The Student Room Group

The Nightmare of Non-Standard Applications & Reducing People to Arbitrary Numbers

Hi! I'm Cameron.

Before you read all my ramblings, you should know this is basically just a vent of frustration so I can get back to being focussed and driven to my goals. I'm not sure it'll actually go anywhere, but perhaps some discussion will be fun. Feel free to vent yourselves or contribute whatever you like.

I'm a 25 year old with massive regrets about my educational past - and thoroughly believe that universally pushing teenagers to decide on their career & academic path, for the rest of their lives, is an awful mistake of the education system (granted, though, I also don't have a universal solution). Life experience really does give one the perspective and drive that so many teenagers lack, to perform to their best in an area right for them.

Right when you're a hormonal mess, being pulled in one direction by your sudden feelings of "adulthood" and "responsibility" (ha-ha), another by your awkward and messy social life, and thinking about trying to make some money to survive, you're also being told that if you don't achieve XYZ in your stress-filled, bigged-up A-Level courses, your life will be over and you're a failure. In my case, that involved being a straight-A student, and being told that if I wasn't applying for Oxbridge I'd be wasting my time. I had no interest in Oxbridge, but that wasn't important. Ultimately, I ended up feeling like just a number for my school to show off with, and I'd just be a dissapointment to them. I stopped caring, and what was AAA became BCD. I recognise my part in this too, now, but the resentment at least somewhat remains.

Fast forward nearly 7 years or so, and here I am, with huge regrets and desperately wanting to rectify that. I found a remote online BSc in my desired subject area, and hastily signed up to right the wrongs of my past.

Suffice to say, the course is not scratching that itch, and again, I am just a number - although more of a cash-cow than a marketing point this time round. The course does not deliver quality or care. So, I set out to fully commit. I made the best of it, and am averaging 90%+ in my first year modules. But I want to go somewhere where I feel more involved, like there's value to all parties and where my interests and aspirations can thrive. I applied via UCAS, making my situation clear, not expecting much for this year given I only have 5 first year modules under my belt.

To my surprise, I received the offer for the course I desperately wanted to attend - but with one glaring issue: the offer contained conditions which, through UCAS and my own comms with the univeristy, should have been clear that I could not possibly meet.

This impossibility was not because I don't deem myself capable, but because the condition relied on results I wouldn't have until December - 3 months after the September intake. I have been averaging 90% in the 5 modules I've sat, with 3 remaining. Those three will not be complete and marked until December, and the condition was that I achieve completion of my current Year 1 modules with an average of 60%.

Year 1 content at least somewhat consists of things I've studied before, or which I already have knowledge of through work experience. There have been challenges which I've fought through, and I'm proud of my 90% average. Actually, if it were at all possible to complete year 1 before the Sept intake (it isn't), I have no doubt I'd far surpass the 60% average required. For me to not meet the condition, I'd have to go from 90%+ avg. to failing a module. Possible, sure - but I know my ability, and I know just how unlikely that is.

So, I contacted admissions. Explained my situation, and pointed out that it was all clear in my application and prior comms. The response? Try again next year, and please let us withdraw the offer.

I am devastated, and thoroughly upset. An immediate rejection would've been better, but to have that carrot dangled over me to be pulled away just sucks. I'm tired of being beaten down by education, especially with the drive I now have for it.

I will recover, and am determined to roll with the punches. I just hope that next year, with the modules completed and (probably) an additional Access to HE qualification behind me, I will have more weight to throw behind the application -- as well as more debt, and 1 less year of my life left. I'll do it, and I'll go where I want to go and achieve what I want to achieve. The rest of the world can treat me as a number, but I am steadfast in believing in myself and doing what I want to do for me, and no-one else.


Tl;Dr:
Non-standard applications are a rollercoaster, wrought with hope and let-downs. Education systems are imperfect and annoying, to say the least. There's probably no good solutions. The best thing you can do is to focus on your wants and desires and just do what you need to do to get there, for your future self, and for no other person, company, or instutution. You get one life, stop making it everyone else's.

Thanks for attending this rant. Good luck, and all the best, to all of you.
- Cameron, suffering with aspirations
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 1
I can relate, I was a non-standard mature WP entrant whose A Level journey was a lot like yours!

Please do keep this updated - it's so important for other non-trad young people to see that should they want it, there is a route for them.
Reply 2
@gjd800 This is actually one of my biggest points of contention with my experience, and Schools being run like businesses - never, not once, was it mentioned to me that there would be options after school to achieve my goals. It was do or die, and I thought I'd just ballsed it all up for the rest of time with no way out. It took years, newfound passions, and sheer luck to learn that there's funding and options available to me. I firmly believe that I wasn't told about these options simply because, ultimately, the school I attended wouldn't be accredited for my own achievements.

If you're reading this, you're in school, and their "system" or whatever it is isn't working out for you: There are other options, and you're no worse than anyone else for taking them. Actually, I'd argue you're doing the right thing by following the path that works for you. You don't have to be a sheep if the herd is going down a path you don't want to follow.
Reply 3
Original post by Mouzey
@gjd800 This is actually one of my biggest points of contention with my experience, and Schools being run like businesses - never, not once, was it mentioned to me that there would be options after school to achieve my goals. It was do or die, and I thought I'd just ballsed it all up for the rest of time with no way out. It took years, newfound passions, and sheer luck to learn that there's funding and options available to me. I firmly believe that I wasn't told about these options simply because, ultimately, the school I attended wouldn't be accredited for my own achievements.
If you're reading this, you're in school, and their "system" or whatever it is isn't working out for you: There are other options, and you're no worse than anyone else for taking them. Actually, I'd argue you're doing the right thing by following the path that works for you. You don't have to be a sheep if the herd is going down a path you don't want to follow.
100% with you on all of this.

I was much, much better placed in my mid-20s to know what I wanted to do - and to commit to it. There was no way I was interested at 18. But yes, you don't get told that university is always there as an option and there's really no rush. I'm glad it went the way it did for me to eb honest. I don't think I'd be where I am if I'd just done as I was told and stuck it out at 18.
Reply 4
Just a minor update to the original rant: the University in question (who remains my dream uni and therefore whom I shall not name) sent a reply to my follow up email today. Some additional context, when I received the "Try again next year" email, asking for my consent for them to withdraw their original offer, I replied with some questions before I gave my consent.

I may be pushing my luck, but with nothing to lose, the primary question was essentially;
"Given my current academic record and the sustained 90%+ average across my completed modules, I believe beyond any reasonable doubt that I would be able to achieve the condition were it at all possible for me to do so before the September intake. I am able to demonstrate my abilities and knowledge in the subject area through other means if at all possible. With that being the case, would it be at all possible to discuss this decision to withdraw the offer with [a relevant member of staff knowledgable in the course / subject area] such that I may retain an offer in some form?"

I was expecting an outright "no", but have instead been told that the query has been forwarded on to the relevant department and I can expect a response from them soon. Still not holding out any hope, given the circumstances, but I'm glad they're at least willing to read my plea.
Original post by Mouzey
Just a minor update to the original rant: the University in question (who remains my dream uni and therefore whom I shall not name) sent a reply to my follow up email today. Some additional context, when I received the "Try again next year" email, asking for my consent for them to withdraw their original offer, I replied with some questions before I gave my consent.

I may be pushing my luck, but with nothing to lose, the primary question was essentially;
"Given my current academic record and the sustained 90%+ average across my completed modules, I believe beyond any reasonable doubt that I would be able to achieve the condition were it at all possible for me to do so before the September intake. I am able to demonstrate my abilities and knowledge in the subject area through other means if at all possible. With that being the case, would it be at all possible to discuss this decision to withdraw the offer with [a relevant member of staff knowledgable in the course / subject area] such that I may retain an offer in some form?"

I was expecting an outright "no", but have instead been told that the query has been forwarded on to the relevant department and I can expect a response from them soon. Still not holding out any hope, given the circumstances, but I'm glad they're at least willing to read my plea.

Non-standard apps are decidedly case-by-case, so I'm glad you persisted and it sounds like you'll at least be given a fair crack rather than the initial "computer says no" response.
Reply 6
Original post by Admit-One
Non-standard apps are decidedly case-by-case, so I'm glad you persisted and it sounds like you'll at least be given a fair crack rather than the initial "computer says no" response.

Despite the obvious disappointment I felt when I received the "Try again next year" email, it did come across as a generic admissions email template from the general admissions email address, where all my prior comms have been with the department-specific admissions team. I don't actually hold any resentment against the Uni - my case is complex and they're well within their rights to reject me given the lack of any standardised qualifications on my application. It was just a bit painful to get so close only to likely lose the offer. I must also say that they have been incredibly accommodating and have welcomed my questions and pestering without any complaints, which is one reason this particular Uni remains at the top of my list of aspirations.

My hope is that the general admissions team did not have access to - or for any other reason, were not able to consider - all of my prior contact which contained specific information about my current achievement and circumstances, and simply sent the generic recommendation which any standard applicant would receive. Therefore, with some more knowledgeable eyes looking into my case, the best-case scenario (which I've tempered my expectations for, for understandable reasons) would be that they can reconsider the general admissions decision with a lot more insight. With a lot of luck, it may still be possible for me to retain a conditional offer in some form.

Whatever the case, I'll keep the thread updated. I think it's helpful to share journeys like this, as @gjd800 says, for others to reference in the future. I know many threads here have already helped me in one way or another!
(edited 2 months ago)
Original post by Mouzey
Despite the obvious disappointment I felt when I received the "Try again next year" email, it did come across as a generic admissions email template from the general admissions email address, where all my prior comms have been with the department-specific admissions team. I don't actually hold any resentment against the Uni - my case is complex and they're well within their rights to reject me given the lack of any standardised qualifications on my application. It was just a bit painful to get so close only to likely lose the offer. I must also say that they have been incredibly accommodating and have welcomed my questions and pestering without any complaints, which is one reason this particular Uni remains at the top of my list of aspirations.

My hope is that the general admissions team did not have access to - or for any other reason, were not able to consider - all of my prior contact which contained specific information about my current achievement and circumstances, and simply sent the generic recommendation which any standard applicant would receive. Therefore, with some more knowledgeable eyes looking into my case, the best-case scenario (which I've tempered my expectations for, for understandable reasons) would be that they can reconsider the general admissions decision with a lot more insight. With a lot of luck, it may still be possible for me to retain a conditional offer in some form.

Whatever the case, I'll keep the thread updated. I think it's helpful to share journeys like this, as @gjd800 says, for others to reference in the future. I know many threads here have already helped me in one way or another!

I think you are probably right in that it depends whose desk it lands on. Not that either party are necessarily wrong, just that they make decisions or respond based on the info they have. It is remarkably difficult to train someone to answer admissions queries, as they typically need most of the knowledge and experience that would make them qualified to be a course selector anyway. They do their best but sometimes a bit more nuance is needed. Do keep us updated.
Reply 8
Original post by Admit-One
I think you are probably right in that it depends whose desk it lands on. Not that either party are necessarily wrong, just that they make decisions or respond based on the info they have. It is remarkably difficult to train someone to answer admissions queries, as they typically need most of the knowledge and experience that would make them qualified to be a course selector anyway. They do their best but sometimes a bit more nuance is needed. Do keep us updated.

Oh I absolutely understand all of it, in case I sounded too harsh or judgemental of the admissions staff - I wouldn't want to be the person having to assess my particular application as it's entirely "at their discretion." I certainly understand that the general admissions team are likely just as knowledgeable as the course-specific teams, it's just that the course-specific team in this case already have a plethora of information from me which I'm unsure would've made it's way back to the general admissions desk.

It could go either way if my pleading finds its way to the right staff member, but as grateful as I would be for them to withdraw the withdrawal (for lack of a better term), I do somewhat find it unlikely that'll be the case so I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Like I say, they're well within their rights to decide as they wish and I understand my opinion is largely of no consequence.

Updates will come as I receive them, and thank you for your reply :smile:
Reply 9
Just a minor (yet inevitably lengthy, knowing me) update as I promised:

I sent off an email in response to the University's request to withdraw my offer with the intention of having me apply again next year. In my email, I basically said; "if that's what I have to do, that's fine, but I just want to make sure that I'm not throwing away an opportunity here. My rationale is that I'm consistently achieving 80-90%+ in my modules and it appears to be beyond reasonable doubt that I will be able to achieve the 60% offer, so formalising this with another year seems redundant and will cause difficulty and delay etc etc."

