Our Ref. RMG//kj December 2012
Dear Parent(s), I write, primarily, to invite you to a “Higher Education” evening on Tuesday 12 February at 7.00pm, in the School’s Dobson Theatre. This Information Evening is designed to help you understand current procedures for applications to universities, and will undoubtedly feature some discussion of the fee structure for university. More than 98% of our students usually leave us to go to university, and our Higher Education Programme with our current LVIth students begins next term. We also produce, each year, a publication – “Information for Parents” - which is intended to help you understand the Higher Education (HE) process. This information follows on from this letter, so that you can download it and read it at your convenience. A rather more interactive publication is sent to all LVI students and will be visible on our website from January. There is a wealth of opportunity for young people: more than 300 HE institutions and nearly 50,000 courses from which your son/daughter can choose, in the UK alone, but the issue of student debt is making the focus upon selecting the right course ever more important. We are pleased that in recent years our students have left us to enjoy fulfilling courses at well respected universities. Between 70% and 85% of our students traditionally go to universities placed in the top 25. Most importantly, the vast majority of our students obtain places at the institutions for which they were holding a first choice offer and are therefore happy in their HE careers. We hope to continue this record by encouraging our VIth Formers to take a positive attitude to HE from an early stage in their VIth Form careers. Even if they do not wish to enter HE, LVIth students should, nevertheless, begin to make plans for their futures; we are just as keen to help and advise vocationally oriented students as those who follow the “conventional” university routes, and we have the resources to enhance our students’ opportunities in their chosen fields. Some of the current LVIth year have already sought internship advice from Mrs Mandley, who coordinates work placements, and others have consulted Mr. Culver who co-ordinates application to non-UK universities. If there is any further information you require, or if you have any comments to make, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via your son’s/daughter’s tutor. We very much hope that you are able to join us on 12 February, 2013. Yours sincerely,
From the Student Guidance Faculty
KING EDWARD VI SCHOOL SOUTHAMPTON 2013
HIGHER EDUCATION APPLICATIONS – INFORMATION FOR PARENTS -2-
HIGHER EDUCATION APPLICATIONS INFORMATION FOR PARENTS This guide is intended to help parents take an active part in our process of preparing students for Higher Education. We believe that careful and thorough research at this stage will be highly beneficial to students once they begin the complicated procedure of matching aptitude and ambition to realistic choices of course and institution. During the presentation to parents in February we will make you aware of all the many sources of information that can be accessed to help make difficult decisions well informed decisions. Recently, we were ranked 30th in the UK by the Sutton Trust Report, for the percentage of students proceeding into top universities. We are proud of such statistics, but we are even more proud of the number of students who achieve a place at their CF (firm choice) institutions. It is rare for one of our students to “drop out” of his/her chosen course at university and we believe this is a reflection of the importance we put upon careful research at an early stage. Once the application season opens on 1 September of the UVIth, experience tells us that – for most of our students – speed is of the essence. Early applications usually yield early offers: a situation which tends to make Christmas more tolerable for everyone! By November of the current year, 63% of our applicants were holding one or more offers from UK universities. One lucky student had all five offers. The HE programme for LVIth students begins in the Spring Term. We hope that you will be able to help us support your son/daughter by taking an active interest in the independent research he/she undertakes, ready to make an application to university. Students receive a handbook (which they can download) and in which they can record their research; this could be a starting point for conversations at home. They are also encouraged to keep a record of useful web links to university information. A large percentage of our LVIth students have already participated in our work experience programme, but further opportunities exist during Easter and the long Summer vacation, and Mrs Mandley, our Careers Co-ordinator, is happy to help to arrange an individually tailored placement. The programme of HE events which begins in the Spring, is supported by the aforementioned student handbook that is issued to all students and which provides clear guidance on the way UCAS works and how to make informed decisions. We hope that you will encourage your son/daughter to make the most of the forthcoming opportunities and we cordially invite you to accompany us on our Open Day visits to various universities, details of which will be available from the School’s Student Guidance Web Site later next term. Please be assured that parents are very welcome on these trips, but we do ask, in the interest of the environment, that where a School coach is being provided, this is the means of transport used. Once AS examinations have been taken, we will provide training in the use of APPLY, the electronic application process run by the University Central Admissions Service (UCAS), and advice on preparing a personal statement. This is a compulsory training session for all members of the LVIth. Throughout the entire process – from LVIth to Post A Level application - your child’s personal tutor is central to all that happens and should be the first point of contact for any concerns you may have. We encourage you to liaise with him/her throughout the coming months and to encourage your son/daughter to make best possible use of the expertise on offer at an individual level.
