The summer in between Year 12 and 13 is a great time to start thinking seriously about your plans for after you leave school.
One of the best things you can do over the summer is revising your year 12 content! If you're considering applying for any universities which require interviews, revision is a great way to prepare. It will also serve you well in any upcoming mock exams. Revising can also help you identify the parts of your courses that you find the most interesting, and act as a jumping-off point for wider reading. Online there are all sorts of free revision resources, such as the Physics and Maths Tutor website 🔗; videos like CrashCourse 🔗; as well as Quizlet 🔗 🌟.
“Read around your subject” is one of the most common pieces of advice given to students thinking of applying to university, and for good reason - it can increase your knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject, and shows to the tutors that you are truly interested in your chosen subject that you’ll be studying for the next few years, and enjoy engaging with it. Here on the InsideUni website, we have compiled a wide variety of different resources in our subject guides 🔗 🌟 to help you do this.
There is a wealth of information and sources online for you to learn more about your subject. Science blogs and magazines, for example, New Scientist, Scientific American, The Oxford Scientist Magazine are a great way to be up to date with new discoveries in your chosen field in an accessible way. Educational websites like Khan Academy 🔗, EdX 🔗, Crash Course 🔗 and Coursera 🔗 can help give you a good grounding of the basics, as well as university-level insights. Many scientific journals are behind an expensive paywall, but there are some which aren’t for example the Journal of Cell Science, where you can read articles about research, however many of these are very difficult to read without having started your degree!
There are so many popular science books out there, which can be found at your local library or bookshop - pick some on topics that you’re interested in! The “Very Short Introductions” series is great for getting a more in-depth overview of a topic. Videos from science channels such as SciShow 🔗 can be used as a springboard for further research, because they are a quick way to find out about lots of different things, and by themselves can be part of developing your interest and subject knowledge. BBC iPlayer 🔗, as well as many other streaming services also often have documentaries available on many different areas of science.
Podcasts are a great opportunity to engage with your subject in an everyday context. Listen while you’re doing the dishes or on a walk, and if anything sparks your interest, follow it up afterwards. The process of using a ‘source’ such as a lecture or podcast, and then researching anything interesting, contradictory or surprising that it mentioned, is a key part of being a student. Again, this will prepare you for life as a student, and could come in handy as evidence of interest and curiosity on your personal statement. On the Life Scientific podcast 🔗 🌟, Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, many of whom are biologists from a variety of different areas. These are really good for getting snapshots into a wide range of different topics that aren’t really covered in the A-level (or equivalent) course, and a good jumping-off point to find areas that you want to read and learn more about.
The summer between Year 12 and Year 13 is the perfect time to start thinking seriously about firstly, whether you would like to go to university in a year’s time; secondly, what course you would like to study; and thirdly, which universities you would like to apply to. Check out our blog post on choosing a university 🔗 🌟 for advice on the various factors to consider when making your decision.
Lots of universities hold open days and preview events, both of which are a great way to find out which course is right for you. As there are so many options, it can be a bit tricky to work out where to start - so here are some tips to help you get the most out of these events!
1. Plan ahead
Although it might seem self-explanatory, having a plan before you arrive at an open day will save you tons of time (and stress!)
This is especially true in current circumstances: some universities are holding events in-person, some are taking place virtually and some are using a hybrid of both! Take a look at university websites and use the UCAS Events search tool 🔗 🌟 to make sure you know where and when you’ll be able to look around your chosen providers. Certain events might also require you to book a space, so make sure you stay up to date and register in plenty of time.
You’ll also need to think about travelling to and from the university, if you do get the chance to go in person. Some institutions offer bursaries to help cover travel costs if you meet given contextual criteria - you can find out more on the UK Universities Search website 🔗.
2. Know which workshops and sessions you want to attend
Open days tend to include a variety of activities, some of which might be more useful to you than others. These can include:
- Presentations on individual courses, departments and subjects
- Presentations on broader topics such as student finance, pastoral support and accommodation
- Q&A panels
- Subject masterclasses
To get the most out of your time, try to prioritise which areas of the university you are most interested in exploring - you likely won’t have the chance to see everything in one day!
3. Ask questions (and bring a bag!)
Open days are an excellent opportunity to speak to current staff and students, and to hear their insight on what university life is like. Bring a small notebook and pen with you, so that you can write down your questions and any information you want to follow up on after the event is finished. Comfy shoes and a bag are also a must - ready to take home all of those prospectuses!
For more advice on how to make the most of the open days on offer this summer, check out the UCAS website 🔗. For details of upcoming open days at Oxford and Cambridge, see our InsideUni Guide to Open Days 🔗 🌟.
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