Off To Uni : Getting Ready to Go

After receiving your results its time to start getting excited about going to University and starting the next chapter in your life. Obviously you need to start getting prepared to move out including buying some essentials for your bedroom, kitchen and bathroom and of course your stationery necessities. Today is going to be kind of a helping hand in finding your way and getting ready to go to University. 

The obvious thing to do when getting ready to university is to start buying everything you need. It is easy to go overboard (trust me I know) and its a good idea to devise a check list of stuff you need/want. I personally looked online for a university checklist to use as a basis. I found that The Student Room's checklist was one of the best I found and after a few alterations it was perfect. I would say start early when buying this stuff. I started buying all of my stuff in dribs and drabs back in February which I think is a good thing to do. The only reason I did this was because I was sure I was definitely going to university this year, I didn't want to take a gap year and if all else failed I would've gone through clearing. I didn't go out and buy literally everything I needed all in one go. I mainly brought things that didn't take up a lot of room so they would be easy to store. I do know people who didn't buy anything for university until after getting their results, which is fine. But for me personally I only have like 3 weeks left at home and if I had to buy everything which I've brought over the past few months in a few weeks I would have a mini meltdown! Buying in advance also means that despite it costing me quite a lot it was spread out over a period of time so it didn't appear like I was buying an awful lot. Also it meant that I could actually choose what I wanted design wise and get something I like because I had a lot of time to be able to buy everything than probably settling for what was there at the time. 

If you are looking for great stuff to buy as a student I would definitely recommend going to check out Asda, Ikea, Homesense, Home Bargains, Wilkinson and B&M. The majority of my stuff was brought from Asda but some also from Tesco. Tesco can be quite a bit more expensive but as I work there I get 10% discount alongside being able to use Tesco Clubcard Vouchers so technically I didn't pay for a lot of it. I personally wouldn't get super expensive stuff for your first year as from what I've read and heard from friends and family is that you lose most of it, it gets broken, etc and if you've brought super expensive stuff you won't be happy to find out you've lost it or its somehow gotten broken. 

Next weeks Off To Uni post will be more about getting ready to go closer to the time of leaving and how to prepare to say goodbye and making sure you feel ready to go and leave your family home.

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Off To Uni : Results Day

Everything you've been working for for two years comes down to this one day, and from experience it will either make you or break you. Theres a lot of things that occur during results day, one of which is finding out if you have or haven't got into your firm or your insurance university as well as finding out what you actually got in your A-Levels. Today I'm talking you through the ins and outs of results day as well as what happens when it doesn't all go to plan...

My results day was on the 14th August 2014. To be honest I had really been that nervous for it until probably a couple of days beforehand as I had done everything I could've done and what would be would be (from experience this is the best mindset to have). So basically what happens is that UCAS Track (which is where you've kept up to date with your offers and where you made your firm and insurance choices) goes down pretty much a week before results day but you are still able to log into your account. 24 hours before the results get announced track closes down all together and, for me anyway, you couldn't access the portal until 8am on the morning of results. This was torture, I didn't sleep pretty much for the entirety of the night before and so just waiting for this information to be released and so late on in the morning was such a pain. However, I could access a portal which is ran by our school which we could check our exam results on usually from 6am in the morning (this is what they always do so I've been able to access it when getting my GCSEs and A-Levels), from what I know a lot of schools have this. I personally don't know if this is a good or a bad thing. It did mean I knew what my results were before hearing if I had gotten into my university but for me that was a good thing as I instantly knew I wouldn't be getting into my firm choice but it also meant I was extremely emotional and disappointed with myself before finding out if I had gotten into my insurance choice. I personally paid too much attention to my grades rather than that I had gotten into university. So if you do have the opportunity to check your results beforehand, seriously think whether its going to be a good thing to do or not.

