Advice for confused returning mature student. Watch
firstly let me thank you for taking the time to read this post.
I am a 24 year old looking to return to education after hiatus of several years, specifically to higher education and university and would like to take a course in economics or similar field. I however only currently hold several GCSE's. In terms of experience I worked for 4 years as a systems and networks engineer for a I.T company based in Canary wharf and also worked as a Administrator and later Para planner for a financial services company based in the city of London.
Essentially I am very unsure as to how to proceed in terms of returning to education and to taking my desired course. Should I attempt to apply via UCAS and clearance to a university course and would i stand any change of acceptance currently?
If this course of action is not right for me how should i proceed? Should I complete a 1 year business access to higher education qualification or take several A Levels? Which would be better for someone in my position? Are there other courses/qualifications I should be looking at or other ways of skinning this proverbial cat?
Thank you in advance for any assistance.
With only GCSEs and work experience, your choice of universities will be limited. If you do an Access course, you would widen your choice, but some are less accepting of Access. Doing A levels would give you the most flexibility. Another option is CertHE, this can be done part time, it can also be used to gain a university place, but should allow you to specialise in your subject of interest.
First off think hard about what degree you wish to study. Application for a university place is a competitive sport; you will be up against ‘A’ level students who have been groomed for a place at university. Their choice of qualifications will be perfect for the course they wish to study, and they will have the skills to thrive.
Economics is one of the degree’s which has a very high number of applicants, in other words you will be in a very competitive field. So my first question is this, do you really want to study economics, and what other courses with a different name would give you the content you are interested in.
I do not study economics, but from what I believe, it has a very high mathematics content, successful applicants tend to have ‘A’ level maths qualifications, there are no Access courses which offer the preparation you need to survive such a course.
A good guide to the degree of competition for places is the qualifications they require. Most are expressed in terms of ‘A’ level passes required. So AAA is a very competitive course, and ABB less so. It should also be pointed out that they could also mean the popularity of the university in question, as well as the relative difficulty of the subject. From talking to people who were on the same Access Course as me, it seems it can also mean the different standards expected by different universities. It is no coincidence that some universities are more respected than others.
So look very hard at the degree programs you might be interested in. Look carefully at what they require, shop around to see if you can get a similar course which has lower requirements. It is perhaps better to do a less popular course at a more popular university.
When you apply for a place through the UCAS scheme, you have 5 courses that you can apply for. If you decide to do an Access Course (and I would recommend them), you can discuss with your tutor a good strategy as regards which degrees/universities to apply for. But you would help yourself greatly if you did the research now. The closing date for applications to Russell Group universities is the middle of October, very soon after you start your Access Course. You need some firm decisions in place before then, you will also need to have completed the self-torture of the Personal Statement.
While the Access course is a good preparation for university study, it is not perfect. I have found that despite doing well at it, I still struggle with the demands of my university course. Had I decided to study Economics, than the only option for me would have been to achieve high ‘A’ level passes in Mathematics.
Finally I would suggest that you must study a subject you are passionate in. University involves long hours of hard work. If you are doing a course you are not passionate about in order to get a qualification you feel you need, you may well struggle. If however you are doing something you love, you will enjoy the investment in time, and will reap a better result in the end. I would heartily recommend that you go to university, but would also recommend that you think long and hard about the choices before you do.
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best with it.
One thing you can consider is a degree with a foundation year, many unis are very receptive to mature experienced students taking the foundation option. Finance will cover you for the foundation year too if that is an issue.
I decided to take a degree in Economics, Politics and International Relations at Oxford Brookes and am thrilled with how its going, they have a January entry as well as September. For January I applied direct to the uni, some others are similar if they have non standard entry dates available.
Good luck, remember to pick a subject that you really want to spend time on as its hard work. But go for it, I wish I'd done it years ago.