Read this before you press apply on your UCAS application

One final year student looks back on what she wishes she had known before she applied for university.

With my final year of university looming and I was asked what I would tell someone who was about to leave school. I remembered what I was told university would be like, and the things school left out. Here are several points I wish I had been told before starting the tedious UCAS prelude to one of the most important chapters of your life.

Many leavers are pushed down the university path before they are ready. Christina, a third year university student, recalls that “one of my friends went through the whole UCAS process even though she knew she didn’t want to go but did it because everybody else was.” University isn't for everyone and students should take advantage of other choices but some schools want that extra tick during inspections.

Some of the most influential people I know never went to university or took several years out. Those who took a gap year say that it was the best thing they ever did and those who didn’t go, wish they had. They allow a break from textbooks, a chance to mature and see what else is available. Sadly, some schools still look at it as a lazy option.

In the last years of school, classes are focused on UCAS applications but kids are seriously thinking about their future as early as 13, when you can’t possibly make such a decision; there is no way you have seen the possibilities out there. The main complaint I’ve heard is that the variety of courses available beyond the typical school subjects or law and medicine is not encouraged. Sheona for example is a third-year student: “Biology was the one thing I had an interest in in school and I thought 'hey, I could do a degree in this!' but I didn't realise how much stuff I would have to study that I genuinely didn't care about. I wish I'd have thought more about what I could do.”

There is more focus on having a career afterwards rather than studying something you actually enjoy. Teachers can also have a great influence on your degree choice but remember they do not come to university with you. If you do your degree well you should get a job regardless, plus you probably end up doing something you enjoy. If you apply and hate your course, it's not the end of the world. Many are guilty of just sticking it out so not to cause a fuss but it’s surprisingly easy to change course in first year and it’s much easier to realise this sooner than later.

When it comes to picking a university, choose a university which has a good reputation with their students as well as the league tables. Meeting new people and discovering who you are is one of the best reasons to go to university; otherwise all you gain is a bit of paper with your name and a crest. The Times Higher Education World Rankings use 'performance indicators' whereas their Student Experience Survey is calibrated from undergraduate surveys. For example, ICL is eighth in the world in the rankings but only 71st for student experience.

University has become a huge investment; it was recently revealed that the cost of a degree could be £100,000. I think this is the main reason to make sure you make the right choice. Despite the fact you are suddenly being shipped off to live by yourself, few schools seem to tell you that overdrafts and credit cards are not free money. It is important to learn the basics of budgeting before you head out and schools should spend more time on these life skills than perfecting personal statements. If you get a part time job you’ll be more lucrative as employers are more interested in people who know the world outside the library.

If you make good friends at university they are probably going to be in your life from now on unlike the hundreds of new ‘friends’ you meet in your first few years. Sometimes you don't meet your good friends until third and fourth year when the classes get smaller and fill with similar people. Don't be deceived by the fact you are great friends means you will be great flatmates, everyone has different living standards and they don't always correspond to yours. Choosing good flatmates is one of the most important choices in enjoying university but nobody gets it right first time.

University is what you make of it; stop being who you think you should be and just be yourself. Unlike school everyone finds a niche even if it isn't straight away. Don't stress over lectures too much in first year. I'm not saying don't go or work hard, but you probably aren't going to miss much that you can’t catch up on. This is a prime time to join more societies than humanely possible and add drunken toilet best friends on Facebook.

You have all of third and fourth year to slave away and complain about how little money and time you have, as that's when the grades start to matter.  Finding the perfect balance of the work hard play hard ethic is the secret to getting the most out of the experience. Don't hold back and just make the most of what's on offer to you, never again will you have such opportunity right under your nose.

Rose is currently studying Biology at the university of Dundee but anyone who knows her knows that she can’t stay still for long and always has an adventure planned. Read her blog here.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?