Right about now, you should be thinking about your student finance for next year. So if you haven’t completed your application, do it very soon. Although right now there is, of course, some changes to the process in light of the Covid-19 situation.
These are the most important changes to know if you're applying for Student Finance in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s extremely strange at the moment, as you should be revving up and revising to get ready for your exams but instead, poof....they're cancelled. What may have seemed like a pipe dream to some people, has actually happened.
We briefly went over how these are now being calculated in our blog here and there’s a more thorough, up-to-date explanation on the situation on the government’s website here as well.
But just because exams are cancelled doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing anything right now. Who knows when you’ll be asked to return to school, but you don’t want to turn up and be completely unprepared.
So what exactly can you do right now to prepare yourself for when you go back and what might the changes be when you do?
We know how tempting it might be given the current situation, to accept any unconditional offers you might be receiving from your university choices. The Government did actually put a temporary ban on universities offering unconditional offers (although this has now been lifted) to try and ensure these weren’t getting given out en-mass when exams were cancelled and floods of panicking students would then be accepting choices that may not be right for them.
And at Push that’s our mission. To make sure the decision you’re making is the right one for you. Not anybody else.
With schools and universities all currently closed, and a return date uncertain (at the time of writing), the question of how we are going to return is starting to come up. While we’re waiting for government advice on how this might come about, universities have started considering the possibility of starting next academic years' terms entirely online.
An issue however is that universities aren’t considering any sort of reduction in tuition fees because of this, as the BBC has discovered. Understandably students aren’t happy about this and there’s good reason not to be.
Being off campus doesn’t just mean you’re missing your lectures and seminars, it also means you’re not able to utilise all of the facilities that you’re paying for with your tuition fees.
So what are you actually paying for with your fees?
Let me tell you about my GCSE and A Level experience…
I was a straight-A student. I am firmly in the "was" corner as opposed to the "am" corner. For any student reading this, stop right now and say out-loud either way “I am a 1-9 student” or “I am a BBB student” and “I was a 1-9 student” or “I was a BBB student”, with the grades you are personally predicted. Now, honestly: how does hearing yourself say each version make you feel? I know how deeply personal and long-lasting grades can feel. They are lodged in the mindset, and some believe they define who you are as a youngster or as a unique individual later in life. I look back with a "phew" in my mind: a (retrospective) fondness for the stress I went through when I was 15/16 and 17/18 years' old, and the rewards that ultimately reflected both learning experiences. I know a lot of people in the "am" corner when they talk about their grades from years past. They are usually the ones that can’t let go, and most haven’t gone on to fulfil their true potential. People either do or don’t associate their current selves to their GCSE or A Level / B tech grades
Whilst basing your grades on the work you’d done up until 20th March might not seem fair as you didn't get Easter to hand in any great work based on past papers (naturally people improve the closer to the exams it gets), getting your teachers to take responsibility for your final grade does take away the potential pitfall of the exam itself…and we mustn't forget how many students' nerves get the better of them on the day.
A "winner takes all" approach doesn't work for every student. I’d say it doesn’t work for most and isn’t a healthy way to grade long-term effort and progress, and it certainly isn’t reflective of the working environment most people will find themselves in, where every single day, the realities of the job (and keeping it) is the grade
Exams are cancelled because of the global pandemic.
That we know.
So what's happening with your grades? I'm sure you're eager to get a bit more clarity about your future. Well we've started to get some assurances from OFQUAL (Which is the abbreviation for the mouthful that is - Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulations). Their Chief Regulator Sally Collier has now issued a letter outlining how grades will be calculated and reassuring students these will be 'exactly the same as in previous years'.
One thing we can all agree on as we go into another week of lockdown is that it isn't always easy. No matter who you're with and where you are, there are days when it might just seem a little harder, and that's fine.
The same is happening to you, me, your guardian, your best friend, your favourite celebrity. Everyone. So don't worry about it. It's normal.
So how do we make sure we're looking after ourselves in these unexpected circumstances and make sure that we aren't going stir crazy all cooped up inside like battery hens (Remember to buy free range folks!)
Right now you should be receiving your offers from universities but then a little thing called a global pandemic happened and everything's been put on hold until everyone can work out just what to do.
At the minute the government has asked all universities to stop making unconditional offers or amending existing offers until at least April 20th. This is so you don't feel pressured to accept these already.
They've also extended the May offer deadline for undergraduate applicants and if you've sent in your UCAS application they should contact you via email with the new decision deadline date.
So this year we've had a shakeup in the way that things are going to happen.
Exams are cancelled, you're getting assigned your grades from your predicted grades (it seems at the minute) and the government and all schools, colleges and universities are working out the best way to do this fairly. It's all a bit up in the air at the minute while the world has gone a bit bonkers.
And what does no exams mean? Well it certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to do right now. School is still in session, so make sure you're keeping on top of the work you do have!
Some students might think, with the news that exams are being cancelled that summer is here now. Should you put your feet up?
Absolutely not, amigo. This is the most important time to keep a regular routine, as things might kick back into action in the coming months. Don't treat this as your summer holiday (and you can't anyway due to the lack of collective gatherings allowed like cinemas, concerts, festivals and pubs).
Here's our 5 top tips for keeping yourself productive...
