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iProgress student university stