University admissions and the difficulties students face

Earlier this month, The Independent published a piece in which the author complained that her daughter couldn’t get into university.  This was not down to academic underachievement.

The daughter’s current and predicted grades were both credible and she applied to several top universities.  Despite clear potential, she was rejected by them all.  Too many candidates applied for too few positions.

Admissions teams are unable to cope with so many students achieving high grades and they can’t easily distinguish between them.

The sheer number of people vying for a place at uni now results in otherwise worthy students getting turned away.  It happened last year, it’ll happen this year, and it may happen for some years to come.

photo by pasotraspaso

photo by pasotraspaso

The author states:

“I naturally assumed that hard work would pay off and the world would be her oyster. In some ways, it stands against her. Friends of hers who are predicted Bs and Cs in their final A2 exams have had no problem getting places at universities with lower entry requirements.”

Now, I assume those predicted Bs and Cs have been offered conditional places.  While better than rejection, the grades still need to be achieved.  And who says those students are not working as hard as the author’s daughter?  Lower predicted grades aren’t automatically due to a lack of trying.

Whatever the case, I do agree that there are students getting left by the wayside despite consistently good results.

Even worse, for those students offered a place, there are now suggestions that some conditional offers are not being honoured.  Apparently UCAS don’t have a rule that prevents institutions from changing their offer.  I’m not criticising UCAS, but I am concerned that unis could begin ‘moving the goalposts’ as Mike Baker calls it.  That practice is scary, inappropriate and unreasonable.

Where would students be left then?  Would the pressure ever end?  How damaging would it be for a student to get the grades originally required, only to be slapped in the face with the news that it’s still not good enough?

I hope this behaviour isn’t commonplace and I’d like to see a ruling to stop the possibility altogether.

I stick by my thought that waiting until the next year to go to uni isn’t the end of the world.  But it’s a further fudge to a system that’s already facing great difficulty.  At what point does the system collapse entirely?  Woe betide potential students if problems escalate further.

Whatever grades and results a student is predicted, it’s a risk to choose only universities that want those grades or better.  This is especially true if some institutions change their mind over an offer later.  At least one agreeable institution could be chosen with slightly less demanding grades.  It gives more scope for movement at a time when it’s so difficult to find a place through clearing.

It wouldn’t take long for someone with commitment and talent to secure a place somewhere, even if it’s not quite the establishment they wanted.  They may even be able to secure an unconditional place at their preferred place the following year based on the grades they already have.  Always worth pushing for.

Despite all this concern, an unwanted change in plans shouldn’t be viewed as a disaster.  It should be viewed as a compromise.  Live with future hope, not past regrets.

One comment

  1. Interesting read… it always amazed me how important high school grades are to getting into college, when it says very little about a person’s character, and ultimately, how well they will represent the school. I predict that there’ll be a much better way of handling admissions in the not-so-distant future.

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