As I have said Track opens at 8am usually, however, they do sometimes get it up and running beforehand. I was able to log in just after half 7 so remember to keep checking. When you log in it will tell you whether or not you got into your firm university if it does it will say you were successful.  If you were successful your offer will change from a conditional offer to an unconditional offer and you are off to your firm university. If it says this is unsuccessful honestly do not worry as most people don't get into their firm choice and thats what your insurance choice is there for. You will then scroll down if you weren't successful and it will then inform you if you got into your insurance choice. If it was successful similarly to before your conditional offer will change to an unconditional offer as well as it automatically changes to your firm choice. However, if you got rejected from both your insurance and firm university choices you can then go through a process of clearing if you wish to still go to university.

I personally did not have to go through clearing so I'm not entirely sure how the process works. But I know some people who did and they said it was quite a stressful experience. But don't let this put you off! Lots of universities release their clearing list a couple of days before results day and you can sign up for a call back on results day if you are sure you did not receive the grades for your university choices or if you got rejected from all of your offers earlier on in the UCAS process. As far as I can tell if you don't get into your universities you can ring up any university through their own clearing line and ask if you meet their entry requirements for the course you wish to do. Usually you get a response quite quickly and can make a verbal agreement. From 5pm on the day of results day you can then add a clearing option which you would have already been accepted into verbally. And then as far as I can tell the university confirms this and then this becomes your firm university. This may not be true as I didn't have to go through this process.

Alongside clearing you can also go through a process of Adjustment if your results exceeded the entry requirements for your firm university. Its a similar process to clearing I believe but you can apply to universities with higher entry requirements. I don't know anyone who went through this process so you'd have to research it further.

After all this is said and down and you've gotten into a university, whether it was your firm or not, it's now time to officially celebrate! Obviously make sure you are over 18 years of age when buying or drinking alcoholic beverages and stay safe but have fun!

The next Off To Uni post will be all about getting ready to go and going about buying all of your university essentials for starting your new future!

Soap & Glory Smoothie Star Breakfast Scrub

If I ever want to get something body care wise i know I can always turn to Soap and Glory and rarely be disappointed. This is one of these fail safe products for me. The Smoothie Star Breakfast Scrub not only smells amazing it also does wonders for my skin. I have repurchased this particular scrub over and over and have yet to find something that smells just as good but also has similar results.

The scrub itself is gentle enough to be used more than once a week yet harsh enough to remove the stubborn dead/hard skin over your body. You can really work with this scrub to get a deep exfoliation which is amazing when trying to remove old tan. You can also use this for a gentle everyday exfoliation. This is a universal product which I have to have in my bathroom otherwise I feel lost as it does the work of probably two different products in one tub.

I use this quite frequently like maybe twice a week and find this lasts me ages! Which is good because it means you get your moneys worth as a little goes a long way. This is a staple in my bathroom and it will be for the foreseeable future until Soap and Glory come up with something even better than this.

As always I am open to suggestions about new products so if you have a body scrub which you think is a staple and a must try please let me know in the comments!

Off To Uni : Accommodation

The last Off To Uni post was all about applying for your student finance (if you missed it you can read it here) and todays post is all about applying for first year accommodation which is usually halls. This is all impacted on your student loan as knowing what you can and cannot afford helps you out a lot!

When applying for your accommodation theres a lot of factors to consider which I didn't even realise until before I started looking at accommodation. Of course you have to decide between on campus or off campus accommodation these helps narrow down your choices. On Campus means you are near everything including your lectures, the library and any other necessities on campus whereas off campus means you have to get transport into the campus which could cost you extra. If you are someone who often sleeps in and knows you are going to be late maybe off campus won't be for you. So think it through and be realistic when thinking about this also look at the university and how far off campus accommodation is away from the main campus.

