Higher Education after Stowe

At Stowe we recognise the value and benefits of tertiary education and actively encourage pupils to apply for courses that suit their abilities, interests and career ambitions. We believe that the best applications are those in which the pupils themselves invest the most thought, consideration and effort, and consequently Stoics are expected to assume responsibility of this process themselves. While the School offers extensive and expert assistance, Stoics take the initiative in researching courses and destinations and are expected to prepare their applications diligently and conscientiously.

During the Lower Sixth, Stoics are strongly encouraged to formulate and develop their ideas for further education. Over the Summer Term and summer holidays, these ideas should evolve into firm preferences for particular courses and institutions and pupils should return for the Upper Sixth with a good idea of what they would like to study and where they would want to go.

Pupils are guided through the application process by their Tutors. The Tutor has the best overview of a pupil’s academic and intellectual capacity and is ideally placed to dispense advice drawn from their experience and information from subject teachers and other staff members at Stowe.

Useful link when choosing Sixth Form subjects: https://www.informedchoices.ac.uk/

The internet is the first port of call for research and the Stowe Virtual Learning Environment has links and tips for negotiating both the application process and the vast amounts of information online. Pupils can also use Fast Tomato, a powerful advisory application that is introduced at the start of their Stowe journey and that will guide them through the process of selecting GCSEs, A Levels, university courses and even careers.

Pupils are encouraged to visit universities and are allowed two trips in term time during the Lower Sixth. University Open Days are widely promoted and Stoics are strongly advised to make as much use of these as possible, ideally during the holidays. When pupils cannot get to the universities, we bring universities to the pupils and the School regularly hosts external speakers from specific universities, university umbrella groups and independent advisory groups.

Universities in the UK

Most pupils will apply to university through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), a process that starts in the Summer Term of the Lower Sixth. The UCAS form is the principal means by which universities select students and so it is critical that applications are prepared with meticulous care. We expect that most pupils will return from the holidays between Lower and Upper Sixth with their UCAS applications well underway and with a provisional personal statement in place.

While the formal deadline is in January, the School encourages pupils to submit their application before Half Term in the Michaelmas Term. There is nothing to be gained from dragging the process out and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some universities look kindly on earlier applications. Any university using interviews will generally call students towards the end of the Michaelmas Term and Stoics will start to receive responses from their selected institutions about the same time. Any Stoic required to attend an interview can expect personalised assistance from their Tutor and the applications team; the School may also make use of external consultants in this field from time to time but there is more than sufficient in-house experience and expertise. For full details of the application process, see the UCAS website.

Stowe also provides assistance to those wishing to apply to non-UCAS institutions and courses, such as Art and Drama colleges. Tutors and Careers Advisors can give further information.


Universities outside the UK

Every year the number of Stoics applying to universities abroad increases and the School has a wealth of resources to offer here as well. Stoics have gone on to study all over the world including the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. The United States is a perennial favourite and our resident Harvard Fellow, and teacher in charge of international university applications, is on hand to advise anyone making a US application; we also offer specific preparation for SAT and ACT assessments.

If you are planning to attend a UK or international university, our careers and higher education team can help you. You have access to a range of useful search tools from Unifrog and a dedicated team to support your UCAS or international applications.

Top Tip: Start your research early and speak to your tutor and careers advisor who will be able to help you navigate your various higher education options.

Eight questions to help decide if university is your next step

Author: adapted from: https://icould.com/stories/should-i-go-to-university/

Deciding what to do after A-levels can be a tough decision at any time but this year there are even more things to think about. Here's our guide to finding your way.

1. What’s your end goal?

Perhaps not the most obvious starting point, but if you go to university what would you like to do when you finish? Understanding your end goal can help you explore other options and work out if university is your best route.

Knowing what you want is not essential – some people chose university as their next step because they don’t have any career ideas but really enjoy a particular subject and want to see where it might take them. Whichever route you choose, being clear about your motivation will help you get the most from your experience.

Not sure about your end goal? Explore career options by job type or subject.

2. What are the alternatives?

If you don’t go to university, what else could you do?

