University choices - aiming too high?

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pauline222
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#1
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#1
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
Last edited by pauline222; 1 month ago
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McGinger
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#2
How to Avoid 5 Rejections - read it all, especially the section about choosing 5 choics with a range of grade requirements - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/uni...ity-rejections

There were numerous A*/A applicants this year who picked 5 high grade choices - and who got no offers because there are too many top applicants chasing too few places at a hanfdul of elite Unis. Those who looked beyond the hype and included Unis like Cardiff, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Bath, Glasgow etc etc in their choices are the lucky ones as they will have somewhere to go in October. Learn from this.
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_gcx
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That sounds incredibly conservative as a strategy, though that might not be a bad thing.

Warwick philosophy is not overwhelmingly competitive and seems to offer 75% of students a place. Have 2 aspirational choices Oxbridge/Durham sure. But your remaining three being ABB-AAA (and not somewhere very obviously competitive like Durham or St Andrews) is not particularly outrageous. I don't think you should go far below ABB personally, if you're realistically expecting A*s. (if you do I'd say maybe one choice BBB or lower) There's nothing necessarily wrong with say, going to a university that requires BBC having missed a firm of AAA by one grade, but you should bear in mind in that case that the course would be pitched to people who got BBC (and they may have accepted students on lower) and you may find that you have undershot. Bear in mind that you send off your UCAS applications, not your parents, as well. They won't have access to your application unless you give it to them.
(Original post by McGinger)
How to Avoid 5 Rejections - read it all, especially the section about choosing 5 choics with a range of grade requirements - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/uni...ity-rejections

There were numerous A*/A applicants this year who picked 5 high grade choices - and who got no offers because there are too many top applicants chasing too few places at a hanfdul of elite Unis. Those who looked beyond the hype and included Unis like Cardiff, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Bath, Glasgow etc etc in their choices are the lucky ones as they will have somewhere to go in October. Learn from this.
I don't think the OP needs to realistically worry about 5 rejections. Will happily be proved wrong but I don't think if you apply realistically this is ever a realistic outcome. Only 1 or 2 offers maybe, (if you were incredibly unlucky with your selection) but being left with none at all having put in a reasonable application to universities at the right level would usually be very shocking and weird. (of course, excepting medicine and such like)
Last edited by _gcx; 1 month ago
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Ghostlady
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#4
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#4
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
You trust your own judgement. Ive got two daughters. One is second year in her degree, the other is year 12. Both choose/choosing different unis. They are choosing them because of the varying grade entrances, what the uni /city has to offer, how much support they get in terms of internships and jobs, and if the course is great.
If you are heading for 3A*s then choose a couple that are offering that or there abouts,. Then have a couple which are like A*AA/AAA, then one AAB or ABB. By the time you get to choose your two, you will have done more tests and exams and be in a more more better position as you know where your grades are heading. Eldest applied to Oxford, but didnt get in and so are lots of others that are A* grade students who did not get in also. Not saying they are, but hope your parents are aware that an A* is not an automatic pass to Oxbridge. Definitely take on board their opinions, but make sure you have done your homework and looked on uni compare sites. We like What uni, as it also gives student satifaction on the course as well as module breakdowns.

You also need to visit unis. Youngest kind of pooh poohed the idea of Reading. But then saw the modules were similar to Chesters and went and had a look recently and fell in love with the uni. So shes in a nice predicament at the moment lol. So definitely go and visit. Some have open days in the summer Ps lol little bit biased but I love Lancaster. Eldest is there and she loves the uni and it does have good support there.
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McGinger
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#5
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(Original post by Ghostlady)
By the time you get to choose your two, you will have done more tests and exams and be in a more more better position as you know where your grades are heading.
This bit is important.

You might feel very opimistic about your potential grades right now - that may change by this time next year when the reality if exams sets in.
Applicants often forget this - and you need to have at least one, probably two, lower grade choices so that you have another option - 5 very high grade choices takes away that safe-guard.

Remember - high grade requirements does not mean 'better course', and as many discovered this year, some of the top Unis have an arrogant attutude to applicants. Choose your Unis carefully.
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swanseajack1
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#6
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#6
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
Perhaps you would like to show my response to your parents as it might explain why your school is right.

