Firstly, who am I? Well I graduated in November of 2019 and I work as an NCOP and Outreach Coordinator for the University of Gloucestershire. So basically, I run events and deliver talks to schools and college students about higher education. If time travel was a thing, these are the top four tips I would suggest to my sixth form self.
Look and apply early. This might sound like a reasonable way of thinking; however, when I was in sixth form I honestly didn't look until I was in year 13. This became a nightmare as I was still looking at universities whilst applying through UCAS and trying to write a personal statement. So, start looking as early as possible even if you're not sure whether to go or not. I wasn't. In fact, it was an open day that made me realise I did want to go to university after all. The open day experience should confirm whether you want to go or that it might not be for you. Keep an eye open for open days near and far as it's good to cover a range of universities.
Make the most of UCAS. As I started looking late, I only looked at 4 universities and, even worse, only put 3 choices on my UCAS form. It still cost me the same as my friend who chose 5. Yes, there is a small fee to apply to university but, this is a minor cost – just make sure you pick the maximum number of choices to make the most of the process. This in turn gives you the best chance to get the greatest number of offers.
Organise your student finance. In my first year I hadn't completed my student finance properly. I forgot one form. This led to problems at the start of my first year as, my student finance wasn't released on time. I have got to say this was concerning when I needed to pay halls rent and my tuition fees. Luckily, the university was super understanding but, if I had been organised and completed everything I would not have been in that situation. There is your UCAS application, Student Finance, accommodation and much more to organise. These are not things to worry about but just to keep in mind.
Pack strategically. You will be surprised with what people pack. Some even try and take the kitchen sink! I mean if you're living in halls of residence in your first year you don't need to take a grater. What house needs 5 or 6 graters? Also think about space. Like myself and most first-year students you'll probably want to take your whole room but, when you get to halls you'll realise that you will have to send your parents or carers back with at least half of it. It's best to think about what time of the year it is. The start of the academic year is still warm so pack for it but the colder seasons will come so balance what you pack or if you plan on going home prior to winter you can change your wardrobe then.
In summary, if I knew some of these tips before first year I think I would have been in a better situation. I wouldn't have had to live out of my suitcase and the stress would have been much lower. I believe these tips to be a way of making the transition to university much more seamless so you can really make the most of your time.