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Getting into a Russell Group university as a mature student! watch

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    Hi there,

    I'm new to this forum, and I hope someone can offer me some insight. I left full-time education in 2009 (before the introduction of the A* into A-levels) with 3 As and 1 B in English Lit, History, Media Studies and Art & Design respectively. Since then, I have worked full- and part-time in different areas, mostly retail, but some administrative. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I always had my sights set on one of the Russell Group universities outside of London. I've set my sights lower than Oxford and Cambridge, because I don't think I have enough UCAS points for either.

    I am currently employed at the BBC full-time as a legal apprentice. As part of my job, I undertake the CILEx course part-time. But truth be told, I'm not totally confident in it and I still believe the traditional route, i.e. university is the safest route into a solid legal career.

    My question, simply put, is whether I have a shot of getting into a Russell Group university, given that there is such a gap between when I finished full-time education and October 2016, which is when I intend to begin university.

    I look forward to reading your replies. Thank you.

    J
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    (Original post by John 316)
    Hi there,

    I'm new to this forum, and I hope someone can offer me some insight. I left full-time education in 2009 (before the introduction of the A* into A-levels) with 3 As and 1 B in English Lit, History, Media Studies and Art & Design respectively. Since then, I have worked full- and part-time in different areas, mostly retail, but some administrative. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I always had my sights set on one of the Russell Group universities outside of London. I've set my sights lower than Oxford and Cambridge, because I don't think I have enough UCAS points for either.

    I am currently employed at the BBC full-time as a legal apprentice. As part of my job, I undertake the CILEx course part-time. But truth be told, I'm not totally confident in it and I still believe the traditional route, i.e. university is the safest route into a solid legal career.

    My question, simply put, is whether I have a shot of getting into a Russell Group university, given that there is such a gap between when I finished full-time education and October 2016, which is when I intend to begin university.

    I look forward to reading your replies. Thank you.

    J
    Ask the actual university you're interested in. Normally they ask for proof of recent study in the last 3 years, so you'd have to ask if your course would count or if they'd want you to go back and do an Access course (for example).

    It isn't really about UCAS points, especially for mature students, more about recent study and academic ability and capability. So send a few emails to the appropriate department.
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    I wouldn't presume to advise you as to whether going to uni and getting a degree is the best option for you to give your legal career the boost you're looking for (I'd say it probably is, but that's something others may be able to advise you on).

    As to the more general issue of getting into uni after a break, you need to research the unis you're interested in. It may be possible to get onto some courses off the back of your work experience in lieu of recent academic study. You may need, however, to do an Access to HE course to refresh your academic experience. Down side is that's a year ft or 2 yrs pt study before you even get into uni (and you can't get living expenses support for it), but the upside is that it could open up the possibility of getting into the more prestigious universities (if that's what you're looking for). I'm not 100% sure about Law, but I know that Oxbridge consider Access candidates for a number of humanities subjects.
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    (Original post by John 316)
    Hi there,

    I'm new to this forum, and I hope someone can offer me some insight. I left full-time education in 2009 (before the introduction of the A* into A-levels) with 3 As and 1 B in English Lit, History, Media Studies and Art & Design respectively. Since then, I have worked full- and part-time in different areas, mostly retail, but some administrative. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I always had my sights set on one of the Russell Group universities outside of London. I've set my sights lower than Oxford and Cambridge, because I don't think I have enough UCAS points for either.

    I am currently employed at the BBC full-time as a legal apprentice. As part of my job, I undertake the CILEx course part-time. But truth be told, I'm not totally confident in it and I still believe the traditional route, i.e. university is the safest route into a solid legal career.

    My question, simply put, is whether I have a shot of getting into a Russell Group university, given that there is such a gap between when I finished full-time education and October 2016, which is when I intend to begin university.

    I look forward to reading your replies. Thank you.

