Thursday, 22 December 2016

How to look after your finances as a postgraduate

Taking on a postgraduate course is a big commitment, for both your time and your bank balance. But being smart with your money can make life much easier.

How much will it cost?
Not all postgrad courses cost the same, but the average is between £16,000 and £23,000 a year. How much it costs depends on:
which course you choose
where you study
whether your course is full time or part time
how much you spend on rent, bills, and entertainment

Postgraduate certificates and diplomas tend to be the cheapest, while master’s degrees and PhDs are the most expensive. Think about your reasons for studying and try to pick a route that won't leave you out of pocket.

Decide how you're going to study
If you dream about a care free student life, where you go out every night and wake up at midday, then think again. Be prepared to work hard and save.

You can normally choose between studying full-time, part-time or distance learning. A full-time course could be cheaper, but limits how much free time you have.

A part-time course lets you mix your home life with your studies, and you can continue earning by working while you study. However, you'll miss out on uni life and may end up paying more because your course will last longer.

Pick your course wisely
Postgrad courses can cost anything from £4,999 to £30,000 a year, so make sure you know what you're signing up for. Check tuition fees before you apply for courses and make sure they're within your budget.

Check to see if your old uni offers discounts for former students wanting to come back to study. Also, look for universities near home, as this could cut down on your living costs.

Avoid choosing a uni-based on its reputation without researching it properly first. Lots of leader boards are only based on undergrad studies, and may not offer what you want from a postgrad course.

What help can you get?
There’s a new government backed postgraduate loan that offers up to £10,000 to help students cover their tuition fees and living costs. They’re available to most students starting their course after August 2016.

This new loan gets paid straight into your bank account and you can use it for anything, not just your tuition fees. This gives you more flexibility, but make sure you spend it wisely. Most universities ask you to pay fees up front, so having the cash in your account could save you from having to put it on a credit card.

Part-time and distance learners can get the loan, but only if your course is less than four years, and you'll only get paid for the first two.

Some universities also offer scholarships, so check if you're eligible when you apply. Charities and trusts also offer grants and funding, so research what you can get and apply if you're eligible.

Set a budget
You'll need to start saving as soon as you've decided you want to do a postgrad course, especially if you're going to study full-time. You might get the government loan, but it's unlikely to cover everything you need.

If you're studying full-time, use this ultimate student budget planner to work out your budget for the year. Once you get your timetable, see if you'll have time to get a part-time job. Having a regular income will come in handy when funds start to run low.

If you study part-time, you may be able to continue your career although you might need to cut your hours. Start saving before you begin your course, so you have some money to fall back on if you can't work full-time.

Make sure you've got your money sorted
Full-time students can often get the same student current accounts as undergrads. They come with a range of benefits, like fee free overdrafts and other perks.

If you’re a part-time student, you’ll probably have to make do with a normal current account. Compare accounts and try to find one with an interest free overdraft, if you think staying out of the red will be an issue.

Avoid relying on credit cards if possible, but shop around to find one that's right for you if you need one as a safety net. If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay at least the minimum monthly repayments, don’t get one.

Things to check:

Interest rates
Added extras
Credit limits
Top money saving tips for postgrads

Spend wisely – books can be expensive, so buy second hand where you can. Get a student rail card or coach card, to save on the cost of travelling. And cook at home rather than going out for food.

Save on your food shop – shop in the evenings or early hours of the morning, and get food that's been reduced for a quick sale. Bulk buying with your housemates can also be cheaper than buying for one, and you'll probably waste less food.

Shop around for utilities – don't just go with the provider that your landlord is using when you move in. Compare broadband and energy deals, to make sure you save money.

Check for student savings – you can get discounts on everything from your council tax to your weekly shop. Get an NUS card and you can save money on eating out, TV subscriptions, gym memberships and in loads of high street stores.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Get to know the university you could be studying at

Now you’ve accepted a conditional offer, it’s a good idea to get to know your prospective university better, and see where you could be studying in the not-too-distant future. Getting to know the place now will help you to feel more at home if you start studying there, as you’ll already be familiar with the place and the people.

Now’s the perfect time to head to an open day at the uni you could be studying at, even if you have already been to one. Open days are a great way to explore the facilities, see where you could be living, and talk to current staff and students.

Can’t get to an open day? Take a look at our list of virtual tours to see what the university is like from the comfort of your own home.

Get to know your chosen university or college by following them on social media – keep up-to-date with what’s happening on campus, ask questions, and see what uni life is like!

If you’ve got any questions about your application, check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Making the most of your time now you’ve accepted an offer

The wait to find out if you’ve met the conditions of your offer can seem like it goes on forever. To take your mind off it, here are three things you can be doing right now.

1. Check your status in Track – find out what it means and what you should do next. It may change over the coming months, so make sure you know what each status means and what you need to do.

2. Familiarise yourself with Clearing and Adjustment – if you’re waiting for results, they may be better than expected, or they might not be quite what you were hoping for. Clearing and Adjustment are our services to help you find another place in either circumstance – understanding how they work now will make the process much smoother if you need it on results day.

3. Sort out finance – you’ll need somewhere to live and money to pay for it! We don’t arrange student finance, but we do explain the process and point you in the right direction to apply for student loans.

If you’ve got any questions about your application, check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Christmas opening hours

Everyone needs a break now and again, so we’ll be closed for a short time over the holiday period too. If you need to contact us over the festive period, take a look at our opening hours.

We’ve got plenty of advice on our website, so if you have a question while we’re closed check out our frequently asked questions, or all the advice we have on our video wall.

Merry Christmas from everyone at UCAS! 

Send us a question at any point over the festive period on Facebook or Twitter and our advisers will respond during the opening times shown above.

How to prepare for your UCAS Teacher Training interview

So you’ve sent your teacher training application, but what happens next? You’ll hear back from the training providers within 40 working days of submitting your application.

Before you can be offered a place on a programme, you’ll need to attend an interview. Although interviews may appear daunting, a bit of preparation can go a long way.

Check out our top tips to help you prepare.

Show off your qualities.

Training providers will be looking for a number of qualities to see if you’d make a good teacher, such as:

passion – show you care about teaching
confidence – and being respectful towards children
professionalism – in both your mindset and the way you conduct yourself
personality – this can easily be reflected in how you present yourself, so dress smartly
energy – enthusiasm is infectious
resilience – being a teacher can be tough, so you'll need to show you're up to the task
understanding the commitments involved in  teaching – even the most prepared interviewees can be nervous about some things. It'll be fine as long as you demonstrate how you can overcome this in order to succeed

Prepare for the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Interviewers will ask you a range of questions, such as:

asking you to demonstrate an understanding of what helps children to learn
why you’ve picked a school-based/university-based route
what you’ve learnt from your experience in schools
your understanding of the subject you’ll be teaching – take a look at the national curriculum before your interview

It’s a good idea to start thinking of answers to the above questions, and examples that demonstrate what would make you a great teacher.

Need some more inspiration? Check out this video on how to prepare for your teacher training interviews.

Good luck at your interview!
Please let the training providers know if you’re unable to attend an interview. They may be able to reschedule this to a more convenient time.

