Congratulations to everyone who has recently received their GCSE results! The end of secondary school is an exciting time for students. You now have the freedom to choose which subjects you want to study and the freedom to really start pursuing your dreams. Although it may feel like a long time until you will be going to university and, ultimately, embarking upon a career, now is a great time to start thinking about which university you would like to study at, which course to apply to, and how to gain admission.
The A-level subjects you need to study in order to gain admission to a course varies widely depending on the course, subject and the preferences of the individual university. Some university courses will almost always require at least one of a set of specific A-levels, while others are more open. For example, to study an engineering course at university you will need to study maths and a science, usually physics. You can find an extensive list of recommended A-levels for various degrees on the Which? University website. If you spot a degree subject you really like the look of, but you haven’t picked the right A-level classes, don’t panic. Colleges are usually flexible with students changing courses early in the term so you still have a chance to change your mind!
If you also have an idea of which universities you want to study at, you can look at their individual websites and course specifications. Some universities will state openly which A-level courses they prefer and in some cases which ones they actively discourage.
If you aren’t sure exactly what course you want to choose yet, or are torn between a couple of options, there are some A-levels you can choose which are known as ‘facilitating’ subjects, and which are the most commonly required subjects for studying at university. These include:
If you don’t have a CV yet or don’t have anything on it, don’t worry, you’ve only just finished school! However, starting to gain relevant workplace or voluntary experience now is a great way to improve your chances of getting into the right university. In the long term it will also make looking for jobs after graduation much easier.
If you know what course, and better yet, what career you would like to get in to, taking relevant jobs, internships, or even just shadowing someone at work for a few weeks, during the summers or your spare time can be an excellent way to build experience and demonstrate your commitment. Volunteering is another brilliant way to develop skills and experience whilst demonstrating your character. If you’re interested in marketing, for example, helping run a voluntary group’s social media could be a fantastic way to demonstrate your passion. Even if you don’t have a clear idea of what university course you want to study, or what your career goal is, work or volunteering experience can only ever be a plus. You’ll build your skills, learn about the world of work and gain valuable references and contacts. This will impress university admissions tutors, and the more relevant experience you gain outside of academia throughout college and university, the better your employment prospects will be upon graduation.
Working, interning or volunteering can be useful for another reason. This will help you to develop your social skills and your ability to handle pressure. When applying to top universities you’ll have to take part in a competitive admissions process which includes interviews. Even if academically you’re a great student, being a confident and personable communicator will significantly improve your chances of securing a coveted place. Any activities you take part in outside of work and study may also help your chances. If you’re part of a sports team, social group or a society, for example a debating club, this will also reflect highly on you as a proactive, outgoing person. College is a great time to get active and start doing the things you love.
The most important thing in order to get a place on the right course in your dream university is, of course, to study hard and get fantastic grades! If you are a high-flying student, you should definitely consider applying to study at Oxford or Cambridge. Both universities, the oldest and most prestigious in the UK, vie for the top spot in the national ranking tables and are recognised as amongst the very best in the world, typically within the top 5. Graduating from either university could unlock endless opportunities for work or further study.
It is no secret that gaining admission to these universities is a challenge. The admissions process is intensive and highly competitive, and in 2015 over 18,000 people applied for around 3,200 undergraduate places at Oxford, with around 1 in 5 being successful. The figures for Cambridge are similar. For this reason, it’s essential to be as prepared as possible in order to gain admission. Varsity Education’s intensive two week academic courses, for 15-18 year olds, are an excellent way to experience, and prepare for, life at an elite university. We have a range of subjects, taught by Oxbridge fellows, to choose from and offer bespoke guidance and skills development to help you successfully navigate the application process.
Whatever your background, don’t be discouraged from applying to our courses or from studying at Oxford or Cambridge. Both Oxford and Cambridge have a range of bursaries and scholarship programmes to ensure access to the brightest students, no matter their circumstances.
Find out more about Varsity Education’s university preparation courses here, and check out our other blogs for more information about Oxford and Cambridge, studying in the UK, Varsity Education and more.
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