Gap Year

Guest Post: What do you do if you don’t get a place at University?

Today, I have the pleasure to welcome Ross Renton to TheUniversityBlog with a special guest post.

With A-level results announced today (good luck everyone!) and a scramble for places at university, not every candidate will find a place in this academic year.

Ross has put together this great guide on what you can do if you don’t get that place at university this year.  Over to Ross:

It is likely that there will be a large number of well qualified school and college students who just miss out on a place at University.  With fewer clearing places available, many may consider taking a year out and applying for 2011 entry.  Here are my top five tips for school and college students who miss out on a place at University.

photo by ariel.chico

photo by ariel.chico

1.     Stay focused. It is not the end of the world; this year is one of the most competitive to get a place at University.  Sit down and consider all of your options carefully taking advice from tutors and/or parents.
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2. Mind the GAP (year). Taking a GAP year volunteering or travelling can be rewarding however ensure you make the most of the year. Universities will not be impressed by you taking a year to brush up on your video gaming skills. Ask your chosen University if they will offer you a place for 2011 entry.
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3. Get some experience. Universities and employers both value the benefits of applicants having an understanding of the workplace. Getting a job or an internship for a year may have additional benefits including the opportunity later to combine studying with employment.
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4. Keep learning. If you are unable to get a place due to your grades you may wish to re-sit some of your exams. There are also number of alternative routes into University including Foundation Degrees and Access Courses.  You can also earn whilst you learn through an Apprenticeship.
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5. Be proactive. If you are determined to go to University you must ensure you get the correct advice. It may well be even more competitive next year to get a place. Be open-minded and look at a wider range of subjects. Contact your chosen University and find out what you need to do to get offered a place in 2011. Speak to your career advisor and/or tutor.
Useful links: and

Ross Renton is head of UK recruitment and access at the University of Hertfordshire. You can find Ross on Twitter: @Ross_Renton.

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.

Seriously Consider Your Gap Year

Gap years are worthwhile and becoming increasingly common amongst students.

photo by Grant MacDonald-AWAY

Grant MacDonald-AWAY

The Independent has a gap-year student supplement in today’s paper.  If you’re taking a gap year before you hit uni, it’s a good read and full of ideas.  Of the more general articles, here are some goodies:

  • Gap Year: Ultimate Listings Guide – Plenty of inspiration here if you need ideas to help with your planning.
  • Which Gap Year Type Are You? – This may help you make sense of the direction you’d like to take, especially if you’re career-minded at the moment.
  • Hot to Make Yourself Stand Out – This is an important read.  If you only have time to read one article, make it this one.  To make the point, here’s an excerpt that’ll get you thinking:

“I often ask rooms full of A-level students to stand up if they are ‘definitely heading to university’, and then ask those who ‘definitely know what they want to do in life’ to sit down. With most of the room left standing (even after asking those with “serious work experience” to also sit down), you can see the depth of the problem admissions tutors and graduate recruiters have. A room of ‘No goals’ and ‘Have done nothing’.

Remind the students that their decision to chase this empty goal will cost them over £10,000 and the sheepish silence descends.” [How to Make Yourself Stand Out – Independent]

This article is an even more pointed read, given that I have also just read about ‘Taking a Gap Year’ on the Educated Nation blog:

“In the land I am from, saying ‘I’m taking a year off before I start college,’ means one of two things: either you’re a slacker and have no direction and do not wish to succeed in life, or your parents aren’t going to foot the tuition bill and you need a little time to think before you leap into the Student Loan Chasm of Doom.”

So…did you have a plan?

Will you make a plan now?

photo by zombizi

photo by zombizi