    J
    Hi John,

    I am currently studying on an Access to HE Course, specifically Humanities & Social Sciences. I also wish to pursue a legal career in the future, and being 25, I am considered a mature student as you would be too. I started my course in September, with the intention of applying to university this year for entry in 2016. This is something which I have now done, having completed the UCAS process and submitted last week. Concerning Russell Group institutions, I have applied for Sheffield, UCL, KCL, Oxford and Nottingham, having already received an offer from Sheffield. It certainly seems to be possible so far To give some context, I left school at 16, having achieved a poor set of GCSE results through a complete disregard (at the time) for educational importance. In summary, I spent the near 9 years from then until this September working in various roles and capacities as a chef, finally realising that I wanted something more and thus the decision to return to education and pursue my newfound career ambitions to practise law.

    So, most certainly do not see being out of education for some time as a barrier to realising your goals. Contact the universities relevant that you wish to study with and ask, first off, if your A Levels are still recent enough or whether they require more recent education. If they do, an Access Course is a great way of getting this relatively quickly and despite what others may tell you, September - May is hardly a big commitment in the grand scheme of things. Especially if it opens the door to a future you otherwise wouldn't be able to consider.

    One last point to note, as others have mentioned, even the most highly regarded universities consistently accept mature students, and as such appreciate that UCAS points are not needed in the same way as they are for school leavers doing A Levels, for example. This is therefore another thing not to worry about.

    Hope this helps a little, feel free to message me if you have any further questions.

    James
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    As has been pointed out, your A levels are a little on the old side. Universities want evidence of recent academic study, which is normally the last 3-4 years (or so an admissions tutor told me). It may be worth getting in touch with the universities you are interested in to see if your qualifications are still recent enough. If not, then something like an access course would be suitable. They are advertised as full time courses, but I saw enough people doing them while working full time/having childcare commitments. You did well on your original A levels, so I doubt you'll have much problem with the work load on an access course (while you cover the same material, the actual assessment tends easier). I take it you are either London/Manchester based? There will probably be colleges offering evening access courses.

    The problem you have, which is shared by A level students, is that law at good universities is competitive. You'll need a good personal statement and good reference etc. Although I suspect your current career will get you extra brownie points.
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    I'd absolutely advocate doing the Access to HE course if that's what the unis (you want to apply to) are asking for. But just to be clear:

    (1) Doing it will mean you'll have to set back your goal of starting uni until 2017 or 2018. It's too late now to sign up for an Access course running this year.

    (2) I urge caution when considering how much you can take on and how it will fit into your existing schedule. I don't care what people say about working ft while doing Access ft, if you have a job that requires you to be in the office (or wherever) from 9-5 Mon-Fri, you can't be at college for any lesson that's taking place during those time periods (which is when they will take place on a ft course) - it's that simple. People on my course who worked while doing it were doing jobs that allowed a certain degree of flexibility in terms of number of hours worked per week and when those hours were worked, which allowed them to juggle the two. So, if you're in a conventional ft office hours job, you have to come up with a strategy to help you survive throughout the year.

    Furthermore, you need to get high grades to get into top tier unis, so that's a fair bit of work. Maybe you can comfortably manage it while knocking out 35-40 hour weeks: I would've been miserable doing it that way (I need a bit of downtime). So do think about how you're going to manage it all first before you jump in.
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    Personally for your situation I would strongly advise against Access to HE. You have a-levels already so its going to cost you 3k which you will have to pay back. Plus, your a-levels are so good I dont see what you would get out of it.

    Maybe it depends how popular these courses are but if you've been interested in the subject since you left you would be way ahead of other students just starting at 18.
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    (Original post by skeptical_john)
    Personally for your situation I would strongly advise against Access to HE. You have a-levels already so its going to cost you 3k which you will have to pay back. Plus, your a-levels are so good I dont see what you would get out of it.

    Maybe it depends how popular these courses are but if you've been interested in the subject since you left you would be way ahead of other students just starting at 18.
    The OP needs to ask the unis. Their A Levels are six years old and most unis want to see proof of more recent successful study, so that they have an accurate idea of their current academic potential. People develop a lot between leaving school and their mid-twenties.

