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives, but some idea of a vocation can be helpful when deciding what to do at university. For example I originally wanted to go into acting and was looking at going to drama school rather than university. Some careers require particular degrees and it’s always worth speaking to the careers officer at your school or college and check that you’re heading down the path you want to go. A combination of websites like this one, and meetings with my careers officer has led me to finally settle (I think) on a philosophy course, possibly a joint honours with some sort of english or creative writing element.
Year 12 is also the year of open days and UCAS fairs.
I have a running joke with my friend that he has been to so many open days during school time that he won’t even get into university after all the education he has missed, so my advice is to go to open days but, wherever possible, try and go at weekends. The UCAS fair for me was particularly important, and not just for all the free stuff you can get your hands on (I managed 6 cloth bags, 2 notebooks, 12 badges and enough pens to last me through university), but also to see how the universities present themselves. If all the people on the stall look happy, are wearing matching t-shirts and are keen to engage you in conversation about what your plans are for the future, then it gives off a better impression than those that look bored and miserable and just shove a prospectus in your hand without saying anything (which sounds ridiculous but did happen). Before the UCAS fair I had about 12 different universities that I wanted to go to, but I've managed to narrow that down to my top 5.
There can be a lot of pressure on you from your parents, your school, and even your peers, but the most important thing of all is that you choose something that makes you happy. You’re going to be studying it for the next 3–4 years so you may as well do something that makes you happy, right?
Good luck, and remember, the choice is yours.