 Then I personally would think whether you want to go catered or self-catered. This was an easy decision for me as I am quite a fussy eater and knew I wouldn't eat half the food they would offer and so it would be a waste of my money. Also I really like the idea of being able to go to the kitchen and get food in my pjs and not have to worry about getting dressed to go and eat. Self catered is obviously the sensible option for me but it might be for you. I know a lot of parents want their child to go catered so they know they are eating whilst living away from home. But remember this is your decision and you have to live with it. Catered of course means you have set meal times and have to eat between a certain time whereas self-catered means you have to cook for yourself but you get the freedom to eat when you want to. Again this then narrows down the accommodation you can choose as most halls don't offer both self-catered and catered flats. 

Afterwards it comes down to probably personal preference or what you can afford with your loan. Now this is if you want an en-suite or to share a bathroom within your flat. I knew pretty much straight away that I didn't mind paying extra for an en-suite as I thought, for me, it was a vital thing. Whereas I know other people are happy sharing a bathroom. For me most of the accommodation I was looking at meant sharing a bathroom with 5 or more people and for me that was too many. I like my bathroom in a certain way and a specific type of cleanness and didn't want to risk ending up sharing a bathroom with people who wouldn't pull their weight when cleaning. Also my friend also pointed out to me if you are ill do you really want to be sharing a bathroom? Then again I do know people who have had positive experience through shared bathrooms as well as I know my mate has a shared bathroom and its only with one other person which could be liveable with. Obviously whatever your loan can afford is a big factor in your decision.

Another personal preference when it comes to your accommodation, if its available, is your actual room. I was lucky enough to get a few decisions such as having a single or double bed or having a slightly bigger room. Again this is all down to your loan again. There is no point in applying for accommodation you know you aren't going to afford. This is why applying for your student loan early is important because it means you know exactly what you can afford.

After all this is done its now just time to wait for results day! Which probably seems forever away when you are at this stage as you probably apply for all of this before you even sit any of your exams. The next Off To Uni post is going to be about getting ready to go to university before getting your results.

L'Oreal Hair Expertise EverSleek

The L'Oreal Hair Expertise has a number of ranges for different hair needs including EverSleek, EverStrong, EverRiche and EverPure. I personally use the EverSleek range as its for coarse and frizzy hair, which I seem to experience from use of excess heat on my hair. This is one of the only hair ranges I keep repurchasing over and over so thought it was time to give my opinion on it. The reason I purchased this was because of essiebutton as she raved about the Hair Expertise range.

I didn't originally expect to get attached to this hair range as I can be quite fussy when it comes to hair products and used to only stick with my trusted Aussie range, but from my first use of this stuff I knew it was great and since then I haven't looked back. I've been using this for months and I'm still impressed with the results. My hair is smoother and in better condition, even my hairdresser has noticed the difference and continues to compliment me on how good my hair is at the moment and its all done to these wonder products. 

I can't say that I stick to using this range all of the time but it does dominate my shower and I sometimes mix it up adding another range in between washes to try new products out but I always end up back to this. I have like 3 back ups at the moment, just in case I run out and also I always pick some up whenever they are on offer because it's a steal for the amazing product you are getting.

As I said there are numerous other ranges, designed for other hair types but after looking at reviews online a lot of people are getting similar results from the L'Oreal Hair Expertise Range, so there is a range to be found for you and I would 100% recommend trying out this hair range if you haven't already. 

If you have any recommendations for me please let me know in the comments below because I'm always open to trying new haircare!

Off To Uni : Student Loan

My last Off To Uni post was all about the final bits in your UCAS application and now the series is moving onto the stuff that comes after applying, the small bits that actually make it all become real. To top that off I thought it was important to talk you through the Student Loan process and applying for it. I know my school set up endless talks with student finance about applying and the entire process but I thought I'd just congest it all for you.

The key thing about your student loan is to apply early. Whether you know you are going to university in the following Septmber or are still making up your mind you should still apply. The earlier you apply the earlier you get the offer of the loan and then when September comes you'll get the money on time and know you were organised. The key with everything university related is to be prepared and this is no different.

How to Apply
The entire process of applying for your student loan is done online and can be quite straight forward. This is if you don't come to any problems. My personal experience was very easy and quick and this was probably because of how organised I was. Back to actually applying, like I said it's all done online and through the GOV.UK website. You can register on there website months before the applications actually open so to be ahead of the game I'd recommend doing this. 