Every year we get students on here who have applied to 5 high range universities with outstanding predicted grades and found themselves with no offers. They are absolutely distraught and are left at looking with what is in extra or clearing or taking a gap year. Taking universities with a range of grades would stop that. This is particularly the case in subjects like Economics or Computer Science which are extremely hot at the moment.

Most universities make offers to high proprtion of students usually 80%+. However they are a group of universities who are very competitive and reject loads of applicants every year. These include Oxbridge, UCL, LSE, Imperial, Durham, St Andrews and Edinburgh. Aiming for too many of these is very risky and can lead to no offers so it is best to limit options of these to 2 choices. This is what you school is rightly telling you.


Predicted grades are massively inaccurate. In the last exam year 75% of students didnt reach their predicted grades. Just because a student is predicted grades doesnt mean they will achieve them and the evidence is most dont. For thatt reason there is a need for at least 1 or possibly 2 choices to be lower perhaps 1 grade lower.

Lat year 23% were awarded the A* grade compared to 8% in 2019. Nearly 1/2 of all students were awarded an A grade last year. This led to universities being overwhelmed with students they had made offers to and in some cases paying student to defer. With these increases in grade and many deferring universities have had to rethink their strategy and this has made for more competition and greater rejections. Nobody knows what will happen next year but there is clearly a high risk that things might not be sorted.

For these reasons you would be very well advised to choose your options wisely and not make applications to more than 2 very competititve universities. I note you are looking at Lancaster wwhich is a very good choice as it makes high amounts of offers and usually at AAA or below. Possibly another choice like that would be sensible and you can add them to your 2 risky choices.
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swanseajack1
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#7
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#7
After the fiasco with Kings this year I would be tempted to give them a miss. Warwick looks a decent option. They still have Philosophy open for this year so it doesnt sound too competitive.
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McGinger
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#8
I'd go further and suggest and avoiding all of the big-three London Unis - KCL, UCL, LSE - and even Warwick and Edinburgh as well.

The competition is insane, its a recipe for misery. Too many applicants this year have applied to 5 high grade Unis, waiting months for 5 rejections and now have no Uni to go to. These Unis do not guarantee anyone a fantasic career or lifelong happiness. And the KCL decision to not even bother entering a decision to reject and watch thousands, yes thousands, of applicants just fall off the edge at the UCAS deadline, tells you all you need to know about the 'who cares' attitude of these Unis towards you as an applicant.
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DeBeauvoir2
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#9
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#9
I know someone with an offer from Oxford and Leeds, and three other rejections. It is fine for them, but it does illustrate the points above. It is easy to see a world where they had a bad day for an admissions test or something, and at that point if they had not chose a 'safer' option (for them - predicted A*A*A) they would have had 5 rejections. This also wasn't a course known to be highly competitive like medicine/econ/law. This anecdotal evidence doesn't add much, but it illustrates all the points one hears being made - they definitely are true for some. Personally I would recommend 1-2 aspirational, 1-2 'solid' (reasonably competitive but not one where A*A*A* candidates regularly are rejected - note these are the types of of unis seeing more and more competition) and 2 insurance/semi-insurance (like Lancaster). You will thank yourself for the safety net while you are waiting for offers, and during exam season.


Also I'd say that not aspirational =! backup. Getting into unis, even with 3 A*s, that aren't London/Oxbridge/Durham, is by no means a certainty at the moment
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ageshallnot
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#10
One potentially useful tactic is to apply to, say, 3-4 unis initially. With any luck you will have a couple of decisions before the January equal consideration deadline. You can then add your final choice/s knowing whether you need unis with high or low requirements. And as pointed out above, you will have a better idea about your likely grades.
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poppy2022
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#11
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#11
(Original post by ageshallnot)
One potentially useful tactic is to apply to, say, 3-4 unis initially. With any luck you will have a couple of decisions before the January equal consideration deadline. You can then add your final choice/s knowing whether you need unis with high or low requirements. And as pointed out above, you will have a better idea about your likely grades.
I didn’t know you could apply to different unis at different times. As in, I thought that if you’re applying for the early Oct deadline if one of your choices are Oxbridge then you’d have to send off your uni application to all 5 uni choices then. Are you saying that you would select 3 unis (inc. Oxbridge) to submit an application to for the Oct deadline and then you’d be able to use your 2 remaining choices later on before Jan?
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ageshallnot
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#12
(Original post by poppy2022)
I didn’t know you could apply to different unis at different times. As in, I thought that if you’re applying for the early Oct deadline if one of your choices are Oxbridge then you’d have to send off your uni application to all 5 uni choices then. Are you saying that you would select 3 unis (inc. Oxbridge) to submit an application to for the Oct deadline and then you’d be able to use your 2 remaining choices later on before Jan?
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.
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DarylO
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#13
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#13
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
I understand having parents like yours and it can be quite overwhelming. You want to do your best. You have hope in yourself. However, you want to be smart about your choices and makes sure you make a safety net should the top choices reject you. But with your parent's insistence, it makes you feel like you don't have enough faith in your abilities.

