Higher Education/University Applications feature

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Just posted this on the 'new features' board, but thought I may get more ideas here!

So, seeing as there's an A-level choices board, and the university applications process is pretty complex, I thought it would be a good idea to have something whereby people could post questions on a dedicated, permanent page about applying to higher education. Perhaps make a few pages that are course specific, or at least subject specific (e.g. Biology related, History related, Foreign Language related etc).

Having gone through the process of applying to (and getting offers from) Medical Schools, I'd love the opportunity to share my experiences with others, as I know how long and complex the journey into medicine/dentistry/vetinary is, and I know I had loads of questions at many stages of the process that I didn't have the opportunity to ask those who had already applied.

I also know that many people struggle to choose degree courses, and I think it would be useful to have current A2 level or undergrad students commenting and helping those choosing their future paths.

However, I have no idea how to go about setting this up! I'm currently not a subscriber so can't start a study group and do it that way. It's also quite a big topic that I think should be available in the 'discuss live' section. Is there already something like this that I haven't found? If not, do you think it's a good idea and worth asking for? Do you have an idea how to set it up in such a way that it is permanent feature?

Any feedback would be welcome, thanks :)

Posted: 02-04-13 18:09 by ex-Lechiayim

There is a university applications study group at the moment which is quite helpful, but I think something like a discussion page on here would be better because on a live discussion the conversation diappears after a while, so a question might not get a response. You could just use this page to discuss things like that. And a place where i could ask questions about uni would be very helpful. I have a while until i go to uni but i want to decide early. 

Would you be able to tell me about how the student loans work? They really confuse me and no websites explain it well.

Posted: 04-04-13 09:50 by Tilly - Team GR

Oh and your GCSE grades are amazing by the way.

Posted: 04-04-13 09:51 by Tilly - Team GR

Thanks Tilly, yours are too!

Thanks for the feedback, good to decide early, and using this page as a starting block would work. 

To be honest I'm no expert on the student loan stuff, it is quite complicated, but as far as I understand it the Student Loans Company (SLC) pay your tuition fees directly to the university (that's the £9000 a year bit), and then you pay it back monthly (9% of your total earnings/month) after you've graduated and once you're earning over £21,000. If you stop earning over £21,000 at any time, you stop paying it back. I think the money is taken out of your wage before you get your wage, so I suppose you won't notice it going.

On top of that, you can get a Mainenance Loan, somewhere in the region of £5,500/year (about £7,500 if you're living in London) for living expences e.g. food, accomodation, books etc, which is added onto your total debt and paid back in the same way.

On top of that (it just keeps going...) you can get a Maintenance Grant, which is a further sum of money that you don't have to pay back and is variable (based upon your parents' income). Any grant you get reduces the Maintenance Loan that you get by a certain amount. 

There are further bursaries and scholarships from individual universities and degree courses, and special funding for a select few degrees (med/vet/dental/teaching/social work), and a whole load of other specialist grants on top of that.

Essentially, once you get your offers and make your choices you fill out a student finance form (what I'm attempting to do over the next few days) and the SLC will tell you what you're eligible for. Speaking to current students, I've been told that the SLC is fairly easy-going.

I personally don't find the SLC website very helpful, but the government one is quite good: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/overview

Sorry for the essay, hope it helps!

Posted: 04-04-13 12:01 by ex-Lechiayim

Thank you. That really helps. I had no idea how it worked at all. I really wanted to get some info on it cause I didn't know how it was repaid. 

Thanks i'll take a look at the website.

Posted: 04-04-13 14:38 by Tilly - Team GR

Also I just wondered - is interest adding to your loan before you leave uni or is it only added on after you leave and get a job?

Posted: 04-04-13 15:02 by Tilly - Team GR

No problem.

As far as I'm aware, you pay interest from the first payment that is made on your behalf i.e. while you're still at uni. I think it's about the rate of inflation +3%. When you leave, how much interest you pay depends on how much you're earning.

Posted: 05-04-13 13:27 by ex-Lechiayim

Oh ok thanks. I never knew that interest was added on while you were at uni. That website is brilliant by the way.

Posted: 05-04-13 17:40 by Tilly - Team GR

Glad it was helpful.

Any other questions from anybody about medicine/uni applications?

Modified twice, last modified by ex-Lechiayim on Sun 7th April, 2013 @ 14:48

Posted: 07-04-13 14:47 by ex-Lechiayim

found it! ahha So anyway, i was saying, what things would make an applicant stand out? "different"?

Posted: 14-04-13 17:08 by Felix

When I said that, what I meant was every Med School is looking for something different in their applicants, and they will 'weight' your application according to different criteria. Some will say that whether you get invited to interview will be based 50% on grades/predicted grades & UKCAT/BMAT and 50% on non-academic criteria (seen in your personal statement and reference). Others will weight it 30% grades, 70% personal statement etc. If your strengths are primarily in your grades, and you think you're going to do well on the UKCAT, you'd look at places who rate grades highly, whereas if you think your strengths are in what you have to offer as a person (good comm skills, leadership, commitment, caring nature etc) then you look for the places that rate non-academic criteria highly and show those skills clearly in your personal statement.

