Words by Hannah Morrish


Outside Birmingham's Aston Webb building
I missed my offer for my dream place at the University of Birmingham, but I still got in. The secret? Networking. Good-old fashioned networking; as simple as that.


Before results day came, I had carefully built a relationship with the course lead. Because they knew more about me than just my application, they were reassured that I was capable of performing well on their course, despite missing their offer. It helped me and it could help you too. Here’s how.

1. Make the most of open days



I went to an open day at the beginning of October with my parents. Neither of my folks went to uni so this was a whole new experience for them too. My dad has a business background so it’s natural for him to see the value in networking and building connections with people. I had to handle retakes while doing my A-levels; my dad really encouraged me to be brave and talk to the course lead about my situation.

If you've missed the initial open day make sure you get yourself to the offer holder open days, this is a also a brilliant opportunity to network and start building relationships


Make yourself memorable

  • Introduce yourself to the course lead and be polite. A good old-fashioned handshake goes a long way.
  • Find out what makes them tick. Ask about their involvement in managing and developing the course and their favourite bit about their role at the uni.
  • Make it clear that you have thoroughly researched the course. If you’re asked a question you’ll be able to provide a confident response which could lead to a really memorable conversation.
  • Explain a bit about yourself. I was honest about my situation; that I was going to have to re-take and was still waiting on my AS-level remark.



Find your perfect uni in 60 seconds




2. Submit your uni application and crack on with your studies



Because I had retakes to deal with my strategy was to submit my application as early as possible in the autumn so that I could focus on nailing my grades.
I did receive an offer relatively quickly from Birmingham which meant I knew what I was aiming for.

Devise a year strategy

  • It’s vital to having a structured study plan which considers the time you’ll need to take out to manage your uni application.
  • Start working on your personal statement as soon as possible and make sure you know who is writing your reference. I believe my teacher reference had a huge impact on my application because it complemented my personal statement perfectly while also emphasising my commitment to my retakes. My teacher had faith in me and I think this helped the uni to have faith too.



On TSR

Meet other students who are applying to the same uni as you

The ultimate guide to getting the best teacher reference

Eight questions you must ask on an open day


3. Keep in touch with your university



Having received an offer, my dad and I decided to visit another open day to re-connect with the course tutor. This felt especially important because I had just found out I had to retake an AS exam alongside my A2 exams. I was prepared to do everything to ensure that it wouldn’t impact my year two exams but at the same time I did feel wary that it might affect me reaching my offer.

But then my grandma passed away after a really long battle with dementia. I was absolutely heartbroken; managing grief alongside studying hard put even more pressure on my application.

This meant I couldn’t attend the open day as planned. I emailed the course lead, explaining my situation and asking I could visit another time. She was really supportive and we agreed a date.

This meeting was an absolute game-changer for me. I explained about the AS exam retake and at the same time told her I had just aced my sociology globalisation module with an A*. I hadn’t dropped a mark. I think it demonstrated that I was a capable student who was really focused on doing the best I could.

She told me that, whatever happened on results day, they would take my drama AS retake into consideration. In her opinion it would be a shame for me to miss my place on their history course based on a subject unrelated to my future study.

Stay in touch

  • Stay in touch and keep connected to your uni by attending another open day after receiving an offer. At this stage you’re likely to have more practical questions about the course and uni.
  • If you’ve previously made a connection with a member of the course faculty through an open day and you have something that may affect your application, consider getting in touch. We’re all human and things happen.
  • Don’t update them on your whole life story though; any contact should be to share crucial information that may affect your application.



Results day and beyond



I missed my offer by one grade in drama. Track didn’t exist when I applied, so we had to call the university to check on my application. I broke all the rules by asking my folks to make the call (don’t do this - make the call yourself). Finding out that I had my place was a huge relief; my hard work and networking had paid off.
Graduation Day
Re-taking GCSEs and an AS-level wasn’t at all easy during my A-levels, but in a strange way it was a blessing. I might not have been the most academically bright applicant but my work ethic was relentless; I had set my heart on Birmingham and I was going to get there.

It’s easy to view a retake as a weakness but actually it provided me an opportunity to build a relationship with the university and demonstrated to them how committed I was.

Their faith in me paid off, I graduated with a first in my dissertation and 2:1 overall, performing at the same level as my straight-A peers.


On TSR

Top UCAS myths busted

Improve your grades now with these awesome tips

Not keeping up in class? Don't worry this will help

Writing an excellent personal statement in 10 easy steps

Create your Personal Statement with our brilliant builder tool

Everything you need to know about applying to uni