Take this from another top student, your admission is not dependent on your abilities. Sure, your grades and whatever help but these top schools are ruthless. I know someone who as rejected with a portfolio good enough for MIT because his 'personality' didn't align with their school's image. His PERSONALITY. Now, I'm not saying that's a common occurrence. I'm trying to show just how unpredictable the selection process can be.

Your parents calling Southampton not good enough shows they're a bit snobbish. Southampton. Not good enough? Come on. They're way too driven by the prestige of a school's name. You need to take control of this decision. Whatever happens affect you not your parents or anyone else. Apply to two top schools, max three, and two safety schools.
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mnot
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#14
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#14
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
2 aspirational universities is not a conservative approach, its a balanced approach.

Their was a point in time where you could look at offer rates and clearing choices and you could essentially look at the risk of rejection at all the most competitive universities, however after 2 years of covid grades (as well as the ‘what uni guide’ no longer buying the application rate data and publishing it, you can’t have the same information before applying.

Honestly im not sure its a bad strategy (especially for a school which has to advise dozens of students). But it is your choice if you want to apply to several competitive ones, although I would use some pragmatism with at least 2 of your choices so come March next year you have some options.
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artful_lounger
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#15
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#15
I don't think you'd have much of an issue with those unis. Lancaster tends to be undersubscribed a lot in general for whatever reason (despite being a good uni, I think it often ends up as people's "second choice" or people don't want to apply to unis in the north), and as noted above Warwick is not especially well known for philosophy (LSE, Bristol, Sheffield, St Andrews/Stirling are all probably more notable in at least one or more fields). What areas of philosophy are you actually interested in?

If you're particularly interested in analytic philosophy (I assume this is the case since you're applying to Cambridge) you might want to serious consider LSE as they are also very focused on that approach there. If not though you may want to rethink Cambridge. If you're particularly interested in other fields (e.g. non-European philosophy) you may want to cast a wider net, and also consider joint courses in e.g. philosophy and religion/religious studies (a lot of South/East Asian philosophy gets lumped into religious studies in the west, rightly or wrongly).

Honestly I think as long as you have one reasonable "backup" choice (which is probably Lancaster or Warwick) you could just as well apply to 4 high entry criteria unis - I wouldn't even call them aspirational especially because your predicted grades greatly exceed the entry criteria for most of them.
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_gcx
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#16
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(Original post by mnot)
2 aspirational universities is not a conservative approach, its a balanced approach.

Their was a point in time where you could look at offer rates and clearing choices and you could essentially look at the risk of rejection at all the most competitive universities, however after 2 years of covid grades (as well as the ‘what uni guide’ no longer buying the application rate data and publishing it, you can’t have the same information before applying.

Honestly im not sure its a bad strategy (especially for a school which has to advise dozens of students). But it is your choice if you want to apply to several competitive ones, although I would use some pragmatism with at least 2 of your choices so come March next year you have some options.
I say "conservative" because it sounded more like "2 good choices and the other 3 should be as low as you are comfortable going". That's what I understand when people say "backup" anyway. I don't think people should worry about applying to any more than at most one university well below their predictions (unless they are particularly unconfident in them).
Last edited by _gcx; 1 month ago
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Muttley79
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#17
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#17
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
Not Warwick for Philosophy - UCL tends to be science as well. Most of my students would prefer Oxford over Cambridge for Philospohy but look at the courses not the name of the university.

