Year 13 Mentoring – Prepare for Higher Education
This fantastic programme is for students who are currently in…
When weighing up whether to apply for university, there are a lot of factors you’ll need to consider to decide if it is the right option for you. However, there are a lot of untruths about university that you might have heard from your friends, family, teachers or sometimes even in a passing comment from the Tesco checkout lady! So let’s sort the fact from the fiction to allow you to make an educated decision – and not one grounded in myth.
This is one of the biggest myths about going to university, as potential students look at the price of a degree (typically £30,000-£40,000) and think that they will be financially crippled trying to pay this off for the rest of their lives. However, the repayment terms of a student loan mean that you’ll only start paying back the cost when you’re earning a decent wage (£26,575 as of 2020), so some people will never pay it all off, or if they do start repayments, they’ll come out in affordable amounts (9% of everything earned over £26,575). Here’s some maths to lay out what this actually means:
If you are earning £25,000 in a year you’ll repay nothing, as you don’t earn over the threshold.
If you are earning £27,000 in a year you’ll repay £38.25 (as £27,000 is £425 above the threshold and 9% of £425 is £38.25).
If you earn £35,000, you’ll repay £758.25 over the year (£35,000 is £8,425 above the threshold and 9% of that is £758.25).
Remember all of these figures are per year, so even for the higher repayments, this is far less than what you’ll be paying in tax.
This Money Saving Expert article goes through the numbers even more closely if you are looking for an in-depth look at the costs. Only those with well-paid jobs will pay larger amounts back, and given graduates have higher lifetime earnings than those without a degree, you can think of the cost as an investment you’ll earn back over your lifetime .
There are almost a hundred and fifty universities across the UK, which means there’s likely one near your hometown. Although many students do use University as a reason to move away, many decide to stay closer to home, either commuting whilst living at home, or moving out but still living near their family and friends. If you’re tossing up which option is best for you, there are plenty of great blogs and forums that outline the pros and cons of each choice from a students’ perspective.
UCAS has a clickable map which allows you to search courses by UK region, so you can filter courses by how close (or far away!) from home you’d prefer to study.
University students in movies and TV shows seem to spend all their time in the Student Union, going out and lazing around in parks, but this isn’t at all accurate. While it’s true that your class schedule often won’t be as packed as when you’re at school, you will still have plenty of work to be getting on with!
Contact hours (time in class, labs or practicals) vary between courses, but those subjects with less contact hours will usually make up for it with readings and extra work outside of the classroom. University-level work is set to challenge your thinking, so you will also be introduced to a bunch of new concepts and theories that will often take some out-of-class time to get your head around. And just ask any university student how busy they are when exam-time comes around!
But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of time to hang out with your friends, and many students combine work with pleasure by studying with their classmates or grabbing a coffee with a mate as a break between study sessions.
If you do move away, many students find this is the first time they’ve had to look after themselves on a tight budget, so they stick to cheap, quick meals like beans on toast or Pot Noodle. However, there are an abundance of resources (try BBC Good Food or SORTEDFood) to help you cook for yourself without breaking the bank. Perhaps it might be worth getting grandma/dad/sister to teach you your favourite dish before you move out of home!
At most universities there is also the choice to live in catered halls where your meals are provided for you; this is generally a more expensive option, but it takes away the worry of cooking for yourself.
University gives you employable skills no matter what degree you choose to study. Obviously, degrees which have a clear career path (i.e Education or Nursing) will teach you specific skills you’ll need to undertake that job (i.e lesson planning or inserting a cannula). However, those without obvious career outcomes will still furnish you with skills wanted by a host of different industries. All university degrees will hone your critical thinking and communication skills, often referred to as ‘soft skills’ that are some of the most in-demand attributes that employers are looking for.
To make the most of this up-skilling while at uni, look at ways you can apply and demonstrate your new skills in a tangible way – look out for summer internships, take a committee position in a club or society, undertake a placement year in industry or look for a student job on campus – all of these will look great on a CV and demonstrate your experience to future employers.
Universities are increasingly looking at alternative entry qualifications, moving away from the traditional criteria of A-Levels as the only way to get into a university course. Most universities now list typical entry offers for BTEC and International Baccalaureate grades, and have contextual offer guidelines which aim to smooth out inequalities that factor into some students’ grades (have a look at the University of Reading’s offer information as an example). Some of the most competitive courses (e.g. dentistry, medicine) and universities (e.g Oxford and Cambridge) still only accept A Level results, but if you’ve undertaken BTECs or any other alternative qualification, there are still a huge amount of course and university choices available to you.
Given the diversity of universities and courses they offer, this is a hugely generalised statement that is simply untrue! Universities are a hub of progressive thinking and dynamic discussions, so it’s in their interest to have a diverse student base with people from all different backgrounds.
In fact, there are a range of scholarships, bursaries and financial support options on offer for students from different contexts (have a look at Oxford Brookes’s page for an idea of who could be eligible for support).
As you can see, some of the most common worries students have about going to university aren’t necessarily grounded in fact. Have you heard any other myths about university? If you are still unsure about going to university, check out our other blogwhich highlights ‘20 amazing things about going to university!’
Gemma Coleman, Higher Education Liaison Officer