As someone who went through UCAS twice, I can sympathise with the thousands of undergraduate hopefuls going through the process now. The first time was actually CUKAS, a specific version of UCAS used for applications to music, dance, and drama schools. I applied, I auditioned, I got in. This was in 2009. In 2010 I started my course, by 2011 I knew it was the wrong choice, in 2012 I reapplied through UCAS for a language degree and later that year started my adventure at Cardiff. What’s the point of my little life story? I have spent a lot of time thinking about the advantages and the shortcomings of the whole system.
Young people are brought up being told that going to university will get them the job they want. Sometimes this is true. But it is neither a guarantee nor necessarily a good choice. The amount of university applicants these days is much higher than the number of graduate jobs available, and the expectation of work experience is all too familiar with those of us in their final years. People being asked to make a defining decision so young often leads to them pursuing qualifications they later realise are not for them. My take on this is that young people should not be encouraged to go straight to university from school, unless they ardently know what they want, instead taking a year or two to work and gain experience in something. This often produces more focused individuals, and more satisfied students. In between my first and second universities, I had the opportunity to work and take a break from having my head stuck in books. I absolutely know this had a positive impact on my time at Cardiff.
Starting one degree and going onto another wouldn’t really be a big deal. Except Student Finance only grants you five years of student loan. Depending on the length of your course, this could be make or break.
From a different aspect of UCAS, applying for universities with predicted grades is a problem. Universities have to gamble on the places they offer based against how many they expect will achieve their offer. It adds stress to the already hectic final year of school for the student, not only do they have to take the exams, they have to get certain grades or have to rethink their whole plan. Would it not be simpler to apply for university after having received confirmation of A Level grades? When I applied for the second time, I already had my grades. The application process was no stress because I knew after I’d pressed send, all I had to wait for was a yes or a no. There was no maybe. For me, it was incredibly simple. For my peers at Cardiff, it was incredibly stressful.
To conclude, some people apply for university at the age of 17 or 18, and they get it absolutely right. But the system does not allow for the many people who do not. Something needs to change.