If you have any questions about your UCAS Teacher Training application, check out all the advice on You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter who’ll be more than happy to help.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Disclosing a mental health difficulty: your rights

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they are entitled to. Do you know what your rights are? And what if you don’t want to disclose? UMHAN and Student Minds answer these questions in this short blog.

What are my rights?

You have a right to equal treatment. Many people worry that if they disclose a mental health difficulty, it will affect whether they are accepted. However, Equality Act legislation makes it illegal for staff to discriminate against you. The decision of whether you are offered a place on a course must be purely down to academic suitability. Some courses such as nursing, teaching, or social work additionally require a fitness-to-practice assessment.

You have a right for your information to be protected. Another worry is that if you disclose, your mental health difficulty will become common knowledge. However, your information will only be shared with people who need to know at the time you are disclosing. Staff will adhere to the Data Protection Act, ensuring your information is processed appropriately and sensitively.

You have a right to support. If you have a mental health difficulty, providing support is your course provider’s responsibility. Seeking support isn’t asking for special treatment – it’s asking your course provider to ensure you have access to the same opportunities as other students. Disclosing is, for many, an empowering experience.

What if I don’t disclose?
Choosing whether to disclose is a personal decision. If you change your mind, it’s never too late to disclose – go to your university support services and they will help you access the support you are entitled to.

A common reason for not disclosing is that you don’t feel you would currently benefit from support. This may be true, but note that disclosure has a preventative element. Disclosure makes the process of seeking support smoother, should you need later it.

Find out more

In 2015, UMHAN launched the #IChoseToDisclose campaign. By producing blogs answering questions surrounding disclosure, they aim to empower students to make an informed decision.

Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. For further support with mental health difficulties at university, visit their website.

We hope this blog helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.

The benefits of disclosing a mental health difficulty

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they are entitled to. What are the benefits of disclosure? UMHAN and Student Minds answer these questions in this short blog.

When submitting your UCAS application, you have the opportunity to disclose a mental health difficulty. In the section marked ‘Disability/Special Needs’, you can select the option ‘mental health condition’.

You can then enter any particular needs related to your mental health difficulty. This information is passed on to the course providers you have applied to as part of your application, so they can begin to think about what support to provide for you.

So, should you disclose? What will happen if you do? And what are the benefits?

If you disclose, your course provider is legally required to make reasonable adjustments which take account of your needs.

On starting your course, you will have the opportunity to talk to your course provider’s student support services. You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – this can provide a wide range of support, from specialist equipment to a mentor, depending on what is agreed to suit your needs. If you do not receive DSA, your course provider may provide alternative support.

Here, a student talks about the support she received after she disclosed:

‘I went to see the Mental Health Adviser at my university, who gave me support and a feeling of reassurance that I wouldn't be facing my depressive episode alone. She advised me to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance, something I wouldn't have thought to do otherwise. DSA funded me to have a mental health mentor who I see weekly. He knows me so well that he can spot any signs I'm struggling before even I can. Both have also advocated for me in my journey through the NHS mental health system. The holistic nature of the support given by mental health advisers and mentors has literally been a lifeline for me and I'm incredibly grateful.’

We hope this blog helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.

Disclosing a mental health difficulty on your UCAS application

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they’re entitled to. UMHAN and Student Minds share some advice on disclosing this information.

Disclosing a mental health difficulty via UCAS
Applying to university or college can be daunting, with many things to consider before applying for that perfect course for you. The process comes with its own set of questions if you experience a mental health difficulty. In this blog, we’ll address questions about disclosure – telling your university about a mental health difficulty.

Who can disclose?
The purpose of disclosure is to ensure students with mental health difficulties can access the support they are entitled to at university or college. For a mental health difficulty to come under the protection of the Equality Act:
there must be a substantial, adverse impairment to daily activities
the difficulty should be long term (has lasted, or may last, 12 months)
the cumulative effects of a mental health difficulty may in combination be ‘substantial’
difficulties that are episodic are covered if they are likely to reoccur
a person who has recovered from a mental health difficulty is covered if the difficulty is likely to reoccur
a person does not need to show that the adverse effects impact on any particular capacity (e.g. memory or concentration)

If you feel you meet these criteria, you may be eligible for additional support, and it is worth considering disclosure. If you are not sure whether you meet the above criteria, disclosing will help you find out more.

Should I disclose?
Disclosure is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer – it’s a case of ensuring your needs are met. We hope that, with the information we provide, you can make an informed decision.

Satisfaction rates among students who disclose are high – the Equality Challenge Unit found that 78% who disclosed said the support they received was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

We hope this helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure of a mental health difficulty. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Share Your Story: Shane Baker

Name: Shane Baker

What course are you studying/have you studied?
BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work, at the University of Huddersfield
Postgraduate Diploma in Education, at University Campus Barnsley
MA in Education and Youth Work Studies, at the University of Huddersfield

What, or who, inspired you to train to become a teacher?
Several factors influenced me to take up teaching as a profession. My grandad, particularly, guided me to higher education and ultimately into the profession. I was always keen to share what I had learnt with others. I remember my primary school teacher being significant in my childhood, and hoping that one day I could have the same impact on others. With the skills, knowledge, and experience I already obtained at the time, I felt there was definitely an area within education that I could bring these skills to, as the teaching profession is so broad.

What was the application process like?
The application process was very straightforward. It was exactly the same as applying through UCAS for undergraduate courses. I think it is important for those who are contemplating completing initial teacher training (ITT) after their initial undergraduate degree, that you know you can access student finance to fund the course. ITT courses are one of a few courses that are exempt from second funding.

What was your course like?
The course I studied was very informative and really gave me the opportunity to put theory into practice. I felt that as soon as I had learnt something, I was able to put it into practice, having undertaken a placement throughout my time on the course. This, ultimately, put me in the position to gain and take up a full-time, permanent role in a further education college on completion.

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
I lived at home and commuted. I actually received a bursary from the government, as I focused on developing as a SEND specialist teacher. This bursary allowed me to purchase my first home, reducing my worries about my finances, and concentrate on developing my skills as a newly qualified teacher.

What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where?
I have worked within FE colleges as a lecturer, personal tutor, and assessor, teaching students aged 14 to 70. I have taught health and social care, foundation learning, Jobcentre Plus programmes, and childcare.

I recently achieved Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) through The Society for Education and Training (SET), and have moved to an outstanding ‘all-through’ SEND school/college as a post-16 class teacher. I think it is important to know that, just because you qualify to teach in the lifelong learning sector, it does not stop you from working within local-authority-maintained schools if you gain QTLS. If you apply and achieve QTLS on completion of your initial teacher training programme, it has parity with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), meaning you can apply for positions across the profession.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a teacher? What is the worst?
The best thing about being a teacher is seeing students developing, progressing, and meeting their individual targets. It’s the little comments like ‘I get that’, ‘I never knew’, or ‘Thank you’ that remind you that you are making a positive impact. You cannot come into teaching and not expect there to be a large workload and paperwork. You have to be realistic and recognise that teaching in class is just one of the duties of being a professionally qualified teacher. If you do not know the full expectations, I highly recommend you read/research the professional expectations of teachers.

Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
I still have a very keen interest in youth work but, for me, there were no opportunities to progress, with the significant cuts to the profession. It has allowed me to continue working with children and young people to make a positive difference to their onset development. I wish I trained earlier as a teacher! The course I undertook was first-class and has allowed me to gain first-class results.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
I think I would have liked better careers advice and clearer guidance. Because of my previous experience, I was suggested to focus on becoming a PSHE/citizenship teacher. I think I have found my niche as a SEND teacher. I think it is important to gain some relevant work experience, to ensure you are embarking on the right journey – whether that is primary, secondary, or lifelong learning teaching.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
Be prepared for hard work. It will not be a stroll in the park but you will gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing your students develop, and getting to the end of your first academic year – looking back and recognising all the hard work you have put in, which has led to the success. You will learn that what works for one class doesn’t always work for another. You will learn to think on your feet, adapt, and react to the forever changing environment that is teaching.

I love teaching because… 
I love teaching because one day is never the same, and witnessing students achieving what they set out to achieve.

15 January deadline: Your questions answered!

As the 15 January application deadline approaches, here are some of your questions we’re answering on social media at the moment.

Q. Why can’t I log into my application?
A. If you can’t log into your application, first of all make sure you’re trying to log into Apply and not Track by mistake. If you’ve forgotten your username or password, try our ‘Forgotten login?’ link to retrieve or reset your details. If you’re still having trouble then give us a call so one of our advisers can help.

Q. How do I add my qualifications?
A. Before you can add any qualifications you need to add the schools or colleges where you’ve taken them. This video explains everything you need to do.

Q. How should I write my personal statement?
A. The personal statement may appear daunting at first but try not to panic, we’ve got lots of advice to help! Start by checking out the pointers on our website, then take a few moments to watch our personal statement video.

For further inspiration, check out this great video from someone who reads personal statements for a uni.

We also have an interactive personal statement tool to help you think about what you should include in your personal statement, and how to structure it.

Q. How does the reference section work?
A. There are three ways to request a reference, and the one you’ll use will depend on how you’re applying. Watch our video for a step-by-step guide to what you’ve got to do.

Q. Why can’t I pay and send my application?
A. You can only pay for and send your application when every section of your application is marked with a red tick. If you’re applying through a school or college, they’ll be able to complete a reference and send us your application after you’ve paid for your application. If you’re applying independently, then you can pay for and send us your application once your referee has finished your reference.

Q. What time is the deadline on 15 January?
A. Applications for the majority of courses should arrive at UCAS by 18:00 (UK time) on 15 January (check your chosen course details in our search tool for the correct deadline). This is to ensure that it gets equal consideration by the unis and colleges you're applying to.

If you’ve got any other questions about your application check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

How to fill in your spare time

I know the score, you’re at university and you’re there to study. Whilst you’re at uni, it can be a good idea to do something productive to fill the time in between studying. Here are my top ten suggestions to fill in any spare time you have!

1. Get a part-time job. A part-time job would be considered reasonably easy to a) apply and get, and b) to work around your studies. Not only will it fill your time, but you’ll be able to earn some money to fund your studies and social life.

2. Start a new hobby. Picking up a new sport or hobby is a productive way to spend your time. You will be channeling your energy into learning a new skill, and university is the perfect opportunity to do this.

3. Join a new society. Societies at unis often hold socials to help people make friends and socialise. Join a society that you wouldn’t normally join, you might surprise yourself by enjoying meeting new people with different interests to you. If you don’t like the first social, then you don’t have to go to another one.

4. Start a project. Projects, such as creating a blog or a website, can be a productive way to spend your time because you will gain something from it. It will also be something that you can add to your CV.

5. Get fit. During university, you may find that you don’t exercise as much as you should. Exercise is important and despite the effort to get changed into your gym gear and make your way to the gym, it will benefit you.

6. Learn a language. University is the place where it’s suggested that you try something that you might not have the opportunity to try again. Learning a language is one of these, because when you graduate and are working full-time, you might not be able to dedicate enough time to learning a language. There are plenty of apps and online courses that can help you achieve the goal from the comfort of your university room!

7. Volunteer. I’m sure there are people out there who, like me, believe that volunteering can be a fulfilling experience. However, as a student, you are short of money and don’t want to work for free, I get it. But, volunteering in a company for a short while will add another dimension to your CV, proving that you did actually make a difference whilst you were at university.

8. Learn to cook. It’s no secret that many students make a range of weird concoctions through their time at uni, because either you can’t be bothered to cook, don’t know how to, or simply only have a carrot and a bag of pasta work with! Learning to cook will be one of the most valuable skills you learn, so if I were you, I’d consider learning to cook a new dish once a week so you don’t have that same pasta dish over and over again!

9. Make the most of what the university has to offer. Some universities have schemes, opportunities to work, volunteer work, or awards that can be completed. I would highly recommend this option; it looks very good on your CV as it proves you are giving back to the uni, and it’s the perfect chance to make some new friends! The work environment tends to be quite young with fresh ideas and people, who will make it a positive experience for you.

10. Be spontaneous and brave, start a business. I know a few people who started and have maintained a successful business. University is the ideal place to do this as you can get the support, and maybe even some of the funding, to help you along the way. Not only will this look good on your CV but it will take up a lot of spare time in your week. It can be very time consuming, so you have got to be completely committed  for it to work, but the benefits and rewards of this can be extraordinary.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Budgeting at uni

By Hannah, a 19 year old student from South Wales. 

We all know that loans, grants, and bursaries are amazing as soon as they arrive in your bank account, but this money will need to last you longer than a week or two!

I don’t know about you, but when I know that I have a large amount of money in my account, I think that I’m wealthy and tend to spend a good amount of it on unnecessary items. Last year, when I was a student, I tried budgeting and here are some things to consider.

  1. NUS Extra is your best friend. My student discount card saved me so much money during the year. You’ll be eligible for discounts in plenty of high street or online shops
  2. Share the kitchen essentials with your housemates, such as milk, bread, and condiments.
  3. Remember, you’re a student! You cannot really afford to buy things that you maybe could have before you moved to university. When you go shopping and really like something, just ask yourself ‘Do I really need this?’ because you most likely won’t.
  4. As annoying as loyalty cards are, they can get you a free coffee or meal. So don’t throw them away!
  5.  Some supermarkets will offer vouchers for new online customers. If this opportunity arises then I would take it because you’ll be able to get money off your weekly shop.
  6. Purchasing a Young Persons Railcard will save you up to a third on train fares. These savings will add up in the long run when travelling back and forth from home. 
  7.  Opening a student bank account was the best decision I made before going to university. Student bank accounts are typically current accounts offering an interest free overdraft facility. If you do open a student account, just be warned not to exceed the overdraft limit because high charges will apply. Some bank accounts offer an incentive to open a student account with them, so do your research!
  8. I’m probably going to sound like your mum, but typically, healthy food is cheaper than junk food. You can create endless meals with fresh fruit and vegetables. When you purchase junk food, such as ready meals and processed food, the number of meals you can make is limited.
  9. I made the mistake in my first year to buy every book on the reading list brand new. I failed to realise that second-hand books were just as good and they’re a fraction of the cost.
  10. Purchasing food on campus may seem like a good idea at the time, but taking food from home will save you so much money in the long run. Think about how much you’d save if you hadn’t bought a £2 sandwich every day for three or four years straight.
  11. This is easier said than done, but saving money before you get to university can be useful. I managed to save a little money before I went and was grateful to have it as a back-up for emergencies.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Freshers' is over – what next?

