Parent Blog: Lauren – The Application Process
Lauren has four children, three of which have attended University and the fourth is considering a degree or degree apprenticeship to start in 2019.
The application stage can seem quite complicated but don’t worry because there will be plenty of experts on hand to help. I took every opportunity to attend the Higher Education evenings offered by my children’s sixth form colleges. As I have 4 children, you might think this became repetitive. Actually, I found quite the opposite…. Everyone I attended over that 8 year span, I discovered the information shared by the Careers Advisor had changed again. So it was really important to ensure I had information which was current and not make assumptions based on my previous experience. I also backed up everything I heard by checking the various websites recommended, and you will need to refer often to https://www.ucas.com/ as this is where applications are made.
There are many ways for your son or daughter to choose which course and university is the best fit for them. Hopefully, by this stage, they will have at least decided what subject they want to do their degree in. Each of my children have very different personalities and work styles. Two approached things quite scientifically and used tables, in which they wrote down various rankings based on guides provided by the universities, major newspapers and magazines, including Which. The other two looked through all the courses and drew up a short list based on where they thought they wanted to live and thought they had the best chance of getting into. I tried not to interfere but took an active interest and asked them to keep me updated on their decision making process. My main role was to check their short-list privately and look for any obvious red flags. For example, ensuring they had understood the entry requirements and were likely to secure the UCAS points needed. I found the concept of choosing an insurance option course and university confusing and had to read up on that to ensure I really understood it.
The other thing I remember from the application period is the incredible pressure to help my children produce a perfect UCAS statement. My children all chose very competitive degrees and universities, so the pressure was particularly intense. We had started the process long before, in fact from their very first day in sixth form, and every choice they made from then on was taken with a view to building their UCAS statement. My son needed to get 2 As and a B in his A Levels and also worked hard to self-fund himself onto an overseas expedition with the Scout Association, in order to apply for a degree in Chemistry at a Russell Group University. My eldest daughter volunteered with the St John’s Ambulance service, and completed a course as a Lifeguard at our local swimming pool, to boost her application to do Paramedic Practice. My middle daughter had her heart set on medicine and needed 3 As so we paid for extra tutoring to get her over the line in Chemistry. She fundraised to self-fund herself onto an overseas expedition. She also volunteered for the British Heart Foundation and a local hospice for 2 years, and completed 4 weeks of shadowing in a school for children with special needs, with a GP, in a cardiac thoracic unit and in a stroke unit at two major hospitals. My youngest daughter wants to be a paediatric nurse and gain a place on a degree course or higher degree apprenticeship at Sheffield Hallam University. She volunteered in a child care centre during her sixth form college and is currently on a gap experience in Australia, where she is building up a range of work experiences, including being an au pair. All this helps with their statements and their interviews at universities when they come. One final tip is to make sure you allow time to check, recheck and recheck again their UCAS statement. It needs to be perfect. Fresh eyes will always spot typos and grammar errors.
Once they have applied, your son or daughter will get a set of responses, and hopefully some offers. Usually their offers will be conditional on them achieving certain grades. I was lucky in that my children achieved the offers and grades they needed, and most found it easy to make a choice of which offer to accept. My middle daughter had a tough choice choosing between two universities where to do her degree in medicine, and for this I consulted with people who mentor me in my career and had been to university as a young adult, as I didn’t have this experience personally.
My children are now pursuing their dreams of becoming a scientist, paramedic, doctor and nurse. I believe with hard work on your children’s part, careful planning on yours, and asking people to help your family, it is possible to support your children to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. Even if, as in my case, you have a limited budget and personal experience of university and the careers they have chosen.