CHOICES AND OPPORTUNITIES The majority of students in this School will be attracted to universities or HE institutions that participate in the Universities and Colleges Central Admissions Service known as UCAS. Through this convenient system VIth Form students may apply for first degree courses (BA, BSc, BEd, etc.). For foundation courses in Art or Higher National Diploma (HND) courses and for places to read Music at a Conservatoire, a separate system exists and Mrs Freemantle is happy to offer advice. Opportunities to apply to universities outside the UK system exist and applications are supported by Mr. Culver. Students interested in pursuing this option were invited to a seminar in November of their LVIth. Initial meetings for potential Oxbridge candidates and for students who wish to explore non UK universities, have already taken place in the Autumn term, but it is never too late for students to express interest.
STUDENT SUPPORT: FINANCING STUDENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION This issue is probably the most controversial and most publicised feature of HE. The School is not involved in the financial arrangements for university funding, but concerns about funding can be directed to Student Finance England via www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance. This website provides a FAQ page which may be helpful, and we recommend the website links provided via our Student Guidance website, which, by exploding the myth of “up front fees”, should allay some concerns. We also recommend www.moneysavingexpert.com, which has a section dedicated to student finance. The principal elements of the procedure for application to HE are outlined below, very approximately in chronological order. All these aspects are also covered on our website. THE BASIC PROGRAMME 1.
The School’s Introduction
Sources of Information and research techniques
The GAP Year
The Application Procedure: APPLY
Preparing for Competitive Courses and Institutions
Additional University Examinations
UVI Parents’ Evening
Post Examination Results Clinic
Old Edwardians and Post Qualification Applications
THE SCHOOL’S INTRODUCTION At the beginning of the Spring Term, members of the LVIth are given a series of introductory lectures on aspects of HE and the procedures for application for university courses. Students will be introduced to a variety of methods of researching data, including the use of the Student Guidance Centre, the efficient use of the internet and various specific computer programs. The HE programme is ongoing during the Spring and Summer terms, including Open Day visits and further opportunities for students to use IT rooms and the Student Guidance Centre. All activities are tutor group centred, and any problems or concerns should be channelled through your son or daughter’s tutor in the first instance.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION AND RESEARCH TECHNIQUES (1)
The VIth Form Tutor and Tutorial Group Base Each VIth Former is encouraged to seek advice from his or her Tutor, who will eventually compile a draft HE reference. Each Group Base is provided with a copy of Brian Heap’s Degree Course Offers for the relevant year, but considerably more information is kept in the Student Guidance Centre, which is available as a research library for every student in the VI Form. Every student has access to the Student Guidance intranet and all the links it contains. Please do encourage your son/ daughter to make full use of the School’s HE and Guidance web pages. Information about the use of Entry Profiles is provided in the Student HE Handbook, which will be copied home via parent portal, and where suggestions for web based information are also provided. Students will begin using the UCAS facility to search for courses in the Spring Term.
