Monday, 29 December 2014

Matching sixth form subject choices to #university course ambitions

At this time of year many year 11 students are giving consideration to their future courses of study for sixth form as this is an important part of preparing for entry to year 12 in Sept 2015, especially if you are embarking on a change of school at this stage of your education.

Sixth form study offers an opportunity to either continue the subjects you have already studied at GCSE or to embark on new subjects, previously un-studied and hence about which you know little. Hence choosing the right subjects in the right combination to ensure your ability to make a strong application to university or other pathway to higher education can be tricky. From Sept 2015 A levels are changing, so there are some important new factors to consider in the way your chosen subjects will be assessed over the two years of sixth form. If your school offers IB, choosing this Diploma qualification over A levels is also an important decision to make.

Firstly you need to enjoy and feel motivated and inspired by the subjects you choose in the sixth form. Review both the content and the academic skills you require for each of the subjects you are considering. You need to be interested in the course syllabus and feel confident that you have the required academic skills to do well in it. For example, some subjects require a lot of independent research and background reading, essay writing, creative thinking, attention to detail, project work. It’s crucial that your subjects match your strengths.

Secondly, your combination of subjects must fit your career aspirations. Review entry requirements for university courses that interest you via the UCAS website, to ensure you’re keeping your options open in the courses that lead to careers that interest you. If the subjects you need to study on route to your career aspiration don’t match your strongest academic skills and interests, meaning you are choosing a subject which you find very difficult, consider changing your career aspirations.

Seek guidance from your school and other advisors, but remember you are the one who has to have the motivation to work hard to achieve success in the sixth form, so be sure they’re your subject choices and not those of friends, relations and others who are offering you helpful advice.

Do you need some advice on planning your sixth form subject choices, choosing the right university course or completing your UCAS application? 

Start 2015 by giving our team of professional consultants a call to find our how they can help you.

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Monday, 22 December 2014

Are #school nativity plays relevant in the 21st Century?

It must be nearly Christmas as I found myself watching Love Actually on the TV this week. There’s nothing like a bit of rom. com. to set the mood for the forthcoming festivities. When it reached the part where they’re all off to the school Christmas play it started me wondering all over again why one of the children is dressed as an octopus, when the play depicts the story of the nativity?

Thinking of school nativity plays takes me back to my early school years when tea towels were the obligatory headwear of shepherds, blonde haired blue-eyed children were cast as angels, the school gate politics surrounding the casting of Mary and Joseph generated an atmosphere that was the polar opposite to a generous Christmas spirit and Tiny Tears did a great job in the starring role of baby Jesus.

Nevertheless, through the Nativity play, scripted along the lines of the Christmas story (plenty of sheep, goats and a donkey, but no octopi), we learnt core values from a young age. The importance of family, in whatever shape or form that may be, support for others in the community, to be grateful for what we have without always expecting more, considering the needs of others since there is always someone who is worse off than you are, showing compassion and humility without passing judgment and sharing with those who have fallen on tough times.

Of course schools are now much more multi-cultural and sensitivity towards embracing all faiths and beliefs is a very important part of delivering an inclusive curriculum. Cultural awareness and understanding is a crucial life-skill for the future. Many schools give year-round focus on their own core values which under-pin every part of the curriculum and define how their diverse school community lives and works together on a day-to-day basis.

However, it’s my view that tactfully embracing the message of the Christmas story through the traditional nativity play is part of raising a generation with both values and cultural understanding, emphasising what is meant by compassion, humility, tolerance and a sense of community.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Some tips for preparing for #university interviews

Following on from last week’s advice about University offers through UCAS Track, as promised, here are a few tips on preparing for University interviews.

Which Universities and courses are more likely to invite you for interview is not an exact science as it varies year on year. However, you are most likely to be invited for interview, rather than receiving a conditional offer straight away, if you are applying to study for a professional training degree, such as dentistry, primary education, social work or nursing. It’s also likely you will be invited for interview for a talent-based degree such as music, acting, art and design.

Occasionally, though less likely, you could be interviewed for degrees in the sciences, engineering or computing. You’re least likely to be interviewed if your course involves the humanities or social sciences, for example English, Politics, History or Geography.

Some universities are known to interview candidates on a more regular basis such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, Warwick and York, but this varies each year.

Here are some key points to prepare for University interviews.
  • Be aware of the format the interview will take? Individual or group, face to face or Skype and is written work or testing required?
  • Re-read your personal statement. Elaborating on key points you have made in it will be an important part of your interview.
  • Research course content and be ready to give opinions as to why its core and optional modules of study appeal to you. Be prepared to demonstrate why you will be good at studying particular topics and what skills you have to ensure success on the course. Showing passion for the subject is essential.
  • What are your key skills and prepare examples to demonstrate them?  Leadership - head of house, team captain in sport. Dedication - grade 7 piano, charity work for an extended period. Teamwork - Duke of Edinburgh, CCF, team sports or Young Enterprise. Be ready to sell yourself by emphasising these skills during your interview.
  • Research the interviewer. What is their role and their career background? Understanding this will help you engage them in conversation by finding common ground.
  • Ask relevant questions as this is your opportunity to impress the interviewer and to find out more about the course to help you decide if it’s right for you.
  • Know why the university appeals and how you would contribute to university life as a whole. They are interested in the all-round you, not just your academics.
Do you need some help preparing for a university interview? Our team of education consultants are here to help. 
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Saturday, 6 December 2014

UCAS application to #university submitted - what next?

You can keep tabs on the progress of your University or College applications using the log in details for UCAS Track which are contained in the letter or email you received a few days after submitting your application. Here you will find details of offers made by the Universities or Colleges to which you applied, as and when they’re made. These offers are in no particular order and may take a bit of time to come through. Be patient, even if you are getting worried as your friends have heard and you haven’t. If you gave a valid email address on your application, you will receive an email letting you know when universities have made a decision on your application and you will then need to log in to Track for details.

Once you’ve received replies from all of your choices, you can make your decisions and reply through UCAS Track. If an offer is un-conditional, acceptance confirms your place on the course next Autumn, so you need to be certain this is what you want. If offers are conditional on exam results or other factors, you can accept two. One of your choices must be a firm acceptance, in other words first choice and you can also choose an insurance acceptance or back-up.

Think carefully about these decisions. Your first choice really does need to be just that. Be ambitious but realistic and listen to the advice of your subject teachers when it comes to deciding whether you can attain the grade requirements of the offer. Your back-up, whilst being conditional upon lower grades in case of a hiccup on results day, must still be on a course which inspires you towards your future career ambitions, at a university that you would be happy to attend.

Once you have decided on the offers you would like to accept, you need to then decline any others. If you do not receive any offers or decide to decline all the offers you receive, you may be able to use Extra to add more course choices later, usually if you have not already made applications to five. If this option is available to you, a button will appear when you log in to track your application. You also have the option to wait and see which courses become available during the Clearing process later on.

Instead of an offer, you may be invited to attend an interview in which case make sure you prepare well. Know in detail the course you have applied to study and think about why you wish to attend that university in particular. Get busy with background reading relevant for the subject you wish to study. Get up to speed with current affairs, particularly when it comes to issues which influence and affect thinking and opinion within your chosen subject or career field, in case you are asked to discuss them. Getting the inside view-point from someone already working within that field by arranging a practice interview beforehand can be very useful in calming nerves on the day.

If you would like some advice on last-minute UCAS applications, the process of accepting your offers or preparing and arranging practice interviews for university, please give our team of friendly, professional consultants a call on 01856 522066 or email
For more information visit our website by clicking the following link  Applying to UK University through UCAS