It’s that time of year again, where smiling students jumping in the air waving pieces of white paper grace the front pages of our newspapers. Results are out and thousands of freshers are gearing up for the next chapter of their lives, university.
University seems to be the best passport to a brighter future, but is it really? In the era of the double dip recession young people are worrying more than ever about finding a job, so the class of 2012 had a decision to make: take the risk of joining the jobless 2.65 million or join the student population, praying that their bright futures will await them on the other side.
I am one of these students, although not the one on the front of the newspaper but one of those who, accompanied by the rest of the country, awaited my fate on the 16th August. I slept for two hours before waiting for the final moment of truth; I typed in my username and password to the UCAS Track system and held my breath. I had barely read Track before I screamed, telling my mother that I had in fact not been murdered but had been accepted to my first choice university.
So in October I shall uproot from my quiet little town to the big wide world of university. Ignoring the emotional upheaval, let’s take a look at the economic changes that will affect me and my fellow students:
As the first year after the infamous fee change we are to be charged £9,000 a year solely for tuition fees. Add into the equation accommodation, the lowest average price for halls accommodation is approximately £4,000 (add an en suite bathroom and we move into the high £5,000 bracket) and particularly expensive universities go up to the £11,000 bracket. Unlike tuition fees, which do not have to be paid up front, accommodation costs do. These usually take place in three instalments, one per term. University is an investment, but the high price to be paid means that some potential students simply cannot afford to go. Other students are taking Gap Years to earn money to pay for university; the telegraph aptly stated that ‘the only people who can afford to take a Gap Year are the ones who spent it working at Deloitte’. Sad, but very true.
However before you get to university you have to navigate your way through the absolute minefield of the UCAS application process. Step 1: decide what you would like to study. This in itself is extremely difficult as courses exist that most sixth formers would never have heard of. Once this has been chosen, alongside their ordinary studies they must begin the dreaded 4,000 character (and categorically no more) personal statement this is pretty much a letter to your universities informing them of reasons your application should be accepted. It should consist of several things including why you want to do the course and your hobbies and interests. You can then talk about extra qualifications such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award which demonstrates your commitment to an activity. Next you should include previous work experience and the roles you completed whilst you were there. Note that the university will not have met you at this point and they sift through thousands of personal statements, you should want yours to stand out. Finally you must include references from your teachers; there is not much you can do about these minus proofreading them, you can only make sure that they promote you as much as possible.
You then choose 5 universities which these should be of varying grade requirements. It is important to note that the university is in control of what offers it gives out, meaning that two people could get different offers for the same course. All you can do after that is work extremely hard and patiently wait once exams are over. This year a lot of universities (not really the top 20 but many outside of this) accepted students who narrowly missed their grade requirements. However do not take this for granted by choosing a university with much higher grade requirements than you believe you can achieve in the hope that they will still let you in.
There are some benefits to the higher fees. Students are more likely to consider whether or not they really need to go to university, if it is cost effective and whether it is necessary to get them into their chosen career. If the answer is no then maybe re-evaluate whether university is for you. On the other hand the higher fees may mean that a larger proportion of students will push themselves harder to gain the highest degrees, in order to make the most of the university experience. I have just been accepted, which for me is a dream come true, yet I do realise that University is not for everyone. Yes it is expensive – but it is probably the most profitable pound you will ever spend.
BY: Yasmin Levy-Miller