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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Simple Guide #1: Enter a UK University

Posted by Celine Wan

Introduction

This post is dedicated to SPM/O level leavers/Pre U students who were ignorant of their future like I was. I know how it feels like to be completely lost with the endless of possibilities, and sometimes, the plethora of information on the internet would seem too mind boggling that you don’t know where to start. In an effort to summarise and condense the essential information that you need to know, I have written a very simplified step-by-step-guide for the absolute beginners out there. All in all, it’s not as confusing as it seems!

Disclaimer:

All opinions are my own. I am not omniscient so do your own research! Remember, this is a GENERAL guideline based on my own experience and knowledge.

This post assumes that the applicant is not going to the UK via a twinning programme.

Financial Aid

Unlike USA Universities (or any other countries), the UK Universities do not really provide full financial aid to international students. You can get at most bursary or grants from specific universities; hence they’re just partial financial assistance. However, this should not deter you from giving a shot because UK is a very popular destination among Malaysian students. Most if not all of Malaysian scholarship providers would allow or even recommend their scholars to study in the UK. Fun fact: majority of overseas scholars go to the UK

Typically, you have two chances to apply for a scholarship to the UK. The first chance would be via your SPM qualification while the second chance would be via your Pre U qualification. You have to apply to the UK Universities on your own. Get your offer(s), and make your claim, you need to have a clear direction on what you want, the sponsors don’t do anything for you but provide you money. Sponsors usually have a list of “approved/recommended” universities based on subject so I suggest you use rankings for reference.
University of Cambridge
Application Procedure

Pre University → UK University

1. Pre University

a. A common qualification held by applicants would be the A levels. There are different types of A levels (namely set by CIE or OCR) depending on the college you are going to. Don’t worry too much on which is the “best A levels” because there’s not much difference. If you’re really set on going to the UK, this is the most convenient qualification to hold. Do note that you can apply to the UK with local qualifications too, with the STPM qualification as the more common route. Other types of qualifications are allowed too, but there may be more administrative work to be done so it’s more tedious that way.

2. UCAS: http://www.ucas.ac.uk

a. UCAS is a universal application portal for UK universities. Pre University colleges with a high record of students studying in the UK upon graduation would often have a good step-by-step guide to assist you. You can ask MABECs as well (http://www.mabecs.com). MABECs would often assist you via the Pre U College anyway, so fret not. Just ask your school counsellor who may or may not be helpful.

b. If you’re interested to apply to the “OxBridge,” you’ll need more than the UCAS. OxBridge = Oxford University + Cambridge University. You cannot apply to both. Apply to either one only

c. UCAS is limited to 5 university options for you to choose. Choose wisely. If you’re planning to study medicine, you can only choose 4 options

d. UCAS is relatively simple to apply: enter your biography details; write a personal statement, voila! There are other behind-the-scenes works going on as well, such as your lecturer making a letter of recommendation for you. You should give the Pre U College your high school’s testimonials and such. If your Pre U College is experienced in UK university applications, it is quite likely that they’ll ask them from you. Hence it is recommended but not necessary for you to enter a good Pre U college.

3. English Qualification: IELTS

a. You have to independently sign up for the test on your own. O level students often don’t have to take this exam but I would highly recommend you to do so. It’s not that difficult and it won’t take that much time. Decent bands would be from band 7, and above band 8 is considerably good. People often worry about this but to me, your A Levels results is the most important. This English test is to see if you are able to cope with the work in an English University—that is all.

4. Timeline

a. Main intake: September every year

b. Main time to apply: by September if you’re applying for medicine or Oxbridge. By October would be recommended for everyone else

c. Main time for interviews: Depends on university (sometimes October, sometimes March)

d. University Replies: Depends on university and course. Extremely hard to tell. For Oxbridge it’s always Early January. Deadline for every university to reply you is 31st March. No interviews would be quite early (reply by November), if you have tests and interviews then usually by March. UCAS will notify you once you have a reply

e. Once you have all your university replies, reply them by end of June. Get your A levels results typically by August, and you’re ready to go by September.

5. Offers

a. Once you receive your offers, you can only choose one university as a “firm” and another university as ”insurance.” Offers would have Pre U “examination conditions”. Unlike other countries, your offers are thus typically conditional. So DO WELL IN YOUR EXAMS OR YOU WILL STILL GET REJECTED. All conditions are often tailored to the specific individual, though there are typical offers given depending on course and university

b. If you don’t have any offers, there’s a system called UCAS clearing for other Universities to accept you
University of Oxford
Miscellaneous

1. Interviews

a. Some Universities would ask you to attend an interview, be it via Skype; you going to the UK; or a representative coming down from the UK. Most interviews are academic in nature, unlike other Universities, jobs, or scholarships interviews. Read up on your personal statement because they might ask an academic related question based on that. The likeliness of that to happen is rather low but no harm done

b. OxBridge interviews are infamously notorious. Still, you don’t have to know everything when going for the interview, because it’s more of a learning setting than an “interview.” Can I call it a test-and-learn-on-the-spot session? Because it’s not a typical interview for sure. It’s kind of difficult to know what to prepare so mental preparations on what to expect are best. Here is a great website I found: http://www.emma.cam.ac.uk/admissions/videos/interviews/

2. Additional tests

a. Depending on your course (typically for law, mathematics, and medicine) and university (usually for Imperial, Oxbridge, etc). Most serve as an aptitude test. If you want examples, look below

b. Example Courses: Law (LNAT), Medicine (BMAT, UKCAT), Mathematics (STEP)

c. Different courses have different styles. Get a list of their entry requirements from MABECs: www.mabecs.com

That is all I can think of for now. Cheers!
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