Pathway for a mature student

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Swardl
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I’m looking at a way into higher education as a mature student (I’m currently 25), and much of the information I’ve found so far has been rather conflicting. There seems to be a number of differing opinions as to whether the best option for someone my age would be an Access to Higher Eduction course, or retaking my A Levels via distance learning.

Access courses have the benefit of being a single year course, more tailored to people my age, but I’ve read about top universities (which ideally I would love to aim for) and specific courses having some issues with them. I’ve also seen some post where people have said that once at university they felt underprepared, academically, compared to their peers who had taken A Levels.

A Levels are a two year commitment; I will be back working full time relatively soon (So long sweet furlough!) so would be unable to go for a fast track course, and I would likely have to study via distance learning. However it seems as though they are regarded more favourably, even for mature applications.

The courses I have been looking at would require AAA from A Levels or 45 distinctions on an Access Course; is one of these noticeably more difficult to attain than the other? Looking at degrees which require good mathematical ability (Computer Science, Economics etc.), Access Courses don’t seem to prepare you to the level you would need for undergraduate studies. Would doing a one year Further Maths A Level alongside an Access Course assuage a universities understandable issues with this, or would A Levels be the all around better choice? Or would this be overkill, and would acing an Access Course be the quicker, and easier route for me?

Sorry for the long post, but is there anyone who has had the same dilemma recently, or could help point me in the right direction?
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Swardl
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Can someone please tell me why this thread hasn’t been approved yet?
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LegalTom
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I studied Law and Criminology at Level 3 Access to HE and it was comprehensive through the Distance Learning Centre. Was accessed via essays and I think my essay skills were sharpened I also got my research skills improved for university. Was assigned a personal tutor who always pestered me to make sure I wasn’t slacking. A year later I got into the University of Exeter.

My advice is that you go with a fast track Access to HE that lasts a year considering your age. An access to HE programme isn’t a walk in the park but it’s doable.

Most top universities accept the access to HE programme but you have to check with them first.

Why pursue a 2 year A-level programme when you can have a 1 year part time Access to HE programme that gives you a feel of what it’s like to study at university?

I’ll leave you to decide.
Last edited by LegalTom; 3 months ago
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Snufkin
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I think an Access course plus A level FM would be fine for pretty much any uni. If you're unsure, contact them and ask. If I were you, I wouldn't do three A levels - it's just not worth the extra hassle to and time. Particularly now when exam boards have no idea what they're doing next year.
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999tigger
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(Original post by Swardl)
I’m looking at a way into higher education as a mature student (I’m currently 25), and much of the information I’ve found so far has been rather conflicting. There seems to be a number of differing opinions as to whether the best option for someone my age would be an Access to Higher Education course, or retaking my A Levels via distance learning.

Access courses have the benefit of being a single year course, more tailored to people my age, but I’ve read about top universities (which ideally I would love to aim for) and specific courses having some issues with them. I’ve also seen some post where people have said that once at university they felt underprepared, academically, compared to their peers who had taken A Levels.

A Levels are a two year commitment; I will have to work at least part time, so I believe attaining high grades a fast track course would be a stretch, and I would likely have to study via distance learning. However it seems as though they are regarded more favourably, even for mature applications.

The courses I have been looking at would require AAA from A Levels or 45 distinctions on an Access Course; is one of these noticeably more difficult to attain than the other? Looking at degrees which require good mathematical ability (Computer Science, Economics etc.), a common opinion that I have seen is that Access Courses don’t seem to prepare you to the level you would need for undergraduate studies, and you would start already behind undergrads who just did their A Levels. Would doing a one year Further Maths A Level alongside an Access Course assuage a universities understandable issues with this, or would A Levels be the all around better choice? Or would this be overkill, and would acing an Access Course be the quicker, and easier route for me?

