In a couple weeks I’ll be off to university and it was so hard to get through A-levels with good grades and I’m now so excited to go so I thought it would be nice to do a post about it as it’s been great and then for anyone who wants some tips on A-levels and on applying to university. So I live in England where the school system after high school goes into optional study, meaning you can choose whether you go to college and do A-levels after your GCSE’s, and then after that you can choose whether you want to go to uni and get a degree.I don’t know how much this differs to other places and I think it’s changing soon here but that’s how it was for me. So when it came to choosing A-levels I went for a range as I wasn’t really sure what I would want to do afterwards, I had always loved Literature but didn’t think it was worth doing past A-level as I didn’t think there would be any jobs in it, so I was actually looking into nursing degrees when I came to choosing my subjects, so to leave myself open to any science degrees look two science A-levels. If you want to do a science course at uni, then you need to do two science A-levels a lot of the time, and some may require maths. A warning if you are heading into A-levels though; science subjects are really hard just because there is so much to remember, and you will probably have no lessons for revision but all for learning (especially with biology) so although you may understand it in class, you need to go through EVERYTHING out of class in order to know all you need to.
When it comes to A-levels the amount you need to work really depends on your ability, your subjects and how suited to your subjects you are but I was in the top classes for everything during my GCSE’s and then found A-levels so hard. In terms of revision my friends didn’t do much so I would have to sit there working through my notes while they all played games quite a few times, and takign the odd break for a card game or something but ultimately just doing loads of work. I didn’t do this as much in my first year but you really should because I then resat a couple of exams in my second, because although I passed them and was pleased with what I got, the courses I wanted to get on at uni wanted higher grades. I went through a whole load of revision cards, filling them with info throughout the whole year then making question cards for ones I answered wrong in past papers. This took a lot of time but seriously did help, I also just read through my notes, I did all of my homework, went through the answers when I got it back and learnt all I got wrong through revision cards and extra help sessions which my college held at lunch times. I definitely recommend doing past papers and going over everything you get wrong until you can do it right every time because some questions are repeated across years or you may have a similar style of question.
For essay based subjects you should really find or think of as many essay questions as you can and make essay plans for them. I started off with A4 essay plans then went through them until I could rattle them off without looking much, then reduced them down until they were just on revision cards but I could write a whole essay off of those few words, as then I was able to look through the words in the lead up to the exam, remember those and I could remember the essays I had practiced. Of course doing all this didn’t give me perfect scores but it really did help and I wouldn’t have done as good as I did without doing all of this, these things may not work for everyone though.
Now when it comes to looking at universities you should bare in mind a whole load of things such as how good the course is, how high the grades they ask for are, the location of the university, whether you want to stay there or live at home, and whether you could afford it. Some choices may come obvious to you, some may be hard and there are probably somethings you will have to sacrifice. I gathered many different prospectuses, and went to look at 6 different universities. When you are looking at them, all you have to go off of is your AS grades (first year of A-Levels) and as mine were not as high as a lot of universities asked for I had to look at specific courses that were good but not the one I would have chosen, I also looked at ones slightly further away than I would have liked and ones where accommodation was expensive. In the end you need a wide range of choices as not all may give you an offer, then you only get one firm choice and one insurance choice so need both to be ones you like, and for your insurance choice to have lower grades that your firm or else if you don’t get high enough grade for your firm choice you won’t be able to go to your insurance either.
I was actually very lucky as out of the five I applied to I was given an offer from all five despite the grade I had at the time being lower than what all five asked for (although one was in tariff points and I had some extra things which would have counted and bumped me up a couple grades into what they wanted). So I was applying for English literature as during A-Levels I really started hating learning science and knew it was just not what I wanted to do as a job and instead found out there were a lot more possible jobs to get with literature than I had thought because as English is a pretty core subject, the degree can be great for a large number of jobs. If you just google the degree you would like and ‘possible jobs’ you should get large lists which you can consider and may reassure you. As literature is an essay based subject, the personal statement held a lot of merit as it would with any essay based subject as writing is what you are going to be doing when you get there so you need to show you are good. Of course it is important for applying to any course though so I would suggest checking out http://www.studential.com/ which has a whole load of advice for applying, but i just used the personal statement section where you can read people’s personal statements, see their grades and where they got into as this helps in knowing what kind of tone to write in and the sort of thing to write about. Obviously you can’t copy them or parts of them as any plagiarism or lies in your statement would probably get caught and it isn’t worth it but it’s super helpful for ideas.
Also, for your personal statement I would recommend checking over it a lot of times, if your teachers are happy to, you may be able to ask their opinions on it and get some ideas that way. I split my personal statement into 5 paragraphs;
- Why I like literature and want to study it as a degree
- What I was doing as A-Levels and how they are well suited for the degree I want
- Hobbies which work with the course (I talked about how I read a lot, was in a book club, had done NaNoWriMo and have this blog as they are all literature linked)
- Hobbies separate from the course (to show you are a well rounded person not just interested in the one thing)
- What I was thinking of doing after university and why.
There are a few other sections of the application though such as imputing your qualifications where I was advised it is better to but the overall grade but not the modules as it looks cleaner, but that’s probably not that important, it just looks a little nicer, some places may prefer to see them I don’t know. Another factor is that your teachers are required to give a reference for you and will be truthful so you want to get on their good side, also be open to them if you are worried about getting grades the universities are asking for as they could be able to reassure you or may add into your reference about you being able to get the grades they want (only if you actually can of course). Attending extra sessions and always doing homework are things that they probably put in there as well so working hard and being open about it to your teachers really pays off.
This was fun to write as I it took so much to do well in A-levels and get into university, I hope this helps some people too, I’ll see you soon.
Also, here’s a photo for you of all my notes and revision cards for my second year of A-Levels (and resits but not with any of the textbooks from either year);