Obviously, my actual email was much more considered, polite and formal, with tangible points. I waited for a good number of days after their reported "normal" response time, and then followed up just to see if the email got through and had eyes on it. Almost immediately, I got a reply stating that my application had been taken to a stage-2 appeal. This happened to my surprise, as I had not formally requested this, so I sent another email asking for some clarification about whether a formal appeal is really the correct route in my case, and whether there can be any consequences for pursuing an appeal for any of my potential future applications.

The final reply I received is actually quite encouraging - they explained that, as my case is rather unique, a formal appeal is the best route as it'll enable multiple staff from multiple departments to read over all the details and discuss the application. That includes all of the correspondance I've had with the university, which I believe will work in my favour as I've always kept my emails formal, polite, understanding and detailed. Without trying to sound too cocky, I am rather gifted in my persuasive writing skills - perhaps due in part to my day-to-day job requiring me to send hundreds of emails a week. They also confirmed that the appeal will not negatively impact any future application I make. There was some notable language in their reply, such as: "We value your interest in [the University] and your proactive approach to resolving your concerns." and "We appreciate your willingness to discuss your situation openly" which reads rather positively to my mind, though I am still not holding my breath.

It's a waiting game now to see if I've been persuasive enough, but I'll keep the thread updated as I progress through this.
Thanks all!
Reply 10
A MAJOR UPDATE TO MY STORY
@Admit-One and @gjd800 , you might be interested in this development - I certainly am!

Today I received the final outcome of the "Stage 2 Admission Appeal". It reads as follows:

"The issues raised by you were:
You expressed disappointment over not being able to fulfil your offer conditions for the [BSc Subject] programme due to your part-time study status, which will prevent you from completing your Year 1 modules by September 2024. You are also concerned about potential financial constraints, fearing that additional student finance needed to complete these modules in a later year could overextend your allowances. Despite these challenges, you highlighted your strong academic performance, underscoring your capability and readiness to meet academic expectations if permitted more time or flexibility in your course completion.

Response to issues raised:
After a thorough investigation, including consultation with [a redacted staff member I've been in contact with throughout this process], we have reassessed your situation with consideration to our policies and your circumstances. At [my favourite choice of] University, our admissions policies include a Period of Relevance for Previous Academic Qualifications, which typically considers qualifications gained within the last 5 years. Given that your A levels were completed in 2017, greater emphasis was initially placed on your current undergraduate studies when evaluating your application. Acknowledging your performance in these studies and understanding the constraints posed by your part-time study schedule, we have decided to amend the conditions of your offer.

Outcome:
You will now be required to achieve an average of 60% across 60 credits in your Year 1 BSc Computer Science at [My current part-time, remote study University that I wouldn't recommend at all], rather than the full 120 credits initially stipulated. This adjustment has been made based on a holistic review of your application and academic achievements, reflecting our commitment to fair and individual consideration of our applicants. Furthermore, [the same staff member I've been talking to] expressed an interest in discussing your future at [the] University directly and plans to contact you in the coming weeks to ensure that you are fully prepared for the transition to a full-time, face-to-face programme and to discuss the support available to you. We want to ensure that all students regardless of their background or personal experience, be inspired to consider higher education as an achievable option, and can study, succeed, and thrive at [the] University and beyond and develop to become our professionals of tomorrow. We will proceed to amend your conditional offer, as mentioned above. This will update overnight following our daily export with UCAS and be visible to you via Track. After which, you will be able to make your reply decisions and pursue your accommodation arrangements."

I am shocked. I had not let myself become hopeful for this outcome, but my god, here it is. It's possible to achieve your dreams with persistance, patience, and some very considerate admissions staff, to whom I'll forever be grateful. For clarity, I have 45 credits under my belt, averaging 90% across the three modules they're from. I've already sat 30 further credits (2 modules), with provisional midterm grades of 80%. I'd have to have literally failed both modules (<40% in the finals) to not be able to achieve the revised condition.

I wish I'd not vented my frustrations earlier in this thread so that I could name the University without risking my position - they've been incredibly accomodating and thoroughly responsive to my specific circumstances. They'd be the first place I'd recommend to any mature or non-standard applicant based on my experience, without a doubt in my mind.

