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Tips for navigating the HE application process

We asked our Head of Sixth Form, James Ralphs, for his advice to pupils who are navigating their way through the Higher Education application process.

Life in the sixth form is an exciting period in every pupil’s life and a time when you decide where you are going to study and live for the next three to four years, away from the clutches of your hsm, tutor and even matron! However, these choices can be daunting and difficult; therefore it is sometimes tempting to put them to the back of your mind rather than be proactive. 
To combat this, here are some tips for applying to university:
1.    Choose your course first 
It is essential that you decide upon a Higher Education course that suits your needs before you start looking at individual universities. You will be studying for a further three to four years, therefore it is important that you chose a course which you are interested in. Is there a subject which you have been studying in the sixth form that you would like to continue with? Do you need a vocational degree to enable you to fulfil a career aspiration?  Would studying a combination of subjects that complement each other be of interest? Spend your A3 year exploring all of these options, using the BridgeU website to ensure an informed decision is made. 
Key terms:
BA (Bachelor of Arts): Includes the arts and humanities subjects, such as English, History, and the social sciences.
BSc (Bachelor of Science): Includes more scientific subjects. Admissions requirements usually include Maths or a science subject at A level or Higher Level IB.
Joint honours: These degree courses allow you to study two (or more) subjects conjointly, as one degree e.g. French and Management 
Foundation degree/Foundation year: Either a stand-alone qualification that can be ‘topped-up’ to become a full degree at a later date, or the first year of a four-year course (often in e.g. Engineering-related subjects).
Sandwich course: Four-year degree courses, where some of the studies take place in industry or abroad.
Vocational degree: A degree that allows students to study for qualifications for a particular profession. For example; Medicine, Law (LLB) or Architecture.
Degree apprenticeship: These level 6 apprenticeships are joint ventures between an employer (who funds your degree and your training) and a university. They are increasingly available as a form of employment, especially in the finance and technical sectors. 
2.    Don’t be a sheep
Once you have chosen your subject area (in discussion with your tutor), the next task is to decide where you will study. It is easy to be tempted to follow your friends or siblings to their chosen university. However this decision needs to be based on your own preferences. Would you prefer a campus or city university? Does the size of the class matter to you? Would you like to be based close to home, or have easy access to sports facilities? Check league tables to find the best universities for your subject area. Remember to look beyond the Russell Group; you may be surprised by some of the universities that rank highly for particular courses. The Complete University Guide website is one useful starting place for research, as it allows you to filter the universities by subject. 
3.    Go and visit the universities
Before deciding upon your five chosen universities you really should go and visit them. They will offer a variety of open and taster days throughout the year. It is wise to take your parents along with you. You may worry that they may cramp your style but they will probably pick up on some of the points you miss and ask those embarrassing, but important, questions. Try as much as possible to do this during the school holidays. Missing valuable lesson time will make achieving the entry requirements even more difficult. 
4.    Immerse yourself in your subject
Some courses can be very competitive. Make the most of your A3 year to build knowledge and experience that will allow you to stand out as an applicant. The Bryanston Higher Education Guide includes reading lists for a wide variety of courses. Speak to the head of department for your chosen subject for advice on how you could improve your academic profile. Are there any talks or courses you could attend to gain insight and emphasise that you would be an excellent candidate for your chosen university? Remember, universities are interested in you as a well-rounded person as well as your academic results. 
Detailed guides on preparing for Higher Education, choosing your course and applying through UCAS can be found on the Higher Education page of the Bryanston website.
Tagged  Sixth form