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.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Science Supply Teacher position...

Music, Drama & Performing Arts Technician

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experienced Music, Drama ...

Primary Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teach...

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style