We can't imagine what you're going through right now, with news of your exams being called off this summer, but we can try and understand. Our presenter team have all been through the stresses of school, sixth form and college and have tried to place ourselves in this situation, and think of the questions we'd most want answered
Worried about all the fake news and conflicting information when it comes to Covid-19? (Yes, we always sing it to the tune of Come On Eileen, too.) Us lot at Push are no doctors or virology experts, but we can remind you of a few fundamental things…
Now the boring obligatory bit’s done with, what about the rest? Are school closures likely? What do they mean?
If you’re looking to move out anytime soon, chances are you’re going to be moving in with others. And that can be brilliant. Living with your best mates, having people around to keep you company and help you out, and splitting the bills is always nice.
But what if things go a little awry, and it’s not quite the perfect Friends-esque flatmate dream?
The Guardian have written a great cheat sheet to help you with some of the most common problems that can arise in shared accommodation and how to tackle them. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest sources of tension when living with other people is…
Problems you might encounter as a tenant in shared accommodation...
Nowadays everyone is (or should be) a champion for diversity and inclusivity, but what does that really mean?
According to digital tech source, Built In:
“Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique, while inclusion refers to the behaviours and social normal that ensure people feel welcome.”
One example of diversity is those of us who are differently abled, whether that’s a visible or invisible disability, and making sure that we feel included, represented and involved in society. But how can we do that?
The government is proposing to create an Ofsted-style system that ranks universities on the amount their graduates earn according to the Guardian.
There has been some resistance to this idea from the education industry and rightly so. It creates a number of problems that could cause damage to particular courses (Arts and Humanities especially) that are in areas outside of London.
So what are the issues of this and in fact, would an earnings ranking actually be that helpful for students looking to go to university?
By now, you're probably hearing from most – if not all – of the unis you applied to. If not, don’t worry, they're supposed to let you know by 31st March, but if you if you just can’t wait until then, it won't hurt to give them a call. You have to make sure you've responded by the 5th May if you have heard back from them all by the end of March so keep that in mind.
Now while we’re sure that you made an effort to go and see all 5 of your choices before applying, we also understand that sometimes life and viruses can get in the way and you might not have had time to go and see them all (err... or any of them).
We understand, these things happen.
Location, location, location
Now is as good a time as any to start contemplating the path you are going to take come September 2020. Assuming you have already taken some time to weigh up your options and decided on uni, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s the easy bit over. If you, like many others, are considering university it can be a pretty daunting task figuring out which uni to go to.
A good way to start is figuring out your preferred location and what better time to start doing so if we're all self isolating. Although probably hold off on going to see the place for a few weeks...
It might seem that sometimes everyone is talking about going to University, but it isn't for everyone.
If you think university might not be for you there's alternative routes. One of the most popular is Apprenticeships and right now there's more providers than ever!
However Paul Joyce, Ofsted's Deputy Director for Further education and Skills, has spoken in a report about how Brexit may have an effect on Apprenticeships and Skill gaps and he found in his research that while the number of providers of Apprenticeships has gone up since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 (This means companies had to pay into the levy to support Apprenticeships in their business) the number of people actually doing apprenticeships has continued to fall.
So why is this the case?
The ball is finally in your court
This month you’ll probably be getting some offers from universities. You may have some already. It can be exciting — like getting several Valentine cards all at once. It can also be unnerving: frantically hitting refresh on the UCAS website for hours on end and feeling like the only Valentine you’ll get might be from your mum. It doesn’t have to be stressful.
If you haven’t heard back yet, from your uni OR your valentine then calm down. Unis are supposed to let you know by March 31st, though they may take a little bit longer in some cases. Delay is not necessarily a bad sign. Especially with the response to your valentine message you sent on Friday.
You don’t have to tell UCAS what you want to do until May 5th, so if you've got offers, don’t rush.
What course is the course for you?
You go to uni to do a degree. But which one? There’s over 17,000 different subjects you can study and more than 70,000 individual courses.
You can start with what you want to do as a career. To be a doctor, you have to study medicine, for instance — which most people would agree is better than having people doing surgery just because they studied needlework.
You might have heard the Prince’s Trust’s name thrown about before, but who are they and what do they do?
According to their website, the Prince’s Trust is a charity set up by Prince Charles over 40 years ago with the mission ‘to help young people transform their lives by developing the confidence and skills to live, learn and earn.’.
The charity helps school leavers and young people to develop their soft skills, get additional training and provides tips and resources on getting a job. For the budding entrepreneurs among us, they also offer training, mentoring and funding to help you start your own business.
Wherever you are on your journey, whether you’re in Year 11 and starting to think about what lies ahead or in Year 13 with big decisions knocking at your door, it can be difficult to know what’s the right path for you.
Especially when there are so many options. We’re talking work, apprenticeships, uni, degree apprenticeships, diplomas, gap year and travel, volunteering, internships…
The list seems pretty endless, but that shouldn’t be a bad thing. There are so many different pathways out there that it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find something perfect for you.
If you’ve finished with college and are out navigating the world by yourself for the first time, whether that’s moving away to uni or taking on an apprenticeship scheme or a full-time job, we know that cash flow issues can always be a bit of a downer.
Depending on your circumstances, we’ve got loads of tips on making the most of your cash, and any financial support available to you.
New analysis has found that in the last five years, two thirds of colleges and universities have seen an increase in their dropout rates.
One of the reasons stated could be the drive to widen applicants to universities with institutions said to be admitting students who ‘aren’t able to cope’.
While Push doesn’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to allow as many people to get to University and follow their ambitions if they want to, we certainly think you should do your research before you decide if it’s the route for you.
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