The Guidance Faculty and staff VIth Formers are encouraged to research information for themselves. The Student Handbook which follows this publication has extensive web links for students to follow. in the Student Guidance Centre, which contains separate sections of information for every university in the UK, IT programs on HE, various directories and guides. VIth Formers may seek advice from the HE Team: Ms Greenwood, Director of Higher Education, Mr Culver, Assistant Director, Mr Wood, our GAP year Co-ordinator or Mrs Mandley, our Careers Co-ordinator, who is also available to arrange work experience for our VI Formers upon individual request. These placements take place in the holidays to minimise disruption to schooling. Mr. Hunt, as Academic Tutor, is responsible for the administration of all extra university examinations and Mrs Owen in the Examination Office can offer guidance on anything connected to examination entries and subsequent qualifications. Any initial enquiries can be made to Miss Jordan, who handles all aspects of departmental administration.
Published Sources (i)
The principal sources of information web based but some are held in the Student Guidance Centre, including all of the recognised guides to HE. The Gould Library also contains an extensive library of resources for HE.
The vast majority of universities now provide virtual tours of their facilities via their web sites, and we recommend web-based research wherever possible, at this initial stage. Further details appear in the Student Handbook.
Further information can be sourced via the Guidance Faculty’s web pages which also provide excellent hyperlinks to useful web based resources.
The School intranet provides links to those services to which we subscribe, such as E-clips, Course Discover, Careerscape and University Applications. The intranet also provides links to video clips of academic interviews at university. Ultimately, however, www.UCAS.com will provide answers to most questions connected to applications to UK universities.
POST QUALIFICATION APPLICATION AND THE GAP YEAR The GAP Year has always been a very popular option with the students at this School, with up to 50% of students taking this route to university. There are talks to all members of the LVIth arranged by Mr. Wood. Sixth Formers wishing to take a “year out” between Advanced Levels and university entrance – the so called GAP Year – are advised to see Mr. Wood as well as their Tutors. They may then apply in the LVIth for deferred entry to university, or, as is increasingly popular, leave their application until post advanced level (PQA). Whilst we encourage VIth Formers to take a year out, we do so on the understanding that the year is properly planned and will enhance the cv. We are happy to talk with parents in more detail on this matter and VIth Formers should check first that a GAP Year is accepted by their chosen courses, and that any financial implications have been thoroughly explored. PQA students are generally more successful in their applications to university, possibly because they have had longer to consider their options and more time to concentrate upon achieving the unit grades they require. Students who have left the School We continue to be involved in the HE applications of students who have left the School. Post Advanced Level candidates (PQA students) will be able to use APPLY, either from their home computers or from School or, indeed, from anywhere in the world, in the autumn term after they leave us. Further information about the process will be provided to them in July of the UVIth, along with details of the Post Advanced Level Clinic. Gappers should bear in mind the need to submit their application before Christmas when planning their GAP Year and may need to be mindful of dates for potential interviews. Once students have attended universities anywhere in the world, they become “independent” applicants if they make a second application to any HE institution, and then should use more recent academic contacts as their referees rather than the School. Students applying for transfer from one university to another would, likewise, be outside the School’s system. PQA students are invited to an HE “clinic” on the occasion of our Open Evening in November, but they are also advised to keep in touch with their personal tutor throughout the time after their A Level results are known. Students who use the School for PQA purposes are usually over 18 and therefore staff can only discuss such applications with the applicant.
