Applicant Profile: Phoebe Ferguson
At Ballakermeen Sixth Form, whilst we have a diverse and interesting range of destinations for our students, by far the most popular post A Level route remains university entrance. This year, by the closing deadline of 15th January, we had sent 116 university applications for an enormous variety of different courses. Students can apply for up to five different courses, or indeed five courses in the same university, although this is somewhat unwise!
They complete the application form and write a personal statement. This is a document of 47 lines or 4000 characters, in which the applicants set out why they believe that they are an appropriate proposition for the course. It’s a really tough document to write. The applicant has to sound like he or she is confident in his or her ability, without sounding over-confident. They also have to get under the skin of why they want to follow the course and explain this, without resorting to banal statements like ‘it’s my favourite subject’ or ‘it’s the thing I do best’. By December, several rain forests’ worth of drafts have been shredded and the Sixth Form team have started to become jittery when a student says, ‘Please could you have another look at my Personal Statement?’
Thankfully, that part of the process is now over, and our students face the most exciting part of the application procedure, which is receiving offers (we hope!), then attending Open Days at their chosen institutions to get a feel for them, perhaps meeting potential fellow students and teaching staff as part of the experience. Offers from universities are either conditional, which means dependent upon the student gaining certain grades, or unconditional. An unconditional offer usually means that the institution is so impressed by the academic calibre of the applicant, and by the quality of the application, that they do not feel the need to base the offer on the A Level grades. Until a couple of years ago, unconditional offers were pretty much unheard of. Now, whilst not commonplace, we see them more and more. Being realistic, this could be seen as a marketing or recruitment tool used by a university. It is also the case, however, that many of our students have gained unconditional offers from highly selective universities, for very sought after courses, so let’s not be discouraging about this great achievement on behalf of our students.
Over the coming weeks, we plan to feature a number of profiles of this year’s applicants. We will interview them about the courses for which they have applied, and ask them about the current status of their application. By now, students are starting to narrow their choices down to just two, which are known as the Firm (first choice) and Insurance (second choice). Deciding is never easy, so we hope that their journey and the rationale that they employ when making these choices may be of interest to our future applicants.
The first profile is Phoebe’s. We hope you enjoy finding out more about her application.
Age: 19 (Phoebe would like to strenuously point out that she requested the opportunity to repeat Year 12, and it was not because she had no alternative!)
Course applied for: Maths and Statistics
York AAB, Essex BBB, Queen’s University Belfast ABB, Lancaster AAB, Sheffield ABB.
Interestingly, whilst many offer Mathematics degrees, far fewer offer Maths with Statistics.
Why did you apply for this course?
I have always loved Maths, then I did some work experience in an E-gaming company in the summer. This gave me a really practical application of the theoretical knowledge I had gained from lessons, as the company let me create spreadsheets for converting ratings from websites into odds and probabilities. Nobody really appreciates the number crunching and analysis of data that goes on in the background. You may think you are just using Google, but every click creates data somewhere.
What kind of research did you do to make sure that this was the right decision?
First of all, the work experience really helped. Then I made sure I made as many visits to universities as possible. I went to Open Days and also arranged private visits. At York, I was invited to interview as, if you take up that opportunity, sometimes they may be a little more generous with your offer. It was really nerve-wracking, as that kind of situation is really out of my comfort zone. At the start of the session, the professor asked me some questions about E-gaming. He had misunderstood it somewhat, but I explained it to him in the end! This really boosted my confidence. I had really over-prepared and practised tonnes of quite complicated Maths, but in the end it was less daunting than it could have been. I suppose it’s a good example of ‘it’s never as frightening as you think it’s going to be’. Leaving nothing to chance in my preparation really helped.
Have you picked your final choices yet?
Nearly! The experience at York was great. It’s an amazing uni and has a great reputation. I was thrilled that they reduced my offer to ABB, so that’s likely to be my firm choice, although I am still considering Lancaster too. It’s really hard narrowing them down! I thought I’d really like Sheffield too but, after visiting, it just didn’t feel right for me. After York and Lancaster, the course that is probably the most suitable is at Essex, which is BBB. However, I spoke to the Sixth Form Team and, as I haven’t visited Essex yet, I am going to delay making my final decision until after I have been there. On paper, the course really suits my needs, but I just want to check that the place suits me too.
Next time: Everyone’s favourite future journalist – Katie Garrett!