Do some research yourself and steer a midway course. Look at Exeter for example rather then unis known for STEM.
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chickennugget04
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#18
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#18
(Original post by pauline222)
I'm being predicted 3 A*s for my A Levels.
My parents are pushing for me to apply to some of the best unis to study philosophy - Cambridge, Warwick, UCL, Kings, Lancaster etc.
My school university supervisors are telling the smartest students in our year that we should only be choosing a maximum of TWO aspirational ones, e.g Oxford and Durham. The other three should essentially be backups - they have really struggled to get students into unis in recent years.
I don't know who to trust more. My school supervisors seem desperate just to get people to uni this year. It seems a bit like they're covering their own backs so they can say they've done the job - they also do not push at all for Oxbridge.
But then I worry I should take their advice and that my parents have too much confidence in me. Maybe unis are being incredibly cut throat. I would definitely be more comfortable with one or two good backup unis, but they only want me to put the very best as my 5 in the hope that even one accept me - I have absolutely no clue how likely this is.
I suggested Southampton to them which ranks highly nowadays but had slightly lower entrance requirements but they claimed 'isn't good enough'.

I feel very lost. Maybe I should do as my parents say and if I get rejected from all 5, wait a year rather than going to a slightly less good one. After all, I may get a uni through clearing which is at the level of a backup choice, in which case it feels like a wasted choice. It all feels a bit risky though. Anyone in the same situation or know if unis are really rejecting more students than ever?
I would apply to 2 ABB-AAB unis, 2 AAA-A*AA, 1 A*AA+
That's what I did and got 5/5 offers, and two offers were reduced so it worked out quite well. You also don't have to firm/insure till during exam season so having a range of offers to choose from depending on your confidence level closer to the time does help. Predicted grades are often inflated (not that you won't get them, keep working hard!), but it is good to be safe especially as there is a jump between year 1 and year 2 content.
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mnot
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#19
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#19
(Original post by _gcx)
I say "conservative" because it sounded more like "2 good choices and the other 3 should be as low as you are comfortable going". That's what I understand when people say "backup" anyway. I don't think people should worry about applying to any more than at most one university well below their predictions (unless they are particularly unconfident in them).
Sorry, my line wasn’t about your post, more the original OPs post & reaction to the schools advice.

I just think the 2 aspirational + 2 par + 1 proper backup is quite a standard copy and paste piece of UCAS advice, and I don’t think its conservative, it’s just a pragmatic balance. Although at 3A* level it’s harder to choose what is aspirational and what is just a reasonable par choice.
—-
But a couple more points now im posting again 😂

I think its also worth bearing in mind that after a few years of hyper grade inflation that unfortunately 3A* isn’t quite as exceptional as it was a few years ago so all this needs to weighed up when OP decides where and how many high application rate universities they choose.

(Id also say OP could probably find very comparable academic institutions to KCL outside of London that are far less competitive just due to London factor & high international competition).
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swanseajack1
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#20
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#20
(Original post by mnot)
Sorry, my line wasn’t about your post, more the original OPs post & reaction to the schools advice.

I just think the 2 aspirational + 2 par + 1 proper backup is quite a standard copy and paste piece of UCAS advice, and I don’t think its conservative, it’s just a pragmatic balance. Although at 3A* level it’s harder to choose what is aspirational and what is just a reasonable par choice.
—-
But a couple more points now im posting again 😂

I think its also worth bearing in mind that after a few years of hyper grade inflation that unfortunately 3A* isn’t quite as exceptional as it was a few years ago so all this needs to weighed up when OP decides where and how many high application rate universities they choose.

(Id also say OP could probably find very comparable academic institutions to KCL outside of London that are far less competitive just due to London factor & high international competition).
2 aspirational universities and 3 sensible universities at AAA/AAB seems good practice. Places like Bristol, Exeter, Lancaster, York, Southampton are suitable for 3-5 and the very aspirational for 1 and 2. It should lead to op having a number of places to look at,
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Talking to peers going through the same thing (24)
35.29%
Speaking to student ambassadors from the universities (5)
7.35%
Speaking to staff members from universities (1)
1.47%
Using the personal statement builder, library or helper service (7)
10.29%
Reading articles about what steps to take (14)
20.59%
Learning about/speaking to Student Finance England (2)
2.94%
Something else (tell us in the thread) (3)
4.41%

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