Securing a place at university is as much about strategy as it is good grades. Being armed with straight As is no longer enough, and students must consider this as only the starting point when it comes to securing places on competitive courses. Emphasis also needs to be placed on work experience, personal statements and preparation for any entrance interviews in order for applicants to stand a fighting chance.
Figures show that around 4,800 students with AAA grades failed to secure places at British universities in 2013. Of those, approximately 1800 were aiming for degrees in medicine. Funding for medicine comes in part, from the NHS, which means that unlike other popular courses, medicine and dentistry course numbers remain capped (Most courses at the best universities have unlimited access because of adjustment) Former Minister for Universities and Sciences David Willetts believes that this is part of the reason why so many students are left disappointed.
But many are failing to grasp the risks associated with not having a back up plan. Physics is not required for medical degrees, and as a result, many students opt to drop it. This rules them out for degrees such as engineering should they not succeed in securing a place to study medicine.
Matthew Welbourn, professional development executive at UCAS has observed that many applicants make the mistake of putting “all their eggs in one basket”. Welbourn urges sixth formers to consider the bigger picture. He suggests that students should be realistic in their choices, selecting courses where entry requirements are close to predicted performance. In addition, students should consider one course with more demanding criteria. Lastly, in the event of performance being lower than expected, students should apply for one less sought after course.
Welbourn strongly advises that students use their five applications wisely for maximum scope and says “being realistic and aspirational is key, but having a plan B to fall back on is also of the utmost importance.”