Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

Decision time

This autumn term will see students wishing to go to university deliberating over their UCAS forms. It’s an important decision and one requiring serious thought, research and soul searching. Rebecca Peters considers the advice on hand.

King’s College Wimbledon

The Sunday Times London Independent Secondary School of the Year 2017/18
There are 433 boys in the junior school (ages seven to 13). In the senior school, there are 860 boys aged 11 to 18, with over 100 girls in the sixth form. The school occupies nearly 20 acres on the south side of Wimbledon Common and owns a further 24 acres of playing fields nearby. The school’s boathouse is on the Tideway at Putney.

Dates to note: Whole school open morning 14 September 2019, 9am–12.30pm. 16+ open evening 24 September and 10 October 2019, from 5.45pm. 11+ open evening 8 October 2019, from 5.45pm.
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It seems to have been a fleetingly short space of time from that very first day at school to now being one of the ‘big’ students previously looked up to. Some big decisions on which A-levels to study have been made, but already there’s a need to start thinking about which course and the appropriate universities to apply for, or to decide whether to pursue an entirely different path.

Where do pupils start when considering which university to attend and course to study? Firstly, most schools and colleges have a programme in place to support students applying to university and experienced staff available to provide assistance. The next port of call is to visit one of the many generic search engines such as Which? University or What Uni? These sites provide basic information to help find a course, offer advice on what to include in a personal statement and how to prepare for university interviews. Alongside each particular degree, there will be further details on possible career paths and expected salaries graduates can hope to achieve. It’s important for pupils to be honest with themselves and not let parents lead them into making a choice that their hearts and minds aren’t really locked into. Parents will have their own opinions as to what their children are capable of and should be doing. Exerting too much pressure and influence on any reluctant offspring is not the best path to success.

Following last May’s official review of higher education, tuition fees are due to reduce in the near future, however, going to university will still be an expensive option. Finding yourself on a course you thought was the right one, but actually has turned out not to be, can be an expensive mistake. So do as much research as possible and undergo some soul searching to establish what it really is that’s going to light and continue to stoke the inner fires.

Choosing a course is the starting point. Then research which universities offer that course and look into each aspect of the study programme – they will differ from institution to institution. A university’s location and degree standing will also be factors to consider. Moving away from home can be a leap into the unknown that many may find daunting, and the fact that mum and dad are within reach could be the determining factor. Again, the pupil should decide and not the parents. This is the first journey along the road to independence that young people take and there are many valuable lessons to be taken on board. By all means have a safety net, but make sure that net doesn’t turn into something more restricting.

Claremont Fan Court School

Claremont Fan Court School is a thriving co-educational independent school for children aged 2½ to 18 set within 100 acres of beautiful grounds in Esher.
The wonderful nursery with forest school feeds into the outstanding Pre-Prep and Prep School. The Senior School has recently seen a 40% surge in applications, most notably amongst girls, and the school’s newly-opened, cutting-edge science and technology building has allowed for the school to increase its capacity whilst maintaining excellent teaching and learning without increasing class sizes. The new sixth form centre at the heart of the Senior School gives A-level students a vibrant and inspirational sixth form experience.

Claremont focuses on the individual. Its strong results demonstrate that a school can be nurturing and kind, but also challenging and effective in the delivery of excellent outcomes, empowering children to thrive by being themselves.

Claremont Fan Court School
Claremont Drive, Esher, Surrey KT10 9LY
Telephone: 01372 467841
Research into the chosen course is a must do and priority. Far too many students choose a particular course without delving deeply into exactly what it involves: courses in the same subject vary quite a bit. Finding out there is more of a course not enjoyed or relevant once enrolled is not ideal and can result in dropping out or starting again. Careful research will identify everything contained in each semester and module, the structure of the course and whether the degree is exam-based or involves a greater degree of practical work. It’s also good to find out how many teaching hours there are each week and term dates. There is a failsafe and that is to go to a university’s open day where this information will be supplied. Obviously, advance research should be carried out to reduce the number of universities visited as this can be time-consuming.

Pupils should look for any feedback on the university and course from past and present students. Be sure to confirm the exam grades required to be accepted in the first place.

Some universities are campus based, while others are situated in cities. Campus-based students are, to a greater or lesser extent, divorced from the town and some may not like this. If a student has a particular passion or sport, find out the facilities available.
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To stay or to go?

With a little under a year to go until those GCSE results appear in late August, now is the time to consider whether to continue into a sixth form at a current school or seek this education elsewhere.

As it was with the choice of GSCE subjects, it’s a very personal decision whether to opt for a sixth form or not. If the choice has been made to carry on then, which would be best – the current or another school? No pupil is the same and, although a particular school may have fitted the bill in the earlier years, that school may not be in the best position to offer the opportunities required to meet a pupil’s developing talents and abilities. If change is sought, then be sure what is offered elsewhere outweighs the significant advantages of staying with the same school.

One of the major benefits of staying is the continuity it provides. Knowing teachers and having a friendship group are invaluable help through an important time of change. It cannot be overstated, sixth form is a significant step up from any previous learning with a real shift in expectation levels. It helps if teaching staff are aware of a pupil’s abilities and weaknesses.

So, what of the alternative of changing schools? If a new school can offer a better education for a particular interest or ability, then changing really is an option. Some pupils may feel the need to move on to a different challenge as preparation for going to university. Others may simply feel they want more independence.

The progression to sixth form is a time of opportunity, a time to pursue other interests, make new friends and develop academic skills for later education and careers.

Moving schools will not be right for all, but for some it is the perfect opportunity to start afresh, redefine themselves and feel a sense of progression, but it’s a very individual choice.
The UCAS application process is a time-consuming exercise. Although UCAS require applications to be submitted by mid-January, most schools start early and complete the process by October/November to allow pupils to concentrate on A-levels. Schools will set aside teachers’ time to help with the preparation of a pupil’s personal statement. This is an important piece of information about an individual’s passions, interests and ambitions. These 650 words will help a university decide on selecting the student they believe suits any set criteria above and beyond the required entry level exam grades.

Universities all respond at differing times. Recently there has been an increase on post A-level clearing placements, with some universities holding off allocating places until actual results are known. This allows for a change of heart by the student and also the fact that any level of grades required may not have been achieved.

Schools will offer a large degree of help to enable pupils make their own decisions. It’s important to work out which subjects ignite the inner soul so that hearts and minds are in tune with whatever final choice is made.

Pupils should know how, and be happy with, any decisions made and that they were made for all the right reasons. In that way they will approach going to university with total confidence and start on the right foot.

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