Letter 2 – 13.09.18 The Last Day

Thursday 13th September 2018

Life takes you to unexpected places, love bring you home – anonymous

So today is the last full day I get to spend at home before I technically move out and travel to university tomorrow. Today I did my last minute shop to buy a chopping board, some cute copper baskets for my desk and of course, more fairy lights. So for today’s post I thought I would tell you a little bit about my experience prepping for university this last year and how it all happens in the UK.

So, in the UK when you are 17 (usually) you are encouraged to think about what route you want to take when you leave school – whether that is an apprenticeship, trying to get a job, taking a gap year or going straight to uni. For me, I knew immediately that I wanted to go to university (and having an older brother who had already gone through the process, it seemed like the most logical step for me to take).

So you want to go to uni, what next?


Lucky for me, 99% of the people at my school also apply for university places so I was given a decent amount of support through my application. Here is pretty much how it goes (as far as I can remember):

  1. You start visiting uni open days to get a feel for a wide range of different unis e.g. campus or collegiate.
  2. You receive your predicted grades from school. These might help you decide on a degree subject and then can be used to compare with the grade requirements for different universities.
  3. You write your personal statement, which is basically an A4 page document explaining why you are a perfect candidate for your chosen course.
  4. You pick a maximum of 5 universities (it’s a little different for vocational degrees or medicine), send off your personal statement (and any extra documents they require) and wait to hear back…
  5. You receive letters of acceptance/ rejection from your universities. Here, if you’re accepted, they will outline the grade requirements you need to secure your place in the autumn.
  6. Time to pick your firm choice (1st choice) and insurance (2nd choice, usually lower grades to ensure you can get into somewhere!)
  7. And then it’s the scary part, you sit your exams and await the results…

A year later from when you began and you’re standing in your school hall, probably with your parents, clutching a piece of paper with your grades. And hopefully, you’ll be off to university a month later.

And so that’s what happens. It’s a little different for everyone, depending on your course, university choices etc. and it definitely isn’t always as simple as that. There are deadlines, last minute changes and an enormous amount of stress, stress and stress. But through it all you just have to remember- this happens every year, to every one, and it’s all worth it in the end.

So now that is all the general stuff over, well I think it’s time I tell you about my personal experience applying for university. Coming into Year 12 (or sixth form as it’s more commonly known), I was already pretty sure that I wanted to do my degree in English literature. I loved to read, I found english lessons not entirely dull, and (and this is what probably swung it), when I was in year 10 my English teacher told my mum, ‘I think Sophie should apply for English at Oxford’. And so I did.

exeterNow just to make it clear, I’m going to Exeter, not Oxford. And again that is a story for another post. So, I had decided on a course, now it was time to have a look at my university options. Lucky for me I had come out with a very solid set of predicted grades across my 4 A level subjects (English lit, Latin, Maths and Dance), so could pretty much choose wherever I wanted. So I looked up the league tables (not that they really tell you much) as well as a map of the UK so I could pinpoint where all these unis were. Eventually I came up with my 5 unis, and they were

  1. Oxford
  2. Exeter
  3. Bristol
  4. Warwick
  5. and Durham

Whilst on my summer holidays I strove to write my personal statement, filling it with self-praise and long words which I’d pinched from the thesaurus to try and make myself sound more academic. After several drafts, I sent it off along with the rest of my application. The road to Oxford was a very long process, and by January I received an email informing me that my application had been unsuccessful.

Moving on.

But I did manage to get offers from the other 4 unis I had applied to. I’d actually only visited Exeter and Warwick, and having looked on my map and realising just how far away Durham was, and knowing nothing about Bristol, I decided that Exeter would therefore be my first choice and Warwick my second. And then all that was left was to sit my A-level exams.

Jump forward two months and results day was upon me, and having been left home alone it was my job to wake up early and drive myself into school (alone) to pick up my results. Luckily, I had already received an email from Exeter (and from UCAS Track, which is the whole application system), telling me that my place had been confirmed.

So that made the drive to school a whooooole lot easier. I walked it, collected my results, chatted to my teachers and then went to Pizza Express to celebrate with one of my best friends and get free dough balls.

Not a bad day.

And so here we are, this time tomorrow I will be in the car on the way to Exeter, my little home in Buckinghamshire seeming like a world away. And despite being nervous,

I can’t wait 🙂

So, here’s to tomorrow…

Sophie Xx


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