Your top uni questions... answered

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A student ponders questions under a mortarboard

We took a look at what uni questions people are searching for on the web. Some of you were asking "Can I go to uni without A-levels?", while others pondered living at home for uni while or transferring universities after second year.

'Your top uni questions answered by @successatschool'

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Naturally, we wanted to help out - so we came up with this list of your top uni queries to help you prepare. In this article, we tackle:

  • When do universities receive A-level results?
  • Can I go to uni without A-levels?
  • What uni courses can I do with my A-levels?
  • Is living at home for uni an option?
  • Can I transfer universities after second year?
  • What should I do if I want to drop out of uni?

When do universities receive A-level results?

Students receiving their exam results

Universities receive your exam results the weekend before you

get them

UCAS sends your exam results to the universities you’ve applied to the weekend before you collect your results.

Technically, this means you could log in to Track to see whether your uni place has been confirmed before you pick up your results. If you’re thinking about doing this, don’t forget that you still won’t find out your specific results till results day. It might be worth waiting till then, as that way there will be plenty of support on hand if things don’t go your way.

We’re talking A-levels here, but there are a whole bunch of other qualifications UCAS shares with unis (you can see a full list here of qualifications here). There are also qualifications UCAS doesn’t handle – for example, if universities have included GCSE results in your offer, you’ll need to send them your certificates.

Can I go to uni without A-levels?

Yes, it is possible to go to uni without A-levels.

Of course, if you live in Scotland, you’ll study for highers, which are equivalent to A-levels. There are also, there are alternative “equivalent” courses available to students in other parts of the UK as well – the International Baccalaureate is a popular course which the majority of universities accept.

A-levels, highers and qualifications like the International Baccalaureate are all “academic” qualifications – but maybe you have something more vocational or “practical” in mind when asking “Can I go to uni without A-levels?”

Many universities accept qualifications such as the BTEC, as well as a range of diplomas and other qualifications, as part of their entrance requirements.

There is also something called an integrated degree, which is a four-year course includes a foundation component, which some universities offer to students without the usual qualifications for university.

Some colleges also offer access-to-higher education diplomas in certain subjects. The diploma gives people who don’t have the usual university qualifications, such as A-levels, the grounding they need to go to university. They’re mainly aimed at adults who have been out of education for a while.

The qualifications and grades you’ll need will depend on the universities you’re applying to. If you can, you should find out what you’re likely to need before you pick your subjects. If you’re a young person and know you want to go to university, the chances are A-levels (or equivalent) are the best bet for you. Always talk to your teachers, careers advisor and family to make sure your choices fit in with your own plans.

What uni courses can I do with my A-levels?

Maths blackboard

The uni courses you can do with your A-levels depends on the

uni's requirements and the degree course

You won’t be surprised to learn that the uni courses you can do with your A-levels depends to a certain degree on your A-levels.

As a rule, the requirements tend to be stricter with STEM subjects (that’s science, technology, engineering, maths and the gang). For example, if you want to study maths at university, you’ll often need further maths as well, and some unis will look more favourably on students with physics and other science subjects (for example). If you want to study medicine, you’d need to have all three science subjects (physics and chemistry as well as biology).

Where possible, an A-level in your chosen degree subject will be required. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, particularly in the arts and humanities. For example, many universities will accept applicants onto a philosophy course without requiring a philosophy A-level. And some uni subjects just aren’t available at A-levels, or are extremely hard to come by (history of art, for example).

Some universities, in particular the Russell Group and other top universities, tend to be stricter than others. You’ll need to check the entrance requirements on the individual universities’ websites to find out.

Is living at home for uni an option?

Yes, many students choose to live at home.

According to the Independent, 328,000 UK students chose to live at home in 2015-16, out of 2.28 million studying at higher education institutions (posh term for universities and similar bodies) - that’s more than one out of every 10.

