1. Identify What You’re Interested in and What You Enjoy
Take a look at what you’re currently studying, is there any subject or particular module that you enjoy the most or are significantly more interested in? Start thinking about your interests now and ideally what you’d love to be doing career wise in a few years.
So if you’re really enjoying A-level Physics modules such as ‘Thermal Physics’, ‘Rotational Dynamics’ or ‘Thermodynamics and Engines’ perhaps take a look at Mechanical Engineering courses and careers. If you’re really doing well in Biology start researching careers and courses in the Biosciences.
You’ll be the one who has to complete the degree, so make sure it’s something you’re going to be happy with for 3-4 years!
2. Do Course Research
University courses are definitely not one-size-fits-all. Different universities can offer the same Science or Engineering course with the same name but different elements. Some may focus more on the area of Chemistry you’re interested in, include more exams than coursework or put more emphasis on practical assessments and placements. Work out how you learn and how you test best too.
If you prefer coursework to exams you will want to pay close attention to the assessment weighting. You can find all of this information on the university website. There are also combination degrees too, so if you’re passionate about Philosophy and really interested in Physics you might be interested in a mix of the two, like this
BSc Physics and Philosophy degree offered by the University of Bristol for example.
3. Do University Research
There are various factors to consider when choosing a university to study at, including its reputation and focus on STEM subjects.
Firstly, how far do you want to be from home? If you’re up for relocating anywhere this won’t be a problem but if you want to stay within an hour’s reach of home, get a map out and make a list of all the local universities.
Bring up the ranking tables of universities and see where is best for your science or engineering course, including student satisfaction scores, student to staff ratio and the number of students in a career 6 months after graduating.
Also consider different kinds of universities and their benefits, for example Oxbridge, a Russell Group University, a Redbrick University or College of Higher Education. You may also consider studying at university abroad which will require far more research into the application processes. Check the entry requirements, STEM subject and other scholarship options and application deadlines diligently to avoid time costing mistakes further along the application process.
4. Talk About it
If you’ve got a few universities and courses in mind have a chat with your parents, teachers and career advisors at Sixth Form or College to talk through which ones would be best to apply to. Apply to some universities with higher entry requirements but also some with lower ones too in case you don’t secure the grades you’re hoping for.
If you do miss out on places you can always take a look at the other openings during UCAS Clearing and if you perform better than expected, you can swap using UCAS Adjustment onto courses that require higher grades. Your university may also offer you a course choice they feel is more appropriate. For example, if you did apply to study Philosophy and Physics at Bristol University but the admissions team felt your Philosophy grades weren’t as strong as they need to be they might offer you a place on a Physics Bsc instead of the combined course. Talk through your options both before applying and on results day as decisions may need to be made.
5. Buy a Calendar!
A key step to take is to start keeping track of everything that needs to be done on a calendar. When do you need to have decided where you’re applying to? Bear in mind some Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry courses have earlier application deadlines than other subjects. When does your personal statement need to be completed? When is the UCAS deadline for applications? When is A-level results day? Pen down Science and Engineering Open Days too so you can get a feel for different campuses and courses.
By marking it all on the calendar you can be sure not to miss anything important whilst keeping on top of your research and applications. You’ll have a lot going on studying for your A-levels, BTEC or equivalent qualifications alongside choosing what and where to study, so start your researching and planning early to keep things running smoothly.