Key points on university admission | Portsmouth High School

Key points on university admission

Last Friday I attended our regional Girls’ School Association meeting at The Royal School in Haslemere. I am chair of this committee and through these gatherings gain much from the shared practice that is a feature of our association.

This time we listened to a presentation from Dr Annalisa Alexander from Imperial College, London. I thought I would summarise her key points on university admission.

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is much valued and respected by universities. Whilst Imperial do not include it in their offers (some universities do such as UCL and Southampton) they do take it into account when making offers and in the application process. The message was clear that to take an EPQ is an advantage.

There is no advantage to more than 3 A Levels. The school should clearly state the number they offer on the reference and students are not given any preference if they take more than 3 subjects. To attain 3 good grades is better than 4 less good.

Imperial do not make unconditional offers. Universities that do attach a condition which is to make them your firm choice. This is changing and some universities – Nottingham to name one – are making these offers with no conditions attached. The universities are learning which institutions do not let them down by their students still attaining great grades despite the unconditional offer and as a result may

modify their approach to selected schools. At Portsmouth High School our girls don’t take their foot off the pedal if they receive an unconditional offer and I believe this practice of offers should be encouraged to help the well-being of students who put themselves under too much pressure.

Personal statements are important. They want to see that you are interested in the subject you wish to study and have therefore explored it well and furthermore that you have interests that are beneficial to the university – play a musical instrument, in the hockey team, debated for your school.

They do not actively discriminate against social class or background but simply select on the best student as judged by academic factors, interview, their own tests and so on. They find that this way they end up with a cross section of society.

The school reference is vital and the universities get to know which schools over predict on grades. All the more reason for us to be as honest as we can be so not to end up disadvantaging all our applicants.

There has not been grade inflation on offers although generally those of us who have been involved in university admissions for a long time would argue that they have increased.

I hope you all have a lovely half term with a chance to relax.