    As far as paying the fee back, that isn't necessarily the case. If the Op starts an Access course when they're 24, they can get the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan to cover the fees. If they then go to uni, the 24+ Loan debt is automatically wiped out when they graduate. An Access course might end up costing them nothing in fees.
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    Check with the unis. My A-Levels were 7 years ago (2008) and I've earned a degree since then but it was all still too long ago when I asked unis (3 years tends to be the max). I'm now doing an OU course as per their advice. Works out for me since I couldn't go back to college now that I work full time and I couldn't afford to anyway - OU is the cheapest and most convenient option. It's worth getting in touch with unis and suggesting an OU course unless you can do a free access course. Look for level 1/2 (university level) Law related modules with the OU. It will set you back about £400-500 but that's a drop in the ocean compared to some college courses which are £1K+ and personally, I think it's worth the investment if you can afford it. Best of luck.
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    (Original post by somethingbeautiful)
    Check with the unis. My A-Levels were 7 years ago (2008) and I've earned a degree since then but it was all still too long ago when I asked unis (3 years tends to be the max). I'm now doing an OU course as per their advice. Works out for me since I couldn't go back to college now that I work full time and I couldn't afford to anyway - OU is the cheapest and most convenient option. It's worth getting in touch with unis and suggesting an OU course unless you can do a free access course. Look for level 1/2 (university level) Law related modules with the OU. It will set you back about £400-500 but that's a drop in the ocean compared to some college courses which are £1K+ and personally, I think it's worth the investment if you can afford it. Best of luck.
    The only problem with the OU is that for every year you study with them you lose a year of HE funding entitlement. But if the uni ask for it and you're sure you don't mind losing your +1 funding year then it might give you a chance to pursue your ambitions.
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    The OP needs to ask the unis. Their A Levels are six years old and most unis want to see proof of more recent successful study, so that they have an accurate idea of their current academic potential. People develop a lot between leaving school and their mid-twenties.

    As far as paying the fee back, that isn't necessarily the case. If the Op starts an Access course when they're 24, they can get the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan to cover the fees. If they then go to uni, the 24+ Loan debt is automatically wiped out when they graduate. An Access course might end up costing them nothing in fees.
    Yup you might be right. For some reason I thought you did not get it written off if you already had a-levels. Maybe not so bad then if you can do an access to law. Still, I'd only do if it was really necessary.
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    (Original post by SuperCat007)
    The only problem with the OU is that for every year you study with them you lose a year of HE funding entitlement. But if the uni ask for it and you're sure you don't mind losing your +1 funding year then it might give you a chance to pursue your ambitions.
    Can you link me to something? That's the first I've ever heard of this.

    Edit: Do you mean, someone would 'lose' 1 year of HE funding after studying for a year with the OU because they've used funding from Student Finance to get through that year? Or are you suggesting something else? Because if it's the former, well most people who do a part time OU module don't need student finance since they're mature students working full time and if they do use funding for a year of full time study then they are very aware that they're using up a year of student finance. But if you're suggesting something else then I'm genuinely worried.
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    sl
    (Original post by somethingbeautiful)
    Can you link me to something? That's the first I've ever heard of this.

    Edit: Do you mean, someone would 'lose' 1 year of HE funding after studying for a year with the OU because they've used funding from Student Finance to get through that year? Or are you suggesting something else? Because if it's the former, well most people who do a part time OU module don't need student finance since they're mature students working full time and if they do use funding for a year of full time study then they are very aware that they're using up a year of student finance. But if you're suggesting something else then I'm genuinely worried.
    I will when I have a decent internet connection. But have a look at SFE's previous study rules, possibly 21- something...

    You lose a year of SFE funding for every year you spend in higher education. That is if SFE can apply their rules correctly which is hit and miss. But it's an unfair system for part time students who often aren't made aware of this when they start.
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    (Original post by SuperCat007)
    sl

    I will when I have a decent internet connection. But have a look at SFE's previous study rules, possibly 21- something...

    You lose a year of SFE funding for every year you spend in higher education. That is if SFE can apply their rules correctly which is hit and miss. But it's an unfair system for part time students who often aren't made aware of this when they start.
    Hmm, I think this could be complicated for me since the degree that I'm starting next Sept is NHS funded plus I have a BA (3 years) plus my year with the OU which is 30 credit module (not a degree).