When To Apply
Like UCAS there is a set window for when you need to apply. This usually opens in February and from my experience you should try to apply as soon as it opens. That way if you do have any hold ups you'll have plenty of time to amend them. You'll also need your parents to make an account with GOV as they will have to support your application with some financial details about their earnings. This takes about 5-10 minutes if they have all the details to hand. After they've added all their information and you've filled out the application you can then send it off. You don't need to add the university you are going to or your bank details until after you get your results and have got it sorted out. Or if you do add a university you can change this at a later date.

What You Need
You do need some things to hand when applying for your student finance. Proof of identity is one of these, if you have a passport that will be enough but if not you will have to send off your birth certificate to the student finance company which will then lengthen the time in which you get your finance details. You will also need your national insurance number. Your parents/guardians will also need to have their P60 as your student finance is based on your household income. If you have all these to hand your application will take literally no time at all. 

Getting Your Finance Details
I applied early so got all of my finance details back within probably 4 weeks. They do say it can take up to 6 weeks, this is usually if your application is straightforward. But be prepared for it to take longer if you need to send off proof of identity if you don't have a passport or if your parent lives outside of the country. When you get your finance details its all pretty straightforward it just outlines how much you get paid of your maintenance loan and maintenance grant over the whole year. It also outlines when it will get paid into your account and how much you get paid at each installment. 

The next Off To Uni post is going to be about applying for accommodation in your first year and making decisions for your accommodation.

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Off To Uni : After Applying

If you've kept up to date with my Off To Uni series (if you haven't you can read all of the Off To Uni posts here) you will know my last couple of posts have been all about the applying process so to follow on from that todays post is going to be all about the aftermath of applying and getting offers and making your firm and insurance choices. This is where it all begins to feel really real!

After you submit your UCAS application its all a bit of a waiting game whereby you can put your head down, get engrossed with school work and just pray your offers come in. Some peoples offers can come in really early and others can take months to come. Don't worry if they do take a while as every university is different and every course is different. Some courses/universities require you to have an interview/audition before they give you an offer. If this is the case you usually can hear back from them quite quickly to give you an interview/audition date and then its just waiting again to see if they've offered you a place. I was fortunate enough to not have to have any interviews and was just waiting on offers. I got most of my offers back quite quickly. My first offer I received the day after submitting my application and my last offer I received in January before the application deadline. I was very fortunate to have gotten five offers however, I know many who were not as lucky. Don't be disheartened if you don't get all your offers or if you get declined from all your choices as it isn't the end of the world. You just need to keep telling yourself it was obviously not meant to be and you can still go to university through the clearing process. As I did not go through this I cannot describe the process all that well so if you are intrigued you can check out this post here.

Anyway, if you receive an offer you will either get an unconditional or conditional offer. Unconditional means that you are into that university, doesn't matter what grades you have and you definitely have a place there in the following September. Whereas a conditional offer means you have a place on the condition on receiving certain grades. The majority of applicants receive a conditional offer hence the importance of a-levels and results day.

Once you get all of your decisions through this is when the hard work starts. When you get an offer they will state what you need to get to turn the offer into an unconditional offer. Most of these are their typical entry requirements for the course but some are tailored to the grades you got in AS. For example I know two people who applied to the same course at the same university, they both got conditional offers but one was for the grades AAB and the other ABB. So if you do apply to a university with higher entry requirements than your target grades theres still hope they could accept you. Once you get your offers it soon comes down to you on making your firm and insurance choices.   You don't have to make these straight away and again you have a deadline to make your decision. This is usually in May.

