The Student Room Group

Would 9 GCSEs and an Access to HE course be enough to get into uni??

I’m 18 and turning 19 by september, I have 9 GCSEs grades 6-9, I havent been able to do my A levels due to my mum sending me abroad which kind of ruined everything, I want to pursue pharmacy or dental hygiene but I am really worried about getting offers due to the competitive nature of both courses. I am going to do an Access to HE science course due to every sixth form and college rejecting me because of the age restriction despite my GCSE grades. I guess I would not know until it’s time for ucas but would that be enough to get in?? I’m so stressed😭
Original post by evepsyche
I’m 18 and turning 19 by september, I have 9 GCSEs grades 6-9, I havent been able to do my A levels due to my mum sending me abroad which kind of ruined everything, I want to pursue pharmacy or dental hygiene but I am really worried about getting offers due to the competitive nature of both courses. I am going to do an Access to HE science course due to every sixth form and college rejecting me because of the age restriction despite my GCSE grades. I guess I would not know until it’s time for ucas but would that be enough to get in?? I’m so stressed😭

Take a look at the entry requirements for a few universities. Either universities local to you, or universities which you aspire to attend. Check that your qualifications meet their entry requirements. If they don't, then you're unlikely to receive an offer. If they do, then you'll have a decent chance of receiving an offer (as long as we're not talking about the big London unis, or other significantly over-subscribed universities around the country).

For example, for their Dental Hygiene and Therapy BSc degree, University of Birmingham require:

"Access to Higher Education (Health or Science):
60 credits with a minimum of 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at distinction and 15 at merit, to include Biology total 15 credits. You must meet the GCSE entry requirements in full for the programme."

They say they need the Access to HE Diploma to be in Health or Science, and you're doing one in Science - so that works. It might be worth reading through the specification for your Access to HE Diploma to confirm it has 15 Biology credits, although it almost certainly does.

The GCSE requirements they refer to are: "Minimum of six GCSEs at grade C/4 to include English, Mathematics and a Biological subject/dual award science." You clearly exceed those GCSE requirements.

So if you were to obtain the required 30 credits at distinction and 15 at merit, and you applied to University of Birmingham, then you have a reasonable chance of receiving an offer.

You get to apply to five different universities, so as long as you apply to a range of them (i.e. not all very competitive, very highly ranked) then you have a good chance of receiving offers from some of them. (You don't need five offers.)

Note that University of Birmingham don't accept an Access to HE Diploma for their MPharm Pharmacy degree - but other unis will.

So do a bit of research now, by checking the entry requirements on the web sites of some target unis. You'll be surprised by how many you meet the entry requirements for. :smile:
Reply 2
Original post by evepsyche
I’m 18 and turning 19 by september, I have 9 GCSEs grades 6-9, I havent been able to do my A levels due to my mum sending me abroad which kind of ruined everything, I want to pursue pharmacy or dental hygiene but I am really worried about getting offers due to the competitive nature of both courses. I am going to do an Access to HE science course due to every sixth form and college rejecting me because of the age restriction despite my GCSE grades. I guess I would not know until it’s time for ucas but would that be enough to get in?? I’m so stressed😭

Hey! I’m just finishing my Access diploma- doing my MPharm in September and got offers from all of my choices (including Lincoln, top in the country, and Notts, top ten in the world for Pharmacy/notoriously competitive)! I did do A Levels but was seriously unwell and had prolonged absence, so flunked them essentially (an E and a C). I can’t speak for dental hygiene but Pharmacy is fantastic as interviews are mandatory, which give you the opportunity to be seen as more than just your grades. I would say to try and get some relevant work experience under your belt (even shadowing in community pharmacy) but some people with offers didn’t know the difference between Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, so if it’s something you’re interested in just let that shine through at interview!! Your Access to HE course is absolutely enough to get into most universities providing you pass interview too, but there are loads of resources in the big Pharmacy thread for that. For reference, Lincoln need 136 UCAS tariff points which equates to 39 credits at Distinction and 6 at Merit. Nottingham need 30 distinctions and 15 merits, and DMU need 15 distinctions, 24 merits and 6 passes. The fact you’re on TSR asking for help alone sets you apart a little and shows you actually care about the course you’re doing. I hope this helps a little, if there’s anything else I can help with let me know! 🙂 x
Reply 3
Original post by evepsyche
I’m 18 and turning 19 by september, I have 9 GCSEs grades 6-9, I havent been able to do my A levels due to my mum sending me abroad which kind of ruined everything, I want to pursue pharmacy or dental hygiene but I am really worried about getting offers due to the competitive nature of both courses. I am going to do an Access to HE science course due to every sixth form and college rejecting me because of the age restriction despite my GCSE grades. I guess I would not know until it’s time for ucas but would that be enough to get in?? I’m so stressed😭