I've mentioned non-academic criteria. This is what they will be looking for in you as a person and doctor of the future. Again, each medical school will have slightly different thoughts on this, and you can find most on their websites.

Therefore, one massive thing you can do to help yourself is to do loads of digging around and find out exactly how different places weight your application and what their specific non-academic criteria are. That way, you can make an informed decision and target those places that are most likely to invite you to interview. When I say loads of digging, I mean loads, you will have to delve deep into their websites, ring them (often 3+ times) to get the precise answers you're looking, and get things confirmed in writing via email! So you have to be serious and dedicated about it, but I'd suggest that, if you are, doing it this way gives you the best chance of success. Any other questions?

Modified once, last modified by ex-Lechiayim on Sun 14th April, 2013 @ 17:23

Posted: 14-04-13 17:22 by ex-Lechiayim

oh wow haha good answer! One other, I'm on track to get these results in my gcse.. brace yourself.. Possibly 2A*, 4 A's and 4 B's. I know some like oxford require like 100000 A*'s, however some require 6 A's, which I would meet? Also I've targerted uni's that Don't look for 3 sciences at A level. I'm taking Biology, Chemistry, Psycholgy and Geography. Do you think those are okay? Be brutally honest! I have some quality work experience lined up to!

Modified once, last modified by Felix on Sun 14th April, 2013 @ 17:37

Posted: 14-04-13 17:27 by Felix

Asides from oxford, cambridge and the higher unis, most only require 2 science a levels. Some do require 3 though. However in most universities geography and psychology are considered sciences - but probably less highly regarded than the three main sciences. You'd be fine with those a levels for most univerisities. Even kings colleges and UCL only require 2 sciences for most science related courses.

Posted: 14-04-13 17:41 by Tilly - Team GR

do you think my gcse's will hold me back? Unless I do well in the UKCAT?

Posted: 14-04-13 17:43 by Felix

Well firstly to tweak what Tilly has said, none consider either Geography or Psychology as a science; the standard list of sciences for Med School is Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Maths (but I know that's different for other science related courses). I'm not doing 3 sciences at A level so that certainly isn't a problem, some Med Schools even say that they like the 3rd A level to be non-science related; again, research and see where they actively like that combination. The bottom line is, every place is slightly different.

As for the GCSEs, providing you meet the specific medical school's minimum entry requirements for GCSEs, your AS levels are good and you're predicted grades are AAA, then academically you'd be fine to apply. What you do have to bear in mind is that Med Schools publish their minimum entry requirements, i.e. the minimum you have to have in order to be considered. Some places will also publish what they think you need in order to be competitive, so it's worth out looking for that. If it isn't published on the website of a place you're interested in, ring up and ask several admissions tutors what they think you need to be a competitive applicant. The more of those Bs you can push up to As, the better, doesn't matter if you just scrape 'em, an A is an A and will look better than a B, so if you can then work extra hard on those subjects!

Work experience is fantastic, not sure if you've done any yet but I loved mine; I'm going to go back and do a few more weeks in the summer holidays at a hospital in London just for enjoyment, because I absolutely loved it, it was so interesting and you get to meet such a diverse range of people! Record everything you see when you're on placement, and talk to as many patients as possible. When you write your PS, the Med Schools don't want a list of what you've done but want to know what you've learned from it. It may not strike you immediately (hence writing everything down), but something you see will undoubtably strike you at some point as something really important e.g. seeing a doctor do something, which later you reflect on and see that what they did was really good and showed excellent communication skills etc. If you talk to lots of patients and ask them about their injuries and treatment, you'll get to see what their situation is like from their point of view, and empathy is something Med Schools really like to see and is a really important quality in my humble opinion.

Try and get some volunteering work experience too, local charities are always looking for volunteers, Med Schools love it and it's often very rewarding!

If you have any more questions, stick them on here.

Modified 5 times, last modified by ex-Lechiayim on Mon 15th April, 2013 @ 10:38

Posted: 14-04-13 17:53 by ex-Lechiayim

Thanks :)

Posted: 14-04-13 17:56 by Felix

I just wondered how does payment for accomodation work? I read on one university website that you pay for the room, and then it said something about insurance for everything in your room (in case of fires, theft etc). It didn't state whether students paid for insurance, or whether the university pays. Do you know which it is?

Posted: 03-05-13 08:10 by Tilly - Team GR

For my accomodation i pay one price (that cna be split into termly installments) that includes insurance.
You will pay for insurance but it will depend on which university you are at to how it works.
Not all universities own the accomodation. My campus accomodation, for example, is run by a ocmpany called Opal, instead of the university.
There are several companies that run student accomodation, another one is called unite.
I owuldn't fret too much about the accomodation. they uni/accomodation company will have provided accomodation to thousands of students before so make sure the process is easy and simple to understand. Best not worry until you have to choose your accomodation type!

Posted: 03-05-13 19:56 by Alex

Ok thank you. By the way how much do you pay in total for a year at your uni?

Modified once, last modified by Tilly - Team GR on Fri 3rd May, 2013 @ 20:35

Posted: 03-05-13 20:34 by Tilly - Team GR