THE APPLICATION PROCEDURE: APPLY There will be training in the use of the electronic application system at an appropriate time after the AS examinations. All students are required to attend this training session, whether they intend to apply before or after taking their Advanced Level examinations. We ask you to ensure that your son/daughter is in School on that day, which will be posted on the School Calendar in good time. In 2013 we hope this training will take place on Wednesday 19 June. Current students, first time post qualification applicants and leavers should not attempt to make independent applications through APPLY, as we cannot access or process such applications. They will need the buzzword to access the School system and this will
be provided in the training sessions and in the Post Examination Advice booklet. Please look out for this booklet in the UVI parent portal. Applications through UCAS should be made from 1 September of UVIth by pre Advanced Level candidates for Direct Entry in the following year or for Deferred Entry. PQA students apply in the Autumn for entry in the following September. Early application is advisable: we encourage VIth Formers to complete their applications before Half Term in the Autumn of the UVIth. For those applying to competitive courses and/or institutions, it is advisable to prepare the application during the Summer Term and holidays so that the application may be sent off right at the start of the Autumn Term. It is normal for most applicants to hold a university place by Christmas if they abide by our internal deadlines1. Applicants may currently choose five courses on the UCAS form. (In the case of Dentistry, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, they will be allowed to select only four, and our deadline for applications to these courses is the end of September.) Choices are listed alphabetically, not by preference, and should be made in consultation with the Tutors. Payment of the UCAS fee should be made online, directly to UCAS at the time of submitting the completed electronic application form. Only when all responses have been received do students have to make final decisions. They are allowed to keep two Conditional Offers: one Firmly Accepted (CF), and one Insurance (CI). VIth Formers are strongly advised to consult their Tutors before making their decisions, and are firmly advised to make their decisions. It is only logical that the CI acceptance should be of a slightly lower offer than that of the CF. Students are not obliged to keep an “insurance” (CI) offer, but we urge students to retain a SENSIBLE insurance offer. The CI offer should be LOWER than the CF offer. Please note that while early applications usually produce early offers, in some subjects it may take until the end of March of the UVIth, before the last replies from universities are received. The deadline for candidates’ responses to these Conditional Offers is published on the APPLY website: the deadline is usually in May, but it does depend to some extent upon the date on which the last reply from universities was received. Any concerns can be addressed via the FAQ site (http://www.ucas.com/parents/faqs/), but please remember that the School operates different deadlines.
PREPARING FOR COMPETITIVE COURSES AND INSTITUTIONS Certain courses such as Dentistry, English, Law, Medicine, Psychology, PPE and Veterinary Medicine are now so competitive that even the 20th ranked university (where 20 offer the subject) will require Advanced Level grades of AAA or better. Similarly, the top ranked universities2 will require AAA or even A*AA for most subjects. Competitive universities may seek detailed information such as that required by the University of Cambridge (see below), and require candidates to submit supplementary questionnaires or even take additional exams. Please see Section 7 of this booklet.
Some courses, such as Medicine, may operate a “gathered field” system, which will involve a longer wait. Our internal deadlines are published in the School calendar.
There may be slight changes in overall ranking from year to year. Ranking by SUBJECT is available via the Guidance Faculty and The Times Good University Guide, for the appropriate year. Rankings according to required entrance requirement are generally the ones we prefer to use.
Top universities are likely to require a strong GCSE profile. Competition for places in the colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge is so intense that candidates really require the potential to obtain A* grades at Advanced Level and to have virtually all A and A* grades at GCSE. It is likely that the quality of A grade candidates may be taken into account through the scrutiny of UMS values. Unit grades may be required, and Cambridge University utilises information about the percentage of marks achieved and whether or not retakes of units have contributed to the final grade. Generally, we have noticed that it is students with more than 95% in their AS or A Level marks who are offered places, but this cannot be regarded as an infallible guideline. Students should be aware that some competitive courses do not like resits and therefore the marks achieved at the end of the LVIth year may be a vital factor in realising aspirations. Candidates for Oxbridge complete a UCAS application, but are no longer required to complete separate application forms for their chosen college. The application deadline for tutors to process Oxbridge applications is usually the penultimate week of September. Most good applicants will be virtually “ready to go” once they return from the summer vacation. Our Speech Day is our deadline for tutors to have approved applications: this process may take at least a full working week from the point students send their applications and therefore students need to allow for this time lag between their sending of their application and their application being sent to UCAS. This time lag is typically ten working days, but might be longer if there are complications. 3
Students may not apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year . Some colleges may ask to see some of the candidates’ work; some may set written tests at interview; some Cambridge colleges may require Sixth Term Examination Papers (STEP) and many courses have separate examinations to be taken in November of the UVIth Year. Clearly entry procedures for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are more complicated than average; VIth Formers who are contemplating an application to either university should consult their Tutors as early as possible, and make themselves known to Mr. Culver, who co-ordinates college choices and academic preparation. It is unlikely, in our experience, for two students applying to the same college for the same subject, to both achieve offers.