Oh- definitely double check the subject specific requirements too! I think all of my choices required 15 of the distinctions to be in Chemistry, and most asked for a further 15 distinctions in another science✌️
Reply 4
Original post by Elleanorhs
Hey! I’m just finishing my Access diploma- doing my MPharm in September and got offers from all of my choices (including Lincoln, top in the country, and Notts, top ten in the world for Pharmacy/notoriously competitive)! I did do A Levels but was seriously unwell and had prolonged absence, so flunked them essentially (an E and a C). I can’t speak for dental hygiene but Pharmacy is fantastic as interviews are mandatory, which give you the opportunity to be seen as more than just your grades. I would say to try and get some relevant work experience under your belt (even shadowing in community pharmacy) but some people with offers didn’t know the difference between Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, so if it’s something you’re interested in just let that shine through at interview!! Your Access to HE course is absolutely enough to get into most universities providing you pass interview too, but there are loads of resources in the big Pharmacy thread for that. For reference, Lincoln need 136 UCAS tariff points which equates to 39 credits at Distinction and 6 at Merit. Nottingham need 30 distinctions and 15 merits, and DMU need 15 distinctions, 24 merits and 6 passes. The fact you’re on TSR asking for help alone sets you apart a little and shows you actually care about the course you’re doing. I hope this helps a little, if there’s anything else I can help with let me know! 🙂 x

Firstly, congrats on all your offers and this was really reassuring and helpful, thank you!!
Reply 5
Original post by Elleanorhs
Oh- definitely double check the subject specific requirements too! I think all of my choices required 15 of the distinctions to be in Chemistry, and most asked for a further 15 distinctions in another science✌️

How’s the difficulty in getting distinctions as I am quite worried about that😭 Would you say it’s doable? Also, how do I prepare for the course as of now?
Reply 6
Original post by evepsyche
How’s the difficulty in getting distinctions as I am quite worried about that😭 Would you say it’s doable? Also, how do I prepare for the course as of now?
Thank you so much, I’m so glad it helped🥹 I was terrified at this as there’s such little margin for error, but I’ve found mine easy enough! I ended up doing 8 assignments in 4 weeks and managed to get distinctions- if you’re looking at Pharm or Dental anyway I’d guess you know your capabilities somewhat and I can’t imagine you’ll have many issues (especially as you’re here too and expressing concern, like I said before).

If your GCSEs were decent too that’s a good indicator of your relative academic achievement: for reference mine were about the same as yours (I’m old so all A*-Bs😭) and I barely attended my A Level lessons, but my access diploma hasn’t really been challenging. It’s been more time consuming than anything else, and the hardest bit has been doing the mandatory non-science modules like research skills/referencing/academic writing, which aren’t even graded but I just found laborious!

The difference between Merit and Distinction for our assignments was mainly the breadth and development of points made, and assignments were mostly essay questions with a few long-form essays and an extended project. Just make sure you read the assessment criteria/grade descriptors first so you can tailor your answer to hit all the right marks.