Some options include:

  • Higher and Degree Apprenticeships – these now provide pathways to many careers traditionally followed by graduates.
  • Getting a job – there are lots of opportunities and trainee positions for school leavers.  Some people choose to work first and go to university a few years later when they have a better idea of what they really want; others find their feet at work and never look back. Check out Notgoingtouni for advice about different routes and vacancy details.
  • Taking a Gap Year – doing something different is a great way to try new things and find out what you like, and may help you make more focused choices.

3. Do you need a degree?

Sometimes, a degree is little more than a passport; employers simply want to know you have one but don’t have any real interest in what you’ve studied. For certain careers, a degree is not necessary and work experience is considered more important. And in other careers, such as medicine, a degree in a set subject is essential.

If you’ve a specific career idea in mind, there may be different ways you can qualify. For example, did you know you can become a lawyer without going to university? Alternative routes are not always considered a direct equal to a degree – they may only allow to you progress to a certain level in your career – so be sure to check out any limitations they may include.

4. How much will going to university cost?

Fees and talk of future debt and earnings can soon start to seem like Monopoly money and without an idea about your future expenses and living costs, are not always particularly meaningful. That said, it does pay to find out exactly what going to university is likely to cost, what help you can get and what student loans mean. Explore different scenarios – what would student loan repayments look like if you went on to a well-paid, average, or low-paid job? You may not know what you’ll end up doing but at least you’ll be making a decision with your eyes open.

5. Have you done your research?

Look closely at course content. Just as there is a difference between subjects at GCSE and A-level, so the jump from A-level to degree can bring a different focus. And that’s not forgetting subjects you can start from scratch. The Open University’s Open Learn offers free university-level modules in a wide range of subjects and can give you a taster of what a full course may involve.

Open days (and virtual open days) can help you get a feel for what you like, both in terms of courses and the wider university experience.

Consider employment prospects for your chosen course – where have recent graduates ended up? To find out more, see the Higher Education Careers Services Unit’s What do graduates do?

6. What about additional benefits?

As with many aspects of life, the biggest advantages of any chosen path are often the unexpected ones. In the long term, people reflecting on their university days often find the wider benefits, such as developing confidence, making connections, or involvement with clubs and societies, more important than their actual studies. These things can all be gained in other ways – and no one would suggest going to university just because you’re likely to make some great friends or write for the student paper – but what you end up valuing the most may have little to do with your course..

7. Can you do things differently?

Going to university doesn’t have to mean you need to follow the standard route of moving to a new town and becoming a full-time student – there are different and more flexible ways to get a degree which may suit you better. You could:

  • Study at your local university and live at home
  • Do a part-time degree that you can combine with work or other commitments
  • Study with the Open University (distance learning courses which mean you can study at a time and place that suits you).
  • Do a sponsored degree. Certain employers will pay for you to do your degree but you may need to work for them first and/or for a certain period after you graduate.

8. What’s right for you?

It can be easy to fall into doing the same as your friends or what your parents or teachers expect so it’s important to consider if your next step is really right for you.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that people looking back at their university days sometimes do so with rose-tinted glasses – they may have gone to university when fees were much lower or before they were introduced, or graduated when a degree was a sure-fire route to a good job.

One thing is certain, advancements in technology and the changing nature of the job market means that many jobs of the future don’t yet exist. The ability to continue learning – whatever route you take – is set to become an essential skill in working life.

Top takeaway: You can’t know how your life will turn out if you go to university or if you choose a different route, but you can find out the facts and consider the alternatives.

Find out more

For more help making decisions, see:

Choosing well: how to pick the right path for you

Tactics for making decisions

What next after A-levels?

And if you’ve decided you want to go to university, see:

Applying for university? Tips on writing your UCAS personal statement

Useful links

Bright Knowledge has lots of information and advice on choosing a university.

UCAS enables you to research your university choices and courses. You also apply for higher education courses through their website.

WhatUni.com helps you compare courses and universities.

The Guardian University Guide has profiles of every university and course in the UK, league tables and student news.

Pure Potential helps sixth-formers achieve offers from excellent universities.