It was results day today, as you could probably tell by the fact the hashtag #alevelresults was trending on Twitter from around 7am. I’ll be honest I was nervous last night, sleep wasn’t exactly coming easy and I was up most of the evening on TheStudentRoom looking at stories of people getting in to their chosen universities with low grades. I applied for English Language and Linguistics at Southampton in the end… and I got in!
My results above were not what I wanted or expected. My ALevels were in English Language, Politics and History – all three essay subjects, two of which also had coursework to contend with. I’ll be honest, looking back it would have been easier to choose one subject that wasn’t completely essay based, but I like a challenge.
It’s not advised, but I actually only visited two universities: Southampton and Cardiff. Cardiff was underwhelming and I barely looked round, whereas Southampton was everything I wanted from a uni. My must have list wasn’t too long. I wanted somewhere no more than 3 hours away from home, had to have en suite rooms and was hopefully part of the prestigious Russel group. Southampton ticked all the boxes.
I never intended to wish to study English Language and Linguistics, I accidentally stumbled upon the course while looking round Southampton. I thought my heart was set on doing Law; ever since I took part in mock trials I’ve wanted to become a barrister. On a whim, me and my dad visited the Southampton humanities campus to see what English had to offer. We went on a tour where a very friendly student told us about this new for 2017 course she had been emailed about. She directed us down to English to find out more, it eventually turned out that the course was in Modern Languages which we found with some help. The lecturer we spoke to was so passionate about the new course she had created, I was sold instantly and decided that was what I wanted to do. Knowing Southampton was my top choice I knew I had to find four other choices to put into UCAS that had slightly lower entry requirements.
My predicted grades for the year were ABB, as you can see above I did not achieve that at all. I managed B’s in English Language and Politics, as well as a C in History. The course at Southampton wanted me to get AAB with an A in English Language (or another essay based subject.) As you can imagine I was very sceptical about being able to manage the grades, and quite surprised when Southampton offered me a conditional offer still at AAB.
The reason I decided to write this post was to, in a way, offer hope to those who miss the grades required. Somehow Southampton accepted me onto the course with grades nowhere near the ones they asked for, and unsurprisingly I spent the day racking my brain as to why and what reasons they would do such a thing. I thought it might be useful for those applying in years to come, also as a guide – though I am certainly no expert and in no way am saying that these ‘tips’ are substitutes for hard work. (I worked my arse off and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.)
Luck – I’m not joking when I say that luck played a huge part. Simply finding the course was by luck. On top of that it happened to be new for 2017 and they had not done much marketing for it. This meant that only a handful of prospective students knew that it existed. It was extremely difficult to find on the website up until after the UCAS deadline, this meant that people couldn’t even stumble upon it by accident, you had to know it existed and be willing to put in the time. Therefore, the lack of interest and knowledge, equated to less applicants I suppose. Now I’m not saying you should choose a course just because it’s new and not many people know about it but, it certainly does help.
A Memorable Personal Statement – Some universities don’t interview applicants so your predicted grades, references and personal statement are what they have to go on. The poor admissions staff read hundreds upon hundreds of personal statements every year so if you don’t make it funny and memorable the likelihood is that when it comes to results day they’re not going to suddenly remember who you are and think that maybe they should give you a chance. I started mine with an anecdote about my family being pedants, why not try something similar in yours?
A Burning Passion For The Subject – Luckily, Southampton gave me an interview which meant I really could show them how much I love the course. Most people who applied had only studied English Literature, and while you might not think that would make a large difference it really seemed to. The taster lecture was like a college lesson for me and the theories we spoke about are already ingrained in my brain. I also surprised the lady in my lecture as I had already started reading around the subject. While putting any reading you have done on your personal statement is important, don’t forget to mention it if you have an interview, they really do appreciate the effort. My interview lasted twice the length we expected to as we ended up discussing our love of language. The only question I felt I needed to ask my interviewer by the end was whether my lower predicted grades would be a problem. She didn’t think it would be and made a note to speak to the admissions office about it, partially I believe that is why I may still have got in.
Lower than Usual Applications – There was a lot of coverage this year around the fact that less people than usual applied to uni. This was lucky for me and others who didn’t quite get the grades as it meant that many universities had less choice than normal years. A lot of sources believe that the new format of ALevels was to blame, two of my courses went from modular to linear which meant the results from my AS exams meant nothing and so it became harder. Whether this trend will continue is unknown but if it does it could mean that universities have to lower requirements to keep places filled. Also, a university is more likely to take someone they have interviewed or know about as they have already spent valuable time on you.
Like I said earlier, I’m not an expert. I don’t work for UCAS or a university, I’ve just been through the process and against all the odds have made it into my top university without the grades I thought I would need. Congratulations to everyone who got their results today, I hope you got what you needed, but if not, it’s not the end of the world. You will succeed. Let me know if this post was helpful, I might do a university post every once in a while and make it a series.