To help make your decision the universities usually push for you to choose to go to their university, this can be through sending you emails, post and other forms of social media. You also get invited to attend 'applicant days' some universities do this better than others. University of Liverpool's applicant day, in my opinion, was really good. The day was well planned out, you got to meet a lot of students already on the course and ask questions as well as having a run through of the course again and then prospective students were taken off on their own for a mock tutorial to talk about a case which they had set us to read beforehand. It gave a real feel the university as well as a good chance to meet prospective class mates. You also could look around the accommodation again. But in my opinion they were there to help and any question was never too big or too small. It was the perfect day and completely sold me on that becoming my first choice. However, Oxford Brookes was basically another open day, which was fine but as I had already been there done that it seemed to be a waste of a day as I didn't feel like I had learnt anything new or taken anything away from it. Despite choosing this to be insurance choice the building itself sold it to me for than the applicant day. I was lucky to already have in mind what I wanted my firm and insurance choices to be so after visiting Oxford Brookes for the second time I made my insurance and firm decisions that night.

Making your firm and insurance choices is a big decision as it is essentially deciding your future more so than when you first applied, you are narrowing it down to two universities. There are a few things to keep in mind when making these though. Be Realistic its easy to say 'oh I really like that university' and whatnot but can you achieve the grades? You need to think this through. Your insurance choice should be of a lower entry requirement than your first as like its called its your insurance for if you fail to meet the requirements of your firm choice and if its higher than your firm and you get rejected from there there is little chance your insurance will then accept you if it is of a higher entry requirement. So just think logically and realistically. Also make sure this decision is yours I know a lot of people who have decided to make their decisions based on what their parents want or what they think will please them or based on what works for their partners. 

Again I hope this post is helping you and feel free to ask me any questions on any of the social media I link below. The next post is all about applying for your student loan, so make sure to come back to check that one out!

Off To Uni : Applying

The last Off To Uni post I wrote was also about the applying process but was more focused towards writing your personal statement this post will be more generalised and more about the UCAS application as a whole. 

There are a few different steps in the application on the UCAS website, most of which are easy to fill out and understand. This is things like all of your personal details, education history and employment history. However, there are a few difficult parts. Education may seem easy but you need to know all of your previous qualifications including your GCSEs and your AS grades, this may seem straightforward and it is if you have all of your certificates to hand with all the awarding bodies as well as your grade. This can time consuming so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to fill this out.

A really important aspect of your application is your choices. You can apply to only one university if you wish or you can apply for the maximum of five, or anything in between. Most of my friends chose to apply to five and a few to only four. The amount you apply for reflects the overall price of your application. For me it cost £23 to apply to five universities. The order in which you put your choices in doesn't matter and won't have an impact on your application.

 You then have a section which is completely out of your control, the reference. This is a combination of all your subject teachers references including your form tutor. I was really happy with my reference as my tutor did such a good job of 'selling' me to prospective universities. Its important that you read this before your tutor adds it to your application and if you aren't happy with it make sure to say as at the end of the day its your future. 

The final bit is the personal statement which I spoke about in my previous post which you can read here and I wouldn't add this until you have completely finished your application as the form can be quite temperamental. 

The final bit is to pay for your application to be sent off. If you are doing this through your sixth form or college this is where they can overlook your application to make sure you haven't made any mistakes and add your reference. Once they approve this they send your application off. It's official, you've actually applied for university!

Before I close this post I thought I should include some important information. Make sure you are aware when you have to submit your application by. Some courses such as medicine have an earlier deadline than the other subjects. Also I personally would always make sure to submit your application before this date if possible anyway. For most subjects you usually have to submit your application by January but some subjects are extremely competitive and applying early gives you the best shot. Also the earlier you apply the earlier you can get your offers and then carry on to make your insurance and firm decisions and it just moves the whole process on quickly.

Hope this post has helped you all especially in the next couple of months when applying to university for a lot of you will become a quick reality. The next post will be all about the process of after applying including receiving your offers and will be up later this week as I'm a bit behind on where I'd like to be with these blog posts so there will be a couple a week for the next couple of weeks. So if you are curious to see my advice on the process after applying for university make sure to come back here on Thursday!