In terms of preparing for Pharmacy, make sure you’re aware of what the course will entail, and what Pharmacy actually consists of/the role of Pharmacists. Biiig focus on patient-centred care, ethics, and working as part of a team. Interviews don’t normally start until the end of the year but there tend to be lots of early applicants as it’s often a fifth choice for med and dentistry students now, so make sure you’ve got your UCAS sorted before you finish your access course if possible. Try and get some work experience even if just volunteering/shadowing at a Boots or GP surgery for a few hours- it’ll show them you know what’s expected of Pharmacists and actually have commitment to what you’re doing, amongst lots of applicants who just want to do a science heavy course that pays well. Any healthcare experience is great actually! They aren’t huge fans of generalised personal statements, so if you do lean more strongly towards one after research, would definitely write it to reflect your choice rather than covering both. Then comes interview prep- some unis do maths/science/ethics assessments and some are just an informal chat, but there are loads of helpful bits in the Pharmacy thread.

It really depends what vibe you’re after/what you want to get out of the course/how you learn best, but an MPharm is an MPharm to employers and where you trained won’t make a huge difference, so make sure you like/feel comfortable at your choices rather than picking somewhere with clout or status (even if people make you feel like an idiot, as they did to me for turning down Nottingham😅). Obviously rankings and stats do come into play, but as far as I’m aware it’s a pretty level playing field for new grads.

The course is changing quite a bit as Pharmacists are being utilised more in healthcare- not sure if you know this, but all Pharmacists from the 2026 cohort onwards will graduate as independent prescribers and it’s really exciting (also I’m just a massive nerd lmao😭😭).

For now, you’ve got ages, but

get signed up to your access course (making sure it’s got relevant modules + includes 15 chem credits minimum plus 15 other science credits)

start looking into which field you can see yourself choosing- reach out to students on here from each, watch YouTube videos, look at student satisfaction and employment rates etc, find some videos/accounts of people actually working in those roles and see which lifestyle would better suit you long-term

research unis you’re considering applying for (personally I can’t stress the importance of open days and actually visiting campus/talking to staff + students enough)- when it comes to interviews later on, make sure you know the uni/course’s unique features, facilities, teaching methods (e.g. life cycle learning) so you can cite it back to them

try and get some work experience scheduled- you could email around (NHS trusts/GP surgeries/pharmacies) or even just go into a pharmacy and talk to the manager or responsible pharmacist, explain you’re going to be studying pharmacy and wanting to volunteer to get relevant experience and perspective

on this note, if you see any relevant paid employment (healthcare in general really) that would be great- there are seemingly always lots of care jobs going


You’re going to get interviews anyway (and hopefully conditional offers), so I hope you can rest a bit easier knowing you’ve got plenty of time to prepare and it’s definitely within reason/feasible for you!

Sorry for all the waffle lol, I hope something in here helps but if you have any more questions I’m around given the lack of relevant resources. It’s a strange position to be entering such a competitive field through an unconventional route, but I hope things work out as you want them to!😌
Original post by evepsyche
I’m 18 and turning 19 by september, I have 9 GCSEs grades 6-9, I havent been able to do my A levels due to my mum sending me abroad which kind of ruined everything, I want to pursue pharmacy or dental hygiene but I am really worried about getting offers due to the competitive nature of both courses. I am going to do an Access to HE science course due to every sixth form and college rejecting me because of the age restriction despite my GCSE grades. I guess I would not know until it’s time for ucas but would that be enough to get in?? I’m so stressed😭

@evepsyche
Hi, I've taught on Access to HE for over 10 years so I can give some advice. This is a bit of a difficult one, in that for pharmacy people would typically do our Access to HE Science Pathway, but for dental hygiene we would enrol people on the Access to HE Nursing and Midwifery Pathway - I would check the entry requirements and speak to the admissions tutors for the Universities you are considering.

Dental hygiene applications have increased a lot over the last few years, and it is quite difficult to get into now like midwifery, depending on a) the grades you get on Access where ALOT of distinctions if not all are essential or b) the interview can be really tough too. I've got two really strong students this year who didn't get an offer for dental hygiene

I teach in an FE college btw, not at Arden


Marc
Arden University Student Ambassador

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