Sorry for the long post, but is there anyone who has had the same dilemma recently, or could help point me in the right direction?
1. I can't see why that would be filtered.
2. You have a pretty good grasp of differences.
3. Pick your top ten unis and check entrance requirements. For the higher unis its either A levels or Access+ Maths A level. If your choices require just access then do that. You just need to check what you are doing works for your target unis and you can check that now.
4. I would say 45 distinctions is harder than AAA or at least different because theres no room for error. That said its the difference between coursework and exam.
5. You dont say what your previous education history is like. Part of it is understanding what your academic abilities are or you hope to aim for. You need to be able to adapt to access pretty quickly especially if you are on a 45D target.
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S_Sabdi
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(Original post by Swardl)
I’m looking at a way into higher education as a mature student (I’m currently 25), and much of the information I’ve found so far has been rather conflicting. There seems to be a number of differing opinions as to whether the best option for someone my age would be an Access to Higher Education course, or retaking my A Levels via distance learning.

Access courses have the benefit of being a single year course, more tailored to people my age, but I’ve read about top universities (which ideally I would love to aim for) and specific courses having some issues with them. I’ve also seen some post where people have said that once at university they felt underprepared, academically, compared to their peers who had taken A Levels.

A Levels are a two year commitment; I will have to work at least part time, so I believe attaining high grades a fast track course would be a stretch, and I would likely have to study via distance learning. However it seems as though they are regarded more favourably, even for mature applications.

The courses I have been looking at would require AAA from A Levels or 45 distinctions on an Access Course; is one of these noticeably more difficult to attain than the other? Looking at degrees which require good mathematical ability (Computer Science, Economics etc.), a common opinion that I have seen is that Access Courses don’t seem to prepare you to the level you would need for undergraduate studies, and you would start already behind undergrads who just did their A Levels. Would doing a one year Further Maths A Level alongside an Access Course assuage a universities understandable issues with this, or would A Levels be the all around better choice? Or would this be overkill, and would acing an Access Course be the quicker, and easier route for me?

Sorry for the long post, but is there anyone who has had the same dilemma recently, or could help point me in the right direction?
I studied Access to HE: Engineering and I'm about to start my 2nd year of Computer Science in September. Got Majority A's and couple B's in my first year and thats after being out of education for a couple years and only doing a 1 year Access course.

Honestly if you were to ask me I'd say do the Access course. It prepares you soooooo much better for uni than A levels. Most universities accept Access courses nowadays, however you need to do your research. For example my university only accepted Access to engineering/science to get into Computer Science. I remember wanting to get apply for Queen Mary but they only accepted Access to Computing.

If you can I'd also advice you to enrol into a college and do it instead of distance learning. The teachers honestly go the extra mile to help you pass (If your based in London I can tell you which one I went to). The Access courses also aren't universal and what I mean by that is different colleges have their own way of accessing students. The college I went to had a nice balance of coursework and exams.

As for doing an A level on-top of your access course that depends on the university that you're going to apply to. My university choices didn't need it but I decided to do it anyway because like you I thought that you needed a very strong foundation in maths for Computer Science - not really the case. My access course (engineering) taught me all the relevant maths modules from the A level while skipping the unnecessary stuff.

So yeah just do the Access course and save yourself a year and maybe put that saved year into doing a placement year like I am. As for taking an A level on-top, do your research on potential universities and check their requirements and see whether they require you to otherwise its a waste of time in my opinion. Hope this helps
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04MR17
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(Original post by Swardl)
Can someone please tell me why this thread hasn’t been approved yet?
Don't know why this happened but should be sorted now. :yy:
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MonkeyNoodle
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Quite a few students from my Access class have gotten into Russell Group universities, so it's not impossible to get in with an Access qualification. As S_Sabdi mentioned - researching the entry/minimum module requirements for your desired universities is key, then you can reverse-plan which Access course you should take.
It's really important to check exactly how the modules are weighted too, different providers of the 'same' course will have different weightings. For example, engineering courses usually require maths-heavy Access courses or an additional A-level maths, and College A's course may only have 9 units of maths but College B has 15 etc.

Personally, I prefer an in-person learning experience, but I'm not sure how much teaching will actually be delivered in-person vs. online at most places this year - so you may have to be prepared for a distance learning experience anyway.

Good luck!
Last edited by MonkeyNoodle; 2 months ago
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