OPEN DAYS Coach visits to University Open Days are arranged by the School, where these fall during the working week. This year they will probably include a selection from the universities listed below:Bath Birmingham Bristol Cardiff
Exeter Oxford Royal Holloway Southampton
These coach trips are provided to help reduce cost and vehicle congestion, and parental permission is sought in advance. We encourage LVIth Formers to consider no more than two or three visits during term time to avoid too much disruption to work. In addition, individuals and/or small groups may take the initiative to arrange their own visits to universities further north, in which case, we require parental permission in advance and ask you to be aware that we do not encourage parents to allow their sons or daughters to be passengers in another VIth Former’s car when inexperienced drivers have to make long journeys. We strongly encourage parents to accompany students on their visits to universities and welcome participation in the coach trips we organise. Please note that Cambridge University main Open Day is in July and usually clashes with our
Unless applying for choral or organ scholarships.
Biology Field Trip. However, individuals can sometimes make arrangements to visit the academic departments at earlier stages of the academic cycle. We strongly advise students to see the universities of their choice before making an application. In some cases distance may dictate that a visit occurs outside the university term, but this is still better than trying to make a decision without actually seeing the university. Unfortunately, it is not possible to visit all universities, and students should discuss visits other than those run by the School with their personal tutor. Most Open Days take place in the Summer Term and are advertised via the Friday Blue Sheet and also via the plasma screen. Students should discuss opportunities with their tutors and take the initiative to book their places via RMG or kj.
Please remember that parents are invited – actively encouraged – to accompany students on any coach trips organised for University Open Days. Where an official Open Day trip is organised, we expect students to join this trip rather than make separate arrangements. Please note that some University Open Day trips are very popular and therefore we do advise you to book your places via kespay, as early as possible to avoid disappointment. Many universities require students to book online for specific talks or lectures. Students are advised to check early to ensure they get the most out of their visits.
ADDITIONAL UNIVERSITY EXAMINATIONS A number of competitive universities and university courses now find it impossible to distinguish between the many students who achieve straight A grades at Advanced Level. Law, Medicine and Veterinary Science and many Oxbridge colleges now require that students take additional examinations (BMAT, LNAT, TSA, etc.). Please look at the School’s web site under the Academic menu for further details on University Admissions Tests. Students have the opportunity to attend preparation seminars in July run by Mr. Hunt, the Academic Tutor, and evening sessions in the Autumn Term run by Mr. Culver, the Assistant Director of Higher Education.
INDICATOR GRADES To help LVIth Formers to obtain an early indication of the courses and institutions to which they may consider applying, we give them “indicator” Advanced Level grades in February. These are for internal purposes only, to help students focus their interest upon appropriate HE courses. They are not communicated in any way to universities. However, pre qualification applicants will have their September “predicted” grades communicated to UCAS. Predicted grades have to take account of AS examination performances, but are NOT “negotiable”. This means that students applying for Veterinary Science, Medicine, Dentistry or the colleges of Oxford or Cambridge MUST achieve good AS results as their predicted grades are based upon those marks. Students whose AS grades are disappointing will be encouraged to consider the PQA route.
It is essential that candidates are realistic and well prepared, and that they listen to the advice of their Tutors, Subject Teachers and members of the Guidance Faculty. For example, the competitive courses and the competitive institutions may well have a threshold number of GCSE grade A passes required; similarly, they will require impressive marks at AS Level. Equally, some specific courses in specific universities may largely ignore the GCSE profile! All these different expectations are rarely stated in black and white in prospectuses, which is why VIth Formers must research their choices carefully and seek the advice and experience of their Tutors. The UCAS Entry Profiles offer a glimpse of what students who are already on the course have achieved in their academic profiles, and are an excellent source of useful information. We strongly urge students to make use of them. Training in accessing this information will be provided (http://www.ucas.com/students/coursesearch). 9.