Student form

Living with other students on campus is the most popular option

- but you can live at home if that suits your circumstances

Living at home has pros and cons. The benefits of living at home include:

  • Cheaper accommodation and living costs.
  • Potentially nicer living conditions than uni halls or shared accommodation.

The disadvantages include:

  • The time it takes to get to university every day.
  • Missing out on socialising, independent living and “uni culture”.

And don’t forget, living at home doesn’t necessarily wipe out living costs. Your family may not be keen for you to freeload off them for three years. You might be expected to pay your way or contribute to housework or chores. You’ll also need to fund your travel – whether that involves catching the bus or train, or driving.

Living at home for uni could be ideal for you, but you should certainly do your research before making that choice. Use the internet to find out about the experiences of other students, and weigh up the pros and cons for your own individual circumstances.

Can I transfer universities after second year?

Yes, it is possible to transfer universities between years.

Transferring unis is a dramatic step, and it’s vitally important to be sure it’s the best thing to do before making your final decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself first:

  • What’s your reason for wanting to change unis? Is there something you can change without resorting to such an extreme measure?
  • Is it the university or the course?
  • Are you confident your problem will be solved by changing universities?
  • Are you prepared to go through the upheaval of moving to a new place, making new friends and settling in?

Talk to friends, family and peers. Your uni will almost certainly have a counselling service and there will be plenty of people you can talk to - try the students’ union, for example.

If you’re certain transferring is the right thing to do, do your research. Be sure that the university you move to is the right choice. Visit, talk to staff and students, and check up on the university carefully.

Practically, the process of transferring universities is fairly straightforward:

  1. Contact the university (or universities) you’re considering transferring to and find out whether they’ll accept you onto the course. This will depend on the university, the course, and the point at which you’re transferring.
  2. Apply via UCAS. Check the UCAS guidance on applying for transfers, as you'll need to provide some extra details to make sure you get onto the right year of your course. For example, if you transfer in your second year, you’ll need to put down your point of entry as “2”.
  3. Let your current university know that you’ve decided to transfer.

What should I do if I want to drop out of uni?

Dropping out of university is a big step to take. For some students, it’s the right one, but there are some questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Newman University open day

    Open days are a good way of making sure your university

    choice is right for you from the very start

    Why are you considering dropping out? Is the problem university itself, or can you make changes? For example, what elements of the uni experience do you most enjoy, and which are causing your problems? Could you rebalance your life?
  • Are you overworking yourself? It can be really hard to tell, so a good first step might be to talk to your tutor, supervisor or director of studies? They may be able to help you prioritise your work. Chat to your classmates, friends and peers as well.
  • Could you transfer courses or even universities instead (see above)?
  • Could you be experiencing a mental health crisis? There is plenty of help available for people with mental health problems. Your university will have a counselling service, and you should also visit your GP, and talk to friends and family you trust and feel comfortable speaking to. You can also take a look at our article on managing stress, but it's no substitute for speaking to someone.
  • What do your friends and family think about the idea of dropping out?
  • Could you take some time out instead? Some universities allow you to put your course on hold and return after some time away (a year, for example). This could allow you to try other things without giving up on uni entirely. We’ve got plenty of advice on gap years for you to look at.
  • What will the financial cost of dropping out be? Are you willing to shoulder that without collecting your degree?
  • What will you do next? You should research different career paths, and find out about apprenticeships and school/college leaver programmes that might be open to you. Take a look at our gap year advice as well.

If you do decide that leaving university is the best choice for you, you’re not alone. In 2014-15, around 6% of university students in England didn’t continue to the next year of their course. If university is not for you, recognising that is a positive step, and as long as you plan and prepare for the next stage of your career, you can make a success of it.

If your not convinced about uni and want to make a balanced decision, check out our pros and cons of university.

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Image credits

Lead image: question mark, figure and mortarboard via Freepik

3 girls on results day via Thomas Tallis School Flickr account, maths blackboard via Pxhere, Student dorm via University of Minnesota Duluth Flickr account, Newman University open day via Wikimedia Commons


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