Now that Freshers’ is over and you’re settled into university life, you are likely to have some sort of work to complete. University isn’t like school or college where you would have classes and have some homework to do. As a student you are expected to go to lectures and seminars, and then complete independent study, where you research, read, and complete tasks on the subject you are studying.

The different types of work include
essays, reports, group projects, presentations, exams, assignments, and tests. I have listed a few tips of ways to approach these pieces of work and things I was never told about them.

I don’t know about you but when I hear the word ‘essay’ or ‘report’, my heart sinks. I know that a lot of work goes into producing a good essay and I feel like they are so much effort. However, I do prefer this method of learning because I feel like I can alter paragraphs in my own time. I would highly recommend you read, re-read, and edit your work accordingly because sometimes when you write an essay, you can sometimes go off track. I find that asking a friend, flat member, or family member to read over a piece of work beneficial because they can offer advice to improve it rather than you guessing whether something needs editing or not.

Check your spelling, grammar, and structure. This is the nitty-gritty of your work that actually makes a difference. Admittedly, I’m not the best at spelling and grammar, which is why I like someone to read over my work before submitting it. No one likes a piece of work that has spelling errors, so make sure that you spell check your work before handing it in.

After writing your essay, check that your points answer the question being asked because it can be quite easy to go off track. Also, there’s no point in babbling on as you’ll use valuable word count space. Just remember that it’s about the quality of the work, not the quantity that counts.

I’m sure I’m with the majority of people who HATE presentations. I strongly dislike talking in public, or in front of an audience, with the mindset that I will say something wrong and people will laugh at me. But, practise does makes perfect, and if you are willing to put the effort into improving your presentation skills, then you’ll improve over time. The key is to keep the presentation slides simple and have notes at hand to explain more about the slides.

Now, you’re either that person who deals well with exam stress or not. Unfortunately, I’m that person who can’t. I find myself stressing and feeling anxious a few days before. Do not under any circumstance ‘wing it!’ You might have been able to do that at school or college, but I can’t stress this enough, you CANNOT do this in university. University is a different learning experience; the exams are going to be different and you need to put some effort in and learn the material you are being taught before the exam. You will have more content to learn, and you cannot learn it all the night before. Exam formats could include written pieces of work or multiple choice, and although you might think multiple choice is easy, the different in the options for answers will be so small that you need to know the content in order to get the right answer.

When is a good time to start work and revision for exams?
I personally would start work as soon as you are given it. With essays and reports, you should start researching the topics as soon as you are told. This way, you will be able to ask questions to your tutors before the deadline creeps up. Presentations are harder to complete if you are in a group because everyone has commitments, and it can sometime be hard to organise a day and time where everyone is free. I think the best way to get around this is to find a time when everyone is free to work on the presentation and to meet up. You should start revision from your first day. Basically, after a lecture or seminar, you should read over and type up your notes so that you completely understand the work before moving onto new content.

Where can I go to for help? 
Any lecturers, help departments, personal tutors, or academics can help you understand the content of a module or even down to writing a good essay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with anything.

What shall I do if I have fallen behind? 
Don’t panic! That is the worst thing you can do because you will just stress yourself out. First of all, I would write a list of things that you don’t understand or have missed. At least then you have a general idea of what you need to study. This is an organised way of sorting this type of situation out.

Talking to your personal tutor about what you have missed is a good idea because you can work out a schedule to catch up on work, and they might be able to explain any work you do not fully understand.

I hope this post helps give you a general idea of what to expect. Good luck with your assessments and studying!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Share Your Story: Alice Hackett

Name: Alice Hackett
What course are you studying/have you studied?
I studied a BEd in Primary Teaching with Qualified Teacher Status.
What or who inspired you to train to become a teacher?
My own reception teacher inspired me to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to be just like her! I thought: if I can be as good a teacher as she is, then I want to give it a go.
What was the application process like?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher, so I took the relevant paths at each stage to give me the best chance of getting into university. The application to university was not as stressful as everyone says.
What was your course like? 
Enjoyable! A real insight to what being a teacher is like. The placements were really useful as well, because you got to learn on the job.
Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
I moved away into halls for the first year, then moved into a house with friends for second and third year.
What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where? My first job outside university was as a learning support worker. I chose to do this job as, after completing my dissertation, I had a keen interest in SEN. I wanted to know more about SEN and provisions within school. After that, I became a KS1 nurture and behaviour teacher for a year, and I am now a Year 1 teacher as well as PE lead and NQT mentor.
Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
The best thing about being a teacher is being able to make a difference to children’s lives. Being able to see the progress the children make. I have no regrets about being a teacher and the course I chose. I love my job.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
More about applying for student finance.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
It is hard, especially the first year, but have faith, you can do it! Also, being aware there are ups and downs, but no down stays with you for long, because the love you have for teaching takes over again.
I love teaching because… I am able to make a difference to children’s lives.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

How to apply for teacher training programmes in four steps

You can now apply for teacher training programmes for 2017 entry. There isn’t a set deadline that your application needs to reach us by, but to be in with the best chance of securing a place at your preferred provider we recommend you apply as soon as possible.

Not sure where to begin? We’ve got it covered in four simple steps.

1. Research training providers and programmes

Before you start your application, research the training providers that offer the programme you’re interested in. There are four different routes into teaching, so if you’re not sure which one is right for you, check out this short video.

Once you’ve found the programme you’re interested in, see which providers offer it in our search tool. Here, you’ll be able to find further information on the provider and programme.

2. Register on our website

So, now you’ve found the programme and provider you’re interested in, the next step is to register online. It’s a short process which will ask you for basic information such as your name, address, and date of birth. You need to provide a valid email address as this will be your username and you’ll be asked to create a password.

3. Complete an application

When you log in you’ll see a page like this:

Each section must be completed before you can send your application. We’ve got lots of advice on how to complete the application on our website.

The ‘Education’ section can sometimes cause a bit of confusion. You need to enter every place where you’ve achieved a formal qualification from in the ‘Education’ section.  This should start from the age of 12 onwards.

First, you search for your school by clicking on the ‘Add new school/college/university’ link and then ‘Find school’ to select the ones you’ve attended.

If the school isn’t listed, close the pop up window and you’ll be able to enter the details in manually.

Once you’ve done this, add in your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalents). If your qualification type isn’t in the list, select the ‘Other’ option that best suits you to enter the details in manually.

Finally, add details of your degree. Start with your university or college name, degree class, course name, start date, and results date.

When it comes to adding your school and work experience you need to include:
  • your school experience and work history, including current occupation
  • the time you spent in a school or college, including details of the age groups and subjects you were involved in
  • For the ‘hours per week’ question give the average weekly time you spent in the establishment.
Some training providers will require your complete work history, if you can’t fit this in then send the info to the providers separately, in a CV or a summary of your work history.

If you need any help with the personal statement or reference sections, then all the advice you need is on our website.

4. Pay for and send your application

Once every section of your application is complete, the final step is making a payment. The fee is £24 and you pay with a debit or credit card. It can take up to 48 hours for your application to be processed but once it has, you’ll be sent an email with your Track login details.

Good luck with your application!

Download our free UCAS Teacher Training pack which contains all the information and advice you need to apply.

If you have any questions then send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and we'll get right back to you.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Decision, decisions… when are you likely to hear back from unis?

The wait for decisions on your application can be agonising. It’s a good idea to use this time effectively by familiarising yourself with the decisions the unis you’ve applied to could make, so you know what to expect and what to do when the time comes.

Each university and college will make their decisions at different times, meaning you might hear back before your friends do, or vice versa. However, there are deadlines by which they have to decide:

  • 5 May 2017 – if you sent your application by 15 January 2017
  • 13 July 2017 – if you sent your application by 30 June 2017
  • 23 October 2017 – this is the final deadline for unis to make decisions on applications to courses starting in 2017

If a uni you’ve applied to doesn’t make a decision by the appropriate deadline, that choice will be automatically made unsuccessful.

Good luck with your application! 

Check out our advice on what you can do while you wait for uni decisions. You can also stay up-to-date with any decisions by checking Track.

You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll be happy to help!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Why study a postgraduate?

Name: Jessica Stokes
What course are you studying/have you studied?
I started off studying a BSc in Biology at Swansea University before doing a Masters by Research in Veterinary Parasitology at the University of Bristol. I’m currently doing a PhD at the University of Liverpool on Schmallenberg virus (a disease of sheep and cattle that is spread by midges), as part of my BBSRC funding I was required to do an MRes in Clinical Sciences at the University for my first year.

What or who inspired you to study for a postgraduate qualification?
I’ve always been fascinated by diseases, so studying them after my undergrad seemed the perfect thing for me, but it was my mum that inspired me to carry on to a PhD. She completed hers in marine zoology not long before I came into the world.

What was the application process like?
There are a lot more people applying for PhDs in my field than there are funded. I always hoped to go straight into a PhD from my undergrad, however I found a lot of the other applicants at interview had been in industry or had completed a Masters. After a few interviews for PhDs I was offered a Masters by Research at Bristol- this was 1 year of research, with a thesis and viva at the end - a perfect test for deciding if a PhD was for me. The next year I got the PhD I had previously applied for. It required a lot of resilience, but it was worth it.

What was your course like?
My undergraduate course was a standard taught course, with a mixture of coursework and essay exam. We could choose some of our modules, and the degree was more ecology orientated than molecular biology (which suited me). We also had lots of opportunities for extra learning, and I was able to get involved with some carnivore post mortems (road traffic accidents) and bird surveys.

My Masters by Research at the University of Bristol was a project evaluating the risk of Echinococcus multilocularis to the UK with pet travel. This is a parasitic worm of dogs, cats and foxes which exists in Europe, if you ever take your pet abroad you have to deworm them before you re-enter the UK to prevent the spread of this worm. There was no taught element of the course, as it was 100% research. However I could elect to take courses, such as a week long course on statistics. At the end of the year I had to write up my research in the form of a mini-thesis and then defend the work through a viva. You had to be in charge of your own time as the only deadline was the final one! I really enjoyed being in charge of my time and project, which really spurred me on to the PhD.

The MRes in Clinical sciences was a mixture of taught modules and 3 individual 10 week research projects. I could choose my 3 mini-projects, but none of the taught modules. The taught modules included lab skills, statistics and journal clubs, all of which had a write-up. You had to be very organised and on-top of your work, as the deadlines were short and often all came at once. I found this course more structured, but also a lot more intense. It definitely helped teach you productivity and how to think critically.

My PhD is my own research again. There are no taught courses, but I have the option to sign up to some short courses. I can also undergo training in areas useful to my research- for example I now know how to handle sheep. I also hold a Personal Licence to allow me to collect samples from sheep to test for immunity to Schmallenberg virus. I have to plan my projects, apply for ethical approval, collect the data and write up all under my own steam. This freedom to undertake and oversee my own work really suits me and I really enjoy what I do. My research is a combination of field work, lab work and desk work. I love fieldwork, so try to get out as much as I can; the best part of my research for me is interacting with farmers. I’ve learnt so much over the last 2 years, and it has been constantly changing and challenging. I feel proud of what I have achieved already and really enjoy my work. As a PhD student I can also take on teaching hours and my own students, which is a great opportunity. So far this year I have taught on undergraduate courses, overseen Nuffield (AS-level) student projects and acted as a tutor on the Realising Opportunities course, encouraging AS-level students into university. Encouraging a passion is really rewarding and it’s a great experience.

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
For my Masters by Research at Bristol I worked from home and commuted in from time to time. I found this quite isolating having lived away from home for my undergrad.
Knowing that I was going to be at Liverpool for at least 4 years (1 year masters + 3 years PhD) I decided to buy a house not too far away from campus. I commute in everyday (all 10 minutes of it) which allows me to have my own space at home and also interact with other postgrads at work and at home (most of us live nearby). I have the option to work from home if I am not in the lab or the field, but generally I work from my desk so that I can benefit from problem solving with other PhD’s.

Are you currently employed? How do you fit your work around your studies and vice versa?
When I was at Bristol and working from home I took up some extra hours at the job I kept throughout the summer of my undergrad. I also volunteered 1 day a week at Slimbridge Wetlands Trust as my research and hours of work were flexible.

My PhD is funded so I effectively ‘get paid’ a stipend quarterly. I can also get paid for teaching some courses, but this is just the odd hour here or there. I don’t think I would be able to fit my current research in around a job as my hours depend on the project (and quite frequently the weather). Some of my research requires me to be away from home for weeks/months on fieldwork so I don’t tend to have a structured routine like some other student projects.

How do you/did you fund your studies?
I’m lucky enough to be funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership (BBSRC DTP). This means I receive a quarterly stipend and have a pot of money to spend on my research (consumables, equipment, travel, etc.).

Do you have any regrets about your course choice? Did anything surprise you?
Having done the Masters by Research at Bristol I came into the PhD knowing what to expect. This has suited me very well. However having to do a second masters before I could start my PhD surprised me. I felt I already had a lot of the skills I needed having already completed one, and although I did hone some important skills, it did feel unnecessary. I know I was not alone, as one of the other girls that started at the same time as me had also completed a prior masters beforehand, but I guess this just shows the level of competition in our field.

For my Masters at Bristol I regret not spending more time with the research group. I feel that by working from home I missed out on some of the community spirit and support I could have benefited from during that year, and at times I became quite isolated.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
How fast the time goes. Three years, or in my case 4, has flown by. I think it’s important to know there is a plan in place at the beginning, and at least 2 back-up plans for the project, as research doesn’t tend to be straightforward. Schmallenberg virus- the disease I am currently studying- disappeared whilst I was doing my second masters, which means I have had to come up with new research projects for my thesis.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about postgraduate study, what would it be?
Make sure you can time-manage. If you need to have someone set you deadlines, then a taught course might be more for you. If you are organised and thrive when left to undertake your own work, then you are likely to really enjoy undertaking your own research project as a Masters or PhD.

More information
For PhD students it is always worth meeting your supervisor to make sure you are compatible. They are your support, so if you are on different planets and can’t communicate with each other efficiently, then your relationship and ultimately your work is likely to suffer.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Share Your Story: Sophie Lea

What course are you studying/have you studied?
BA Hons Primary Degree 5-11

What or who inspired you to train to become a teacher?
I have always wanted to work with people and feel that I am doing something worthwhile and positive.

What was the application process like?
When I trained, there were lots of applicants so I can remember that it was competitive. It was good to hear from current students/teachers during interview days. My interview involved a presentation and group discussion.

What was your course like?
Placements in school were by far the most valuable part of my training to prepare me for the job. There were lots of practical tasks in seminars, as if we were the children. Guest speakers were the most exciting part of lectures, I remember a lecture by a children’s author being really interesting.

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
Moved away from home

What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where?
I teach year 4 at Cam Hopton C of E Primary School and am the English subject leader.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a teacher? What is the worst?
Being in the classroom with the children is the best part of the job. Having feedback from the children, after a lesson they really enjoyed, feels great!

Marking and planning is the worst part of the job but just has to be done! You do get faster at it!

Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
No I was pleased with my route choice, having completed a three year degree.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
Teaching is most definitely a challenging career but a very rewarding and enjoyable one too.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
When you start placement/your career, you must prioritise. It’s very easy to get caught up doing unproductive tasks. Every night I ask myself ‘What do I need to do for tomorrow to run smoothly?’ I would also say it’s important to keep things in perspective. When you’re on placement some lessons go well and some don’t go so well. It’s the same when you have your own class too!

I love teaching because… the children I teach say they enjoy being in my class.
Having school holidays is also a massive bonus! If you have aspirations to travel you have lots of opportunities to do so, there aren’t many careers that have as much holiday.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Private renting for students

Taking the leap into private accommodation comes with more freedom but more responsibility.

Here’s how you can protect the deposit you pay at the start of your tenancy.

Before you move in

After you find a property, you need to do the following:

Pay your tenancy deposit and any letting agent fees.
Sign a tenancy agreement with the letting agent or landlord, and keep a copy for yourself.
Get a copy of the property inventory and the keys on the day you move in.

What is the tenancy deposit?

It is a one-off payment you make at the start of your tenancy when you rent a property.
It works as a security deposit that your landlord could use to cover any damage caused to the property while you’re living there.

Your deposit doesn’t go into your landlord’s pocket – instead, your letting agent or landlord must put it into a Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme run by the government, within 30 days.

Check your property

Before you move all your stuff into the property, go around and make a note of any visible problems you can find in your inventory.

Look for issues that might cause your landlord to deduct money from your deposit at the end of your tenancy, such as damaged furniture or marks on walls.

Complete an inventory

If the letting agent/landlord provides an inventory, but it doesn’t include photos of the issues, take some yourself. This gives you more proof of the condition of the property to help you settle any disputes with your landlord at the end of your tenancy.

If you don’t have one, make one yourself using this printable inventory checklist.

Your inventory should list all defects and damage to the property, including any furniture or white goods (such as a fridge) your landlord has provided the property with.

When it’s time to move out

Use your inventory and your photos as a guide to how your property should look when you move out.

Check your tenancy agreement to see if you need to pay for professional cleaners to come in, or if you can do it yourself.

This guide tells you exactly what to expect when you’re moving out so you don’t get caught out.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Share Your Story: Hannah Taylor

What or who inspired you to train to become a teacher?
I’ve always loved learning and education. History has been my passion since I was very young, and I wanted the chance to not only be immersed in a subject I love every day, but also to encourage young people to enjoy it as much as I do.

What was the application process like?
It was fairly straightforward. You apply through UCAS using one of the assigned codes, depending on the route you want to take; you get essentially the same training regardless of which route you take, so it’s about choosing the route that best suits your needs. Once my application was sent in, I was called for an interview day where I had to do a basic numeracy and literacy test and teach a 15-minute lesson to a small group of pupils, which was followed by a formal interview. It seemed daunting before I got there, but the staff involved were all very supportive. You also have to take an official literacy and numeracy test, which you have to pass to be accepted onto the course. You get three tries of each, so it’s best to get these done early in the process in case you need to do them again.

What was your course like?
The course was hard work, but I enjoyed it. GITEP is excellent at getting you into the classroom quickly – you only spend 3 weeks in lectures before you start attending your placement school. That might seem daunting, but teaching really is something you learn practically. You are well guided by your mentor (who is directly in charge of your training in the classroom), training manager (who looks after all the trainees in a school) and subject leader. Your training is split into three placements at two different schools (at least one of which must provide A level experience), and each placement sees an increase in teaching time. This means you slowly build up the workload, which helps to stop you becoming overwhelmed. You will spend a good period of time initially observing lessons, so you can get to know your classes and pick up some tips from more experienced teachers. Once you begin teaching for yourself, classroom teachers will fill out a weekly lesson observation form to highlight things you are doing well, and advise on 1 or 2 areas you could try to improve on. As you complete each placement, you create a Key Evidence File (K.E.F) with evidence to support your progress and to show that you are meeting the Teaching Standards set by the government. It sounds like a lot of work, but you put it together across the duration of a placement, so there’s plenty of time to get it done. You also complete three assignments across the year, based on research into teaching styles and your own research conducted in the classroom. These are excellent ways to develop and broaden your teaching style – you’ll never get as much time to research teaching again in your career so make the most of it! Alongside the school placements, you attend weekly Subject Pathway sessions with your Subject Leader, where you will work on subject specific tasks and themes. These are also a great opportunity to share ideas and worries with your other subject trainees.

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
I still lived at home. I don’t drive, and was lucky with my placements. GITEP and the University of Gloucestershire work very hard to make sure that you aren’t on placement somewhere you cannot reach. However, you have to be prepared to do some travelling.

What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where?
I am currently the History KS3 co-ordinator at Pittville School, an 11-16 school in Cheltenham. This year I will also be a History PGCE mentor.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a teacher? What is the worst?
The best thing about being a teacher is having an impact on pupil’s lives. There is nothing better than seeing a young person finally realise their potential in front of you. Sometimes it’s more than academics -  in school, teachers are also responsible for the emotional wellbeing of pupils, and helping someone when they’re having a difficult time is hard, but really rewarding.
The worst thing is that during term time, there will always be something you could be doing. It can be a very demanding job. There is more to teaching than just being in the classroom, and there will always be times when other tasks will get in the way of what you signed up for.

Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
I have no regrets at all – I think I made the best choice for me. My only surprise was how little time was dedicated to lectures, but the course is all the better for it.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
I wish I’d known that it’s okay to get things wrong in the classroom. It’s never nice to have someone criticise something you’ve worked hard on, but your PGCE year is about taking risks and trying new things. Sometimes they won’t work, but the only way you learn is through making mistakes and correcting them. It’s about making progress, not being perfect.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
Think of training as a job, not as a university course. Be professional, be punctual and remember that you are training around teachers who have a job to do, and pupils who need to learn. If you approach it in an organised, professional way, you’ll be successful.

I love teaching because… no two days are ever the same. Young people are some of the most free spirited, imaginative and rewarding people you could ever hope to work with. It beats being stuck in an office!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Do you need to take an English test to study at university in the UK?

In 2015, the UK’s Visa and Immigration service (UKVI) changed its rules affecting the language tests needed to work or study in the UK. Many students have found the new rules complicated and are not sure if they need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) or another kind of English test. This quick guide outlines the key facts about who needs to take a SELT and, more importantly, who doesn’t!

What are the different types of English test?
There are broadly two types of English test for applying to study in the UK:

SELTs – these are usually taken for visa applications. The UKVI decides which exams are accepted, and approves the test centres. Some SELTs can only be taken inside the UK, while others – such as IELTS for UKVI – can be taken in your own country.
Non-SELT language tests – some tests not on the UKVI’s SELT list may still be used, depending on the type of visa applied for. Some tests assess a wide range of ability, while others are in-depth exams at one level.

So, who needs to take a SELT?
Some people applying for a UK student visa will need to take a SELT, and some will not.
Students currently living outside the European Zone (European Union, European Economic Area, or Switzerland) are required to take a SELT if they intend to:

take a course below degree level – CEFR level B1 SELT or higher.
study at a university or college not recognised by UKVI (most universities and colleges are recognised) – CEFR level B2 SELT or higher.

Who doesn’t need to take a SELT?
Many people applying to study at university in the UK don’t need to take a SELT. UK universities are allowed to accept other tests and qualifications, but they are only allowed to do so for courses that are at undergraduate level and above if the student needs a visa.

Examples of when a SELT is not needed include:

students who live in the European Union (or don’t need a visa for other reasons) intending to study at any level
students needing a visa and are intending to study at undergraduate level or above (unless the specific university asks for a SELT)
students who are nationals of an English-speaking country listed on UKVI’s website (or have a bachelor’s degree or higher from one of these countries) may not need to take a SELT

Even if you don’t need to take a SELT, your college or university may still ask you to prove your English ability as part of your application. They can choose which exams they accept and set the level of English necessary for entry to your course – this may be higher than the level set by the UKVI.

On the positive side, because a wider range of exams is accepted, you may be able to use the result of an exam you have already passed – Cambridge English: Advanced, for example, is commonly accepted for UK university applications.

Find out more
Check your visa requirements on the UKVI website, but remember the rules can change.
Contact your chosen university to find out what the English requirements
are for your course, and which exams and grades they accept.

If you do need to take a SELT, two exams are currently accepted by UKVI:

IELTS for UKVI – available in the UK and overseas
Integrated Skills in English – available in the UK only

About Petra Olsson
Petra is Stakeholder and Key Account Manager (UK & Ireland) for Cambridge English Language Assessment – a not-for-profit department of the University of Cambridge.
Cambridge English provides qualifications for learners and teachers of English, including exams widely accepted for applications to UK higher education providers, such as:
Cambridge English: First; Cambridge English: Advanced; and Cambridge English: Proficiency.

Cambridge English, together with IDP IELTS and British Council, are the producers of IELTS for UKVI.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Make sure you get your student finance payments!

Now that results day is out of the way, you’re likely to know which university or college you’re headed to later this month – but have you made sure your student finance is sorted?

Student Finance England has some words of advice to help make sure you get paid on time.

If you’ve applied online, log back into your student finance account and check that your application has been approved. You also need to make sure you’ve sent in any supporting evidence that we’ve asked for.

If you’ve done all of this, you shou
ld have had a letter from us by now telling you how much support you can get. This letter will tell you how much your payments will be and when these are due. But before we can make these payments, you must register at your university or college.

We pay loans in three instalments – one at the start of each term. The Maintenance Loan goes directly into your bank account, while the Tuition Fee Loan goes directly to your university or college.

To make sure the money arrives on time, you need to check that your bank details are up to date. You can do this by logging into your account. You’ll also be able to check payment dates and the status of your application.

You should allow a few working days for the money to reach your account – and if it’s still not there, you should contact your bank before you contact us.

Our ‘Getting paid’ playlist explains how easy it is to make sure you get paid on time.

Our student finance zone also has some tips on how you can make sure you get your money in time for the start of your course.

You can also follow us on Twitter – @SF_England – and like us on Facebook for important news and updates.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Share Your Story: Janie Livermore

What or who inspired you to train to become a teacher?
My mum! She has worked in primary schools since I can remember, and growing up, I would go to her class and help her out when I could; I loved the fact that no two days were the same.
Also, I have a lot of lovely memories of my time in primary school with my mum working there and my dad being heavily involved. Every member of my immediate family have worked in education, and I guess it was natural for me to do the same.

What was the application process like?
I was very fortunate. I came back from travelling for 2 years thinking I have missed the boat in applying for any type of teacher training course w
hen my mum spotted an advert in the local newspaper. I applied straight away and got offered an interview a few days later. The interview was at a local primary school, and we had to take a literacy and maths test, take in a book suited for the year group allocated and read to a class, as well as preparing a presentation about ourselves and an interview with the course director and the head teacher. The very next day I received the amazing news!

This particular SCITT took on around 80 trainees, but the interviews started in September until my interview (with me being the last one) in June, and sometimes they offered a place to all the candidates or to just one person per interview session.

What was your course like?
The course itself was very good. We had lectures in every subject, (such as Literacy, Maths, Science etc) as well as other aspects of teaching (Voice, Special Educational Needs, Professional studies).
I would lie if I said it was easy! It was very demanding and I had to be highly organised and hard-working throughout, but it was worth it all in the end.

I was also very fortunate in having some of the most amazing people by my side throughout, whether I needed help with planning a lesson or an assignment, I knew I could go to my friends for support as they understand!

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
Again, I was very fortunate as my cohort was based in a primary school literally 5 minutes from my house! That is where all the lectures were held. My two training schools were in the local area too, so not a long commute at all.

What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where?
I taught year 5 and year 1 during my trainee year, but I have been employed at a school in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, as a Year 5 teacher.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a teacher? What is the worst?
The worst thing about being a teacher is that it does affect your social life, especially when you are first starting out and you are not necessarily quick at planning or marking. But, with time and practice, the work/life balance should get better.

I love the quote, “teachers change the world one child at a time” and I believe this is true. It is knowing you are making a difference; teaching isn’t just about imparting knowledge from a textbook, marking the register and sending home children at the end of the day. Sometimes, school is the only consistency in a child’s life, and sometimes they need that nurture, that place to go when maybe things are just not right at home. I like knowing that I can provide that; that is the best thing about teaching in my opinion.

Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
Not at all. I was on a schools direct course so we spent a lot of time working in schools, instead of studying in a lecture hall at a University. I liked the lectures and I learnt a lot from them, but I learnt more in the schools I was training at and being able to teach classes and working out what I could improve or what worked well. We had observations more and less every week, which was great for receiving feedback. I am a kinaesthetic learner so for me, this was the best way to learn.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
Maybe the amount of work we had to do! I went in very na├»vely and didn’t realise we needed to have two pieces of evidence per teaching standard (84 overall), a professional folder and 4 assignments to complete!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
Buy post its. Buy highlighters. Do anything you can to keep yourself organised and on top of things. It is a very hard year if you do a SCITT course, as you are doing a course and a job at the same time. The folders, the assignments, the planning, the data, and the admin – it all needs to be done and you don’t have a lot of time to do it!

I love teaching because…
I know that I can make some kind of difference for every pupil in my class.

More information
The key piece of advice I got from my mentor was, “you will never know everything.”
Personally, I have beaten myself up when a child asks me something and I didn’t know the answer; but is ok. It is ok to admit that you do not know everything; you are human after all and sometimes, the children respect you more when you admit that.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Student Finance Guide for Freshers

I you are heading to university this autumn, life is about to get interesting! We look at how to make sure you can afford to have fun rather than worrying about the pennies.

Whether you will be living away from your parents for the first time or studying from home, once you start university you will have far more financial independence than ever before.

You will also be offered a bewildering array of accounts, cards and other finance options.
Financial products might sound a little dull, but the freedom they can give you if you choose wisely can be the difference between affording to do what you want and missing out on fun because you are skint!

We look at the new options you'll have, what to go for - and what to avoid.

How to budget

Setting and sticking to a budget will make sure you do not spend more than the money you have coming in - this is especially important if you need to survive off a single student loan instalment each term.

If you can resist splurging cash on things you do not need it can keep you out of financial trouble and maximise what you can do with your money.

Student loans and grants

As a student you will have access to grants, bursaries and loans to help you afford university. Knowing how they work is important so you can make sure you are getting all the help you need.
You can get a loan of up to £9,000 each year to pay tuition fees.

You can also get a maintenance loan to pay living costs. The amount depends on the part of the country you are in and if you live away from home or not. Student loans only need to be paid back once you start working and earn £21,000 or above.

You may also be able to get a maintenance grant of up to £3,387 towards your costs, depending on your household income.

You will not need to pay this back currently, however from the 2016-17 academic year the grants will be scrapped and replaced with maintenance loans. The maximum you will be able to borrow will increase to £8,200.

You can find out more from the Student Finance England guide to financial support.

Student bank accounts

There are some eye-catching deals out there for student accounts as the banks try to lure in young customers they hope will stick with them for life.

Do not be tempted by gimmicks like a free cuddly toy or gift - you are far better off going with an account with a competitive overdraft. An interest free overdraft will not charge you if you need to borrow a little to keep you going until payday or the next instalment of your loan.

If you do choose an account with a free gift, try to pick one that is useful like a student railcard or a free NUS Extra card.

An account you can manage from your computer or mobile is worth it too, to help you keep track of your spending, our student bank account comparison lists all the top student accounts.

Student credit cards

It is best to avoid credit card debt if you can, as it can quickly grow if you spend more than you can pay back. However, student credit cards do come with some benefits, including protection on your purchases.

Student Credit Cards can bring a range of benefits, very low interest rates for short term periods, a lower APR than standard cards, free vouchers, no annual fee, access to cash machines, or the opportunity to sign up for on line banking.

You will need several details to hand before applying for a student credit card such as your banking details and proof of address for the past 3 years.

For more information, including the pros and cons of taking out a credit card, read our guide, How to find the perfect credit card for you.

Other loans

Taking out loans can be tempting, but unless you have got a clear plan to get it paid back quickly, you can find the amount you owe will just get higher and higher.

Do not be tempted by the ease of payday loans  their sky high interest rates and fees make them totally unsuitable as a long-term solution.

Student insurance

If you have never dropped, lost or broken anything and know you will never be robbed, you probably do not need insurance.

Otherwise, the right contents insurance policy can protect you from loss, breakages and pesky thieves.

Make sure you choose a policy that will protect everything you take to uni. Shop around and make sure you do what you can to push down the price, like having a lock on the door to your room.

You will not need buildings insurance if you rent, as that will be the landlord's responsibility.

You can use our student contents insurance and student gadget insurance comparisons to make sure you get the best deal out there.

Student jobs

A part-time job while you are at uni can top up your finances, as long as you can find a healthy balance between studying, working and having fun.

You only have to start paying income tax and National insurance if you earn more than a certain amount. Your employer will not deduct tax from your pay if you earn less than the current limits:

  • If you earn less than £204 per week (or £833 a month), you will not need to pay income tax on your wages
  • If you earn less than £155 a week, you will not need to pay National Insurance

You can find out more on the GOV.UK website.

If you are below the income tax limit, you can also register an R85 on your savings or bank accounts to ensure your interest is paid tax-free. You can do this via the HMRC website.

Paying bills

If you live in halls of residence, most bills are usually included in your rent. Some student houses will also include all bills in the rent you pay. Although this can sometimes work out more expensive, it does at least make budgeting pretty straightforward.

If you will live with others and have to pay your bills separately, work out exactly how you will split and pay the bills in advance to avoid falling out.

You could open a joint account to do this. That way you can each pay in the same amount each month and split the bills fairly. Plus, problems can arise if you do not trust your housemates with managing your money, and having a joint account will link your finances, which can damage your credit rating, something you might regret once you graduate.

Alternatively, you could set up your utilities through a company like split the bills. You can each pay an agreed amount on the first of every month to cover all your bills (and a little extra to cover the cost of the service), rather than dealing with the complications of having varying bill amounts cropping up throughout the month.

Broadband, phone and TV

Do not just look for the cheapest package you can find  find one that covers everything you need, whether that is all the sports channels, free minutes to phone home or a decent broadband download limit.

If you will only be in your student house for 9 months, look for deals that offer a shorter contract, in case they are cheaper than having to pay for an entire year. Use our broadband comparison to find the cheapest internet deal that suits what you need.


Unless it is included in your rent, you will have to pay for the gas, electricity and water you use.

As well as picking a cheap supplier for each, you can save money by limiting how much you use and submitting meter readings to make sure you are not paying for more than you are using.

For some tips on how you can save, read our guide, slash your utility bills by up to £170 a year.

TV licence

If you watch TV shows live, you will need a TV licence, whatever device you watch them on.

Your parents' licence is unlikely to cover you if you live away from home, but if you live in shared accommodation you will usually only need one licence for the whole house. If you will be heading home for the summer, you won't be in your student house for a full 12 months. You can get a refund for the months you are back home. Information on how to do this and the specifics on when you need a licence is on the TV Licensing website.

Council tax
If everyone in your house is a full-time student, you won't need to pay any council tax.

However, you will need to apply for exemption from council tax if you get sent a bill for it  you can do this on the GOV.UK website.