UVI PARENTS’ EVENING UVIth Formers’ AS Examination performances, predicated grades and HE intentions can be discussed at the UVIth Parents’ Evening, which is usually held very early in the Autumn Term of the UVIth year. Students whose AS performances and predicted A2 grades do not match their ambitions, are strongly advised to consider a Post Qualification Application if that is possible, to allow them more time to improve their academic performance. Most students who take this route are very successful. Our statistics indicate a greater chance of success for PQA applicants, and our statistics extend over many years of experience.
INTERVIEW PREPARATION During early November of the first term of the UVIth year we will arrange interview practice for those VIth Formers most likely to be called for interview, given their choices of course and institution. However, any VIth Former who wishes to experience interview practice may request it. An external, professional service is provided to help VIth Formers prepare for interviews. This involves a modest cost. Many Heads of Academic Departments organise additional interview preparation sessions. The Student Guidance Centre has resources to help prepare students for academic and vocational interviews, and further advice is provided through our UVIth Open Forum programme. The School also keeps records of past interview experiences (known as HE3s), which are available for current VIth Formers to read – on request to RMG. They form a truly invaluable resource and cover several thousand interview experiences.
POST EXAMINATION RESULTS CLINIC When the AS and Advanced Level results become available, usually on the third Thursday in August, a team of experienced staff will be available in School for face-to-face interviews and to give individual advice. This service will be available on more than one day, and details will be given to all VIth Formers before they leave School at the end of their UVIth year. Details will also be published on the web site and via parent portal. It is worth noting well in advance that candidates are strongly advised to be available when the Advanced Level and AS results are published. Please take into account the need for swift access to the School during this period when planning your summer holidays. As Guidance staff are usually busy interviewing individual students, email contact is not the most effective at this time.
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OLD EDWARDIANS AND PQA (POST QUALIFICATION APPLICATIONS) Once VIth Formers leave KES, they are welcome to return for advice, to use the Student Guidance Centre and simply to keep us in touch with their progress. We are happy to write references (over the Headmaster’s signature) for any future applications they make, until such time as they enter an HE Institution. They will also be able to use the IT facilities to make applications through APPLY. In preparing their application PQA students should keep in regular close contact with their TUTOR, and should ensure that they retain their “Leavers’ Post A Level Advice” booklet in order to access the School services. This booklet will include the password (BUZZWORD) for the PQA system. We regret that we will not be able to process any independent UCAS applications. Students must use the School system if they require our participation in the application process, as we cannot access applications outside of our own system. When making a PQA submission through APPLY, students should log into the UCAS web site and follow exactly the same procedures as if they were still at School. Their tutors will then oversee their applications. UCAS provides students with an individual ‘tracking’ service, which they can access from School or home. Further information will be provided in the Post Examination booklet sent to leavers in the summer of their UVIth. As students who apply as leavers are adults and no longer part of the School system, we are unable to discuss their applications with any third party. Most students enjoy returning to visit their tutors, but email allows mentoring to take place at a distance, so students need not feel that they are “on their own” even though they have officially left us. Students do need to recognise, however, that emails will only reach their tutors during normal School working hours.
We hope that these notes help you to make sense of what often appears to be a very complicated process, and that you will be able to attend the HE session, specifically for parents, in February. Ultimately, we all have a common goal: the happiness and success of the young people in our care. Mutual support is our first step to ensuring this outcome, and where students follow guidance and seek help, we can be quietly confident that an appropriate place in HE will usually be the reward.
Please do not hesitate to contact us, should you have any concerns that are not addressed in the February presentation and subsequent Q & A forum. Please use your child’s tutor as the first point of contact, but if the issue cannot be resolved please make direct contact with the Student Guidance office.
From Ruth Greenwood Director, Higher Education [University Applications]
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