“I realised I wasn’t cut out for merchant banking when I was asked, in the middle of a very long and tense meeting about some take-over bid or other, whether the numbers I had prepared were ‘before or after’. I looked at them, and looked at the serious faces around the table, and scratched my head. Before or after what, I wondered? Before or after lunch?” Nicholas Oulton
They, of course, meant before or after tax. But for young people thinking about university, the big question is, ‘Before or after exams?’ Should they apply before they have taken their A Levels or IB, relying on predicted grades, or should they wait until they have some real results to refer to?
There are pros and cons for both routes, but here are some things to think about:
If you apply AFTER your results are known, you know which courses you can apply for, you have more time to get your application together, without the distraction of exams (!), you can write a better personal statement, reflecting the realities of how your studies at school went, and you can add work experience or gap year plans to what you say about yourself, allowing for a more rounded, interesting application.
On the other hand, by waiting until AFTER you leave school, help and advice from teachers will be harder to get, your gap year plans will be interrupted by the need to put the application together and be on standby for interviews, your interest in your studies may have dwindled during the months away from school, and you will be putting all your eggs into one basket (i.e. you will have missed the opportunity to TRY an application last year, and you don’t really want to he hanging about until next year if this one goes wrong).
So, as with so many of the decisions in this process, there are arguments both ways, but it is wise to get a view on your preferred strategy before you find you’ve missed the deadline for an early application.
Most of what you need to know about this and all the other pitfalls is in our book on University Entrance. Have a look and see if you think it will help.
Nicholas Oulton is Managing Director of The Parent Brief.