A mother’s guide to the university entrance process and UCAS, by Dagmar Morris.
A pleased pupil at Roedean opens their results
When my oldest child started looking into universities I began to realise the complexity of it all and I also realised there was nowhere I could turn to get the answers I needed. It was at this point that I began writing a guide to help other parents. I wanted to give tips and advice on how to make the university search as painless as possible. It can be a daunting experience for parents and it starts at the beginning.
Here are some key steps you should follow in the university selection process:
1. Discuss with your child
The first thing you need to do is discuss with your child what it is they actually want to study at university. Make sure it is something they are passionate about. University is not just about ‘the experience’, although at this stage they may think it is. For some, this conversation might be part of an ongoing dialogue that began when picking GCSE subjects. Statistically, pupils who have discussed what they do in Year 9, tend to be more focused and do better.
2. Talk to your school
Schools are integral to the university process; speaking to their teachers to get advice and guidance is extremely helpful. Your child will need to know their predicted grades and the course requirements; they will also need a school reference and to write a personal statement. The school can assist with all of this.
3. League tables
Check out the top 100 universities offering the subject they wish to study. A useful place to start considering league table rankings is on the website Complete University Guide. Newspapers like The Telegraph and the Guardian also publish results. Then you can start to narrow down your options.
4. Visit university websites
Start with the syllabus, which varies from university to university, and will be listed on the university’s website. If the syllabus doesn’t interest your child, strike it off the list. Additionally, read the National Student Survey for universities ranked by student satisfaction. This information is great for peace of mind.
5. Meet university personnel
Go to any meetings set up by the school involving university personnel. These events will cover university application and time frames, as well how student loans work and where to apply for them. Scholarships, bursaries and grants will also be reviewed and open days will be discussed. Hidden costs will also be mentioned, like travel, food and study tools needed, including course textbooks.
6. Location, location, location
Consider whether leaving home to go to university is a good idea or whether they want to stay nearby. This will help to narrow down the choice further.
7. Open days
I would strongly recommend going to look at the university on an open day or taking an individual tour. Larger universities tend to have faculties for specific subjects, but your child might prefer the university to feel more intimate and subjects not to be divided so definitively.
Have a look at the university’s facilities. Some larger ones universities have shops, restaurants, banks or even fitness centres. Others don’t, but tend to be near a city that does. Transport links might be important. Go to a lecture on the chosen subject and look into university accommodation.
9. Register with UCAS
You will need to register at the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS), which helps with the administration of university applications. UCAS opens for applicants in September. Don’t forget to apply to Student Finance for student loans. This can be applied for after completing the UCAS form.
10. Get in early
Be aware that your application needs to be in during mid-October for the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or any professional course in medicine, veterinary medicine, science and dentistry. Make sure they apply by mid-January for the majority of courses.
Once they have applied to the universities of their choice they can stay in contact with the university via the admissions office. Any questions or concerns can be directed to them.
Dagmar Morris’ book is available from bookguild.co.uk; £9.99