I've gone from age 18, thinking my life was over with no chance, to getting in to a Russel Group university to study in my favourite subject and course. My whole outlook just changed with one email - this is unreal!

Thank you all for following this story and engaging with me, and to those of you who don't know whether it can be done - it can! I am proof! Go do it!

Much love all <3
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Original post by Mouzey
A MAJOR UPDATE TO MY STORY
@Admit-One and @gjd800 , you might be interested in this development - I certainly am!

Today I received the final outcome of the "Stage 2 Admission Appeal". It reads as follows:

"The issues raised by you were:
You expressed disappointment over not being able to fulfil your offer conditions for the [BSc Subject] programme due to your part-time study status, which will prevent you from completing your Year 1 modules by September 2024. You are also concerned about potential financial constraints, fearing that additional student finance needed to complete these modules in a later year could overextend your allowances. Despite these challenges, you highlighted your strong academic performance, underscoring your capability and readiness to meet academic expectations if permitted more time or flexibility in your course completion.

Response to issues raised:
After a thorough investigation, including consultation with [a redacted staff member I've been in contact with throughout this process], we have reassessed your situation with consideration to our policies and your circumstances. At [my favourite choice of] University, our admissions policies include a Period of Relevance for Previous Academic Qualifications, which typically considers qualifications gained within the last 5 years. Given that your A levels were completed in 2017, greater emphasis was initially placed on your current undergraduate studies when evaluating your application. Acknowledging your performance in these studies and understanding the constraints posed by your part-time study schedule, we have decided to amend the conditions of your offer.

Outcome:
You will now be required to achieve an average of 60% across 60 credits in your Year 1 BSc Computer Science at [My current part-time, remote study University that I wouldn't recommend at all], rather than the full 120 credits initially stipulated. This adjustment has been made based on a holistic review of your application and academic achievements, reflecting our commitment to fair and individual consideration of our applicants. Furthermore, [the same staff member I've been talking to] expressed an interest in discussing your future at [the] University directly and plans to contact you in the coming weeks to ensure that you are fully prepared for the transition to a full-time, face-to-face programme and to discuss the support available to you. We want to ensure that all students regardless of their background or personal experience, be inspired to consider higher education as an achievable option, and can study, succeed, and thrive at [the] University and beyond and develop to become our professionals of tomorrow. We will proceed to amend your conditional offer, as mentioned above. This will update overnight following our daily export with UCAS and be visible to you via Track. After which, you will be able to make your reply decisions and pursue your accommodation arrangements."

I am shocked. I had not let myself become hopeful for this outcome, but my god, here it is. It's possible to achieve your dreams with persistance, patience, and some very considerate admissions staff, to whom I'll forever be grateful. For clarity, I have 45 credits under my belt, averaging 90% across the three modules they're from. I've already sat 30 further credits (2 modules), with provisional midterm grades of 80%. I'd have to have literally failed both modules (<40% in the finals) to not be able to achieve the revised condition.

I wish I'd not vented my frustrations earlier in this thread so that I could name the University without risking my position - they've been incredibly accomodating and thoroughly responsive to my specific circumstances. They'd be the first place I'd recommend to any mature or non-standard applicant based on my experience, without a doubt in my mind.

I've gone from age 18, thinking my life was over with no chance, to getting in to a Russel Group university to study in my favourite subject and course. My whole outlook just changed with one email - this is unreal!

Thank you all for following this story and engaging with me, and to those of you who don't know whether it can be done - it can! I am proof! Go do it!

Much love all <3


A fantastic outcome :smile:

I'm glad the uni was pragmatic after taking your whole profile into account. The email response from them is really good and it's nice that they've offered any further support you might need.

Thanks for the updates, it is nice hear a positive story for a change.
Reply 12
No problem at all, @Admit-One ! I'm so very glad to be able to provide the positive story to take the edge off, it's very humbling.

Just another small update to provide, the University made good on their offer to reach out to discuss further support. Indeed, the admissions staff member I've been in contact with has reached out to me directly to arrange a call to talk about anything I may need and to help me adjust to life at University as a mature student. It's arranged for midday tomorrow. I must say, I'm quite excited by it all! I'm sure the nerves will set in soon.

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