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Applying for uni after A-level results are in? Why not?

Student celebrating A-level exam results

Ucas wants to reform the way students apply to university – shifting the process until after A-level results are in, and scrapping “Clearing”. Having been through the stress of applying to uni in 2006, I’m all in favour.

The changes proposed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) wouldn’t come into force until 2016, but would mean that instead of A-level students applying to universities by January, they’d do so in the summer after results day – based on actual, rather than predicted, grades.

In turn, this would mean a shift in school timetables, with exams starting earlier (perhaps even as early as Easter) so that results can be published in July. Plus, the changes would see students applying to just two universities, rather than the current five.

Knowledge is power

Ucas argues the current system favours those with ‘extra knowledge’, highlighting ‘an undesirable divide between applicants who receive effective advice and those who do not’.

But some oppose this view. I spoke to a sixth form tutor who is currently helping students through the process of applying to uni. She worries the new system would further disadvantage those who don’t have access to guidance at home, as there will be less time for them to consult with teachers on their application.

This is definitely a challenge, but I feel although students might have less time with teachers to perfect their application, they will have more time to spend on tracking down the right university for them.

Real, not estimated grades

If exams are brought forward, students will be losing at least two weeks’ study time. But they’ll be gaining back time that would have been spent earlier in the year labouring over the dreaded Ucas personal statement – no mean feat in itself.

To me, it seems logical to base university applications on real grades, not predicted ones. At the time of applying, I certainly wasn’t sure what grades I’d achieve by the end of the academic year. Plus, it’s been reported that fewer than 10% of applicants actually have all three grades predicted correctly. The new proposed system would benefit those who outperform their predicted grades, giving them the opportunity to apply to a better university.

One final bonus: the new system would negate the need for Clearing – a student’s last chance to grab a spare uni place, where they didn’t make the grades for their first or second choices. Even Ucas describes the process as ‘inefficient’ and ‘stressful’.

Do you think it makes more sense for students to apply to university with their final A-level grades in hand? Tell us what you think, along with your tales of applying to uni, or grappling with Clearing.

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There are many reasons why this makes sense but I would like to take it a step forward and get school leavers into employment instead of going straight to university. That would give them time to decide whether they wanted to go to university and find out more about what they want to study. Many students show much more commitment if they make a positive decision to come to university rather than just end up there when they leave school or college. Knowing how many students to expect allows universities to make best use of teaching rooms, laboratories and specialist facilities.

We should not be trying to put half the adult population through university and with limited resources it is better to devote the money into properly supporting those who are highly motivated and really want to be there, rather than encouraging a very large number of young adults into a life of debt.

Hugh Garse says:
1 November 2011

I don’t think this is a good idea, the personal statement is a vital part of the process, more and more students are getting the grades, how on earth are unis supposed to distinguish between them without it?
Secondly when will there be time for applying for Student Finance or applying for accomadation, this is stressful enough without applying for a uni at the same time!

ABomb Stanstead says:
1 November 2011

Personally, I think this is a great idea, it will make the university application process a lot fairer

Jess says:
1 November 2011

I didn’t go through the process of clearing, however it is obvious this is a stressful process and it is difficult for those who don’t get into their two choices. But narrowing down to two choices in the first place is quite limiting and i think 5 is already a small number. In addition, taking exams even earlier could be stressful, my exams seemed to come around too quickly as it was.

Nicola says:
1 November 2011

I don’t agree with this revised process as I feel as though it would be a very last minute stress with students spending their summer stressing about not knowing where they would be going in September. If someone weren’t to be accepted at either of their two choices, which would be quite likely for quite a few people, they would be left not knowing what to do. I personally never went through the Clearing process but I feel that a mad rush to apply to universities after exam results would be a lot more stressful. Having gone through the current process of applying to university, yes at times it was overwhelming (including sitting exams), but due to it being spread out over the period of the year, it was most definately a manageable time of angst.

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Will the proposed changes affect whether you need to write a personal statement or not? I think the personal statement is an integral part of your application, as it’s a chance to illustrate your passion for the subject you want to study, and, like Hugh mentioned, helps universities distinguish between your applications – so it’s not just your grades on a paper. I don’t think we should lose it.