20 November 2018Last updated


“Start thinking about uni when your child is 16”

Get your child ahead of the game with these expert tips

Louisa kiernander
28 Sep 2016 | 12:55 pm
  • Cambridge University


We asked Camilla Smiley, director of consulting at Holland Park Education Consultants and an expert on university applications (specifically for Oxbridge colleges), for her advice on how to help your child make the right choices.

Q. How early should you start thinking about your child’s university options and plan?

A. We advise that students need to start thinking about their options and choices surrounding university by the end of year 11 (age 16). A level and IB choices can affect what students are able to take at university so it is in students interest to think about their a level choices with university in mind. This also gives you time to build your experience and do the sort of activities that can make your application stand out. GCSE grades are increasingly important for universities in considering whether or not to make an offer, as are predicted grades. Applying to the UK does not close down your ability to apply to the US and Canada as well.

Q. What should be the first step, or the first decision, you make?

A. The first step or decision that is made should be your degree subject choice. This is also the most important decision as students will be studying this choice for the next three - four years. From this choice students can then think about the type of university they would like to attend. When it comes to tis choice, students need to think about what they are interested in and what they might enjoy studying. Then they need to look at if they are interested in a subject that requires certain A level choices (this would only really apply to medicine and veterinary science)

Q. Realistically, with such a small percentage of students getting into Oxbridge universities, students and their parents need to also look outside of those two institutions when applying to unis. With so many unis to choose from, how can students (and parents) work out which university will be best for them?

A. In order to choose the best university, students need to consider whether the courses offered are fit for their interests, the reputation of the university and the opportunity presented by their networks and ‘brand’ of the university, the location of the university and the environment they want to live in for the next 3-4 years, the accommodation offered, financial considerations and visas etc. School advisors and careers guidance staff can help a lot with this. and a lot can be researched online, or you can hire a trusted and experienced advisor - one of the services we offer. The starting point is always the students interests and that can help guide the rest of the process.

Q. What order of importance would these go in – the course, the university, or the grade?

A. When choosing a university these elements can’t be rated in terms of importance, however when it comes to getting to leaving university and getting a job, then the university and the grade are most important. Students are more likely to get a better grade in a course they are interested in so it’s most important to choose the subject/course that interests them .

Q. What tips do you have for students for writing their personal statement?

A. When it comes to writing your personal statement, it’s essential to be honest. This should be largely academic, but use personal experience and extra curricular activities to evidence your interest in the subject matter of the course you are applying to, think about events you’ve attended, projects worked on, coursework undertaken, books read. Explain the evolution of your thought processes as your interest in the subject grew. Make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar is perfect. Structure it well.

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Louisa kiernander

Louisa kiernander