    SFE funding entitlement for full-time students with previous study on a Higher Education course in the UK or abroad, which was not completed or a qualification lower than a UK Honours degree was achieved

    SFE provide funding for the normal length of a course plus one extra year. For example a three year degree course would attract four years of funding. The additional year is known as a “gift year” and can be used to fund a repeat year of study.

    However, if you’ve studied on a full-time higher education course in the past, even if you only attended for one day, the number of years (or part-years) you attended is deducted and reduces the number of years of funding available to you for your new course. This applies even if your study was outside the UK. Note that one day’s attendance on a course counts as one year of study under these rules.

    Previous study affects the Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Grant/Special Support Grant only. During these “deducted” years you will not be entitled to receive these for your new course although you will remain eligible for the Maintenance Loan (for living costs) and any additional grants for dependents and disabilities, if applicable.
    If I've made proper sense of that then I should be okay since my fees are paid for by the NHS and since I'm a graduate I'm not eligible for SFE maintenance grants anyway - my only concern is getting a maintenance loan. I'll double check over the phone tomorrow but tbh they seem to find it hard enough understanding my 'graduate doing a second degree which is NHS funded' situation so my OU studies will probably confuse them further so I don't know if they'll give me a clear answer. I have a feeling I won't know until I apply.
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    I wouldn't worry about your A levels being 'old'. They don't go out of date. I expect if you have been working for the BBC you will have been doing some in house training which will count as evidence of recent study. Just identify a few unis you are interested in and research their entry requirements.


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    (Original post by Ftmshk)
    I wouldn't worry about your A levels being 'old'. They don't go out of date. I expect if you have been working for the BBC you will have been doing some in house training which will count as evidence of recent study. Just identify a few unis you are interested in and research their entry requirements.
    Whilst A Levels don't "go out of date", they can be so old that they no longer reflect the applicant's current academic potential. In your mid-20s, it's possible that your potential for study has vastly improved since you left school. People mature a lot and develop a whole raft of new skills during those years.

    You need to ask the unis for mature student entry requirements as they aren't stated on websites, which are aimed at school leavers. You can't research them independently. Mature student entry can vary between courses, and even then, are decided on a case-by-case basis. Two mature students on the same course, won't necessarily have been given the same entry requirements. I was one of two mature students on my undergrad degree. I wasn't required to pass an Access course, but the other one had to.

    The key is to approach the uni Admissions Offices direct, and ask for your specific situation and work/training background. Never make assumptions based on course web pages, or what happened for other mature students on the course.
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    Mature student entry can vary between courses, and even then, are decided on a case-by-case basis. Two mature students on the same course, won't necessarily have been given the same entry requirements. I was one of two mature students on my undergrad degree. I wasn't required to pass an Access course, but the other one had to.
    I know a couple of other mature students on my course who did Access (as I did) and a couple of others who didn't. Most people probably aren't going to do Access unless they really have to, but it is worth pointing out that it does (imo) give you an edge over those who haven't done it and (arguably) A-Level students, at least during the early stages. (You may disagree as you would've approached it from the other perspective, so I hasten to emphasise that it's just my perception and I accept that it may not be true in all cases.)

    The mature students I mentioned who haven't done Access are a little bit unsure of themselves with the first essays that are coming up, whereas I think those of us who have done Access are fairly confident about it since we've already had a thorough grounding in knocking out 2,500 word essays during the preceding year.

