Thursday, 4 April 2019

I'm Going to University?! | My Experience of Applying to University

Some of you may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't done a College update since December which is partly because I have been super busy and also because I felt that they could become a bit repetitive. However, in my last college update post, I mentioned how my top choice University was University of East Anglia (UEA) which I had my interview at the following day and I am so pleased to say that I got in! Obviously, I can't just tell half of a story so I am going to share with you my experience with applying to University, choosing universities and getting interviews and offers.

Finding the right University and Course for you

I have been in the position of looking at potential Universities on two occasions; the first being back in 2015 during Sixth Form where I was adamant that I was going to study a Fashion degree as it was my favourite hobby however, prior to this I had decided to attend sixth form instead of college as although I thought I wanted to study Fashion, I also wanted to have qualifications in other areas just incase (spoiler: I didn't end up finishing sixth form so I ended up with no qualifications anyway). At this time, I was only one year behind academically as I had decided to resit my AS Levels and I didn't have many reasons to not move away from home and my top choice University was Leeds University where I wanted to study an Undergraduate degree in Fashion Design.

Four Years later, I am currently back at College as a 21 years old studying a one year access course which will enable me to enrol on a Healthcare degree course, I spend a long time, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life and all that I knew, was that I didn't want a minimum wage job for the rest of my life. I think that my blog really gave me the inspiration to want to become a Mental Health Nurse (another spoiler) and I found myself so frustrated that I couldn't support people as much as I'd have liked to. I enrolled on the college course as my 'last chance' at getting an education and I am so pleased that I did because I am looking forward to starting university and getting stuck into my dream career. So that was my course chosen; Mental Health Nursing but I was a bit stuck with Universities as I knew that my top choice University would be UEA because it's local, I am now in a long-term relationship and didn't want to put a strain on that, I can still live at home as I really didn't want to be living with 18 year olds, especially considering that I rarely drink and I would genuinely be more comfortable and settled living at home. However, I did have a lot of 'what ifs' and I didn't want to just apply to UEA incase I didn't get in, especially now that it is a very good University. I decided to go quite local with my other choices and originally was just going to apply to UEA, Anglia Ruskin University and University of Suffolk because then I could easily come home whenever I needed to. I thought that as I am paying for multiple choices, I may as well just apply for all five that I can (yes, you now have to pay to apply for university, what a joke). I decided to additionally apply for Kings College London which was mostly because the grade requirements were quite high and I am a perfectionist and wanted to see if I could get in and I also applied to Northampton (admittedly with no intention of going there) just so that I had an excuse to go and visit my friend if I got an interview.

One thing that is important to note when choosing a Nursing Degree is that you will most likely require an interview in order to get onto your chosen course.

Applying to University & Writing your Personal Statement

When it came to applying to University you have to go through UCAS within the UK and I personally felt that it was quite a easy yet tedious process and the hardest and most important step is definitely writing your personal statement. I left my statement fairly late and didn't start it till mid November (deadlines were in January) and I am quite lucky in the sense that when I write, my sentences do flow and I'm not too bad at English. There are always people in your institution that can help, support and guide you with your personal statement but I only ended up going once to get mine read through and edited. I'm not going to go too far into how to write a Personal Statement, but I may write a post on this in the future but my Personal Statement took about three drafts and the way I structured mine was I just wrote everything that I felt I needed to include, then worked on the structure and cutting out words as the character limit is 4000. Once I had cut out everything I thought I could and got a bit fed up of reading it, I asked a couple of friends to look through and let me know if there were any words that were unnecessary and that I could cut out; they were gems and found quite a few words that I didn't need in there, sometimes having a fresh pair of eyes can really help. However, when writing your personal statement, try to be a little under the count as the UCAS form seems to have a mind of its own and mine was still over the count despite it being just short of 4000 characters. Also, don't forget that spaces count!

At college, we were advised to get our applications sent off as soon as possible as they get sent to a referee who is usually your tutor who needs to write their section about you and then send it off from there end. I ended up paying (£26) and sending off my application on the 9th December 2018 and my tutor sent mine off by the 11th. You'll know when this is as UCAS will email you as soon as it has been sent off and in the following days you should get acknowledgement emails from your University choices saying how they have your application; mine came through the day after my application had been sent. Once I had sent my application off the first thing I did was cry to my mum about how I couldn't believe I was actually going to University.

Interviews & Offers

Once your application has been sent off, its a waiting game, especially when you know that you'll be required to attend interviews. I found that within my class, despite people applying for the same courses and same universities, the interview invitations came through at different times so if someone you know has got an interview at one university but you haven't and you applied around the same time, do not worry as they will tell you if you've been unsuccessful and in most cases, they'll usually interview you before making a decision. My first interview invitation came through on the 12th December for Anglia Ruskin University and my interview date was the 9th January 2019. After a slight anxious wait, my second interview invitation came through on the 3rd January 2019 and was for a telephone interview for the 16th January for UEA. I was so happy, especially considering that it was an interview over the phone as it meant that I didn't have to go to the University and anxiously wait around for hours. Just before my two interviews, I did receive invitations of interviews from both Kings College London and University of Suffolk but I wanted to focus on my current interviews; especially UEA before deciding on a date for the others.

My ARU interview was first and my mum drove me to Cambridge for it, it was my first interview and I was so nervous as I had read beforehand that if you failed the Maths or English tests then you wouldn't be interviewed. We sat in a room of about thirty people, had our documents scanned (remember to take ID) and then began our Maths and English tests and luckily, the university had changed their policies and therefore now, even if you failed either test, you'd still be interviewed and asked to come back at a later date to do the tests. I found the Maths so difficult and we were only allowed a calculator for two questions and I really thought I had failed it but the English wasn't too bad. I was quite lucky and was in the first group of people to be interviewed and they were in Multiple Mini Interview styles where we sat at three different stations and answered either the questions asked or described what we'd do in a scenario given. I was so nervous and the first interview didn't go too great but the following two were fine and overall, the interview process wasn't too stressful and it was good practice for the following ones.

My UEA interview was over the phone as I previously mentioned and I was actually at college at the scheduled time so I just went into an empty classroom beforehand and checked over my notes; the perks of a telephone interview is that you can have your notes in front of you and you don't have to dress smart. The man interviewing me was so lovely and the interview was more of a formal chat, it lasted for about 15-20 minutes and I overall felt that it went extremely well. At the end of the interview, there was an option to ask questions and it is so important to try and ask at least one question to show that you are interested. About thirty minutes before my UEA interview, I actually did have my conditional offer come through from ARU which I think boosted my confidence slightly considering that ARU had higher grade requirements. I actually received my offer from UEA the following morning and was so happy, I withdrew from Kings College and Northampton as those interviews were pointless if I had my top choice and I left University of Suffolk a few more weeks before withdrawing because I wanted to see if I'd get an interview (I did say that I'm a perfectionist) and then I eventually withdrew it as I wanted to confirm my firm and insurance choices which were UEA and ARU and I didn't want to have to wait till May to hear back from Suffolk when I knew I wasn't going there.

The offers that I received were Conditional meaning that I would get into the University providing I get the grades required which are quite low for what I am achieving now and I am coming towards the end of the course so I am pretty confident that I will get the grades so fingers crossed that I will be going to University in September to study Mental Health Nursing; I hope you're all prepared for the University posts that will soon be coming your way.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

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