    I'll probably come in for a barrage of criticism for suggesting that Access might be slightly more advantageous than A-Levels for HE prep (particularly if any young things read this); others may make a compelling argument to the contrary (fine). However, it struck me the other day when a tutor broached the subject of our first essay (Literature). We can choose from several questions, and after reading the assignment brief, one the younger students commented that he didn't understand what the question was asking him to do. The tutor responded that the task is basically present an argument about your chosen text. He just seemed a bit flummoxed by the concept. I was pretty much given the same minimal guidance on essays last year on Access, so I'm used to it, but I just wondered if A-Levels students are a bit more accustomed to being led through an assignment. Ultimately, despite his apparent uncertainty, he might produce a far better essay than I do, but FWIW, my perception is that Access assignments are closely aligned to degree assignments, and possibly more so than A-Level assignments.
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    (Original post by jimmy_looks_2ice)
    I know a couple of other mature students on my course who did Access (as I did) and a couple of others who didn't. Most people probably aren't going to do Access unless they really have to, but it is worth pointing out that it does (imo) give you an edge over those who haven't done it and (arguably) A-Level students, at least during the early stages. (You may disagree as you would've approached it from the other perspective, so I hasten to emphasise that it's just my perception and I accept that it may not be true in all cases.)

    The mature students I mentioned who haven't done Access are a little bit unsure of themselves with the first essays that are coming up, whereas I think those of us who have done Access are fairly confident about it since we've already had a thorough grounding in knocking out 2,500 word essays during the preceding year.

    I'll probably come in for a barrage of criticism for suggesting that Access might be slightly more advantageous than A-Levels for HE prep (particularly if any young things read this); others may make a compelling argument to the contrary (fine). However, it struck me the other day when a tutor broached the subject of our first essay (Literature). We can choose from several questions, and after reading the assignment brief, one the younger students commented that he didn't understand what the question was asking him to do. The tutor responded that the task is basically present an argument about your chosen text. He just seemed a bit flummoxed by the concept. I was pretty much given the same minimal guidance on essays last year on Access, so I'm used to it, but I just wondered if A-Levels students are a bit more accustomed to being led through an assignment. Ultimately, despite his apparent uncertainty, he might produce a far better essay than I do, but FWIW, my perception is that Access assignments are closely aligned to degree assignments, and possibly more so than A-Level assignments.
    I think you're right.

    Having had no experience of Access, and with 30+ year old A Levels, I can't comment from direct experience - my own entry requirements were a bit odd, based on other recent courses I'd taken for the interest (my reference was written by one of the online tutors) and practical work with the uni department to which I'd applied.

    But I agree that, from what I've read on TSR, Access seems the most useful prep for uni. Themes do emerge from what is being posted here (and I've been a TSR user for several years):
    - Unis generally prefer mature applicants to do an Access course rather than new/updated A Levels
    - A Levels taken more than 3 or 4 years ago, tend to need backing up with more recent formal pre-uni study
    - Access courses are in a more uni-like format and appear to be a better prep for a student than A Levels

    A Levels these days are more formulaic. It's possible to "teach to test", telling students exactly what they need to pass without encouraging the development of wider knowledge. Access is more based on independent learning, which better reflects the uni experience.

    The only significant disadvantage to Access courses that I can see, is that they are a single-use qualification. You can use them to get into uni and that's about it. They don't carry UCAS points, so they might lock you out of post-graduation jobs which filter by UCAS points. Plus employers don't seem to know about them, so they're not much use on a CV.

    As a uni entry qualification, I'd go for the Access course specified by a target uni, every time.

    But you do need to ask unis in advance of committing to one - just to be absolutely sure.
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    But you do need to ask unis in advance of committing to one - just to be absolutely sure.
    Yes, I think that's the crucial point for the OP and anyone else in a similar situation.

    Ultimately, if you need to do Access to get into uni, you need to do Access to get into uni. But having done Access, I would urge anyone to just prepare the ground ahead if they're going into it. Having seen someone on my course almost literally have a nervous breakdown due to the demands of juggling ft work, family and the 1yr ft version of the course, I'd suggest for the sake of their own sanity, prospective Access candidates be realistic about their schedules.
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    I re did my A-Level his at 27, also I've done Access. They both have positives and negatives, certain universities on the surface obviously say they accept it. But they take preference to A-Levels, with that I mean like Cambridge, UCL, LSE. This is just in my experience of apply and going to interview, the conversations I've had with decision makers. Theres more value in A-Levels, for those who have the opportunity to do so. But I wouldn't put someone off doing an Access course, its a really great experience that definitely does give you the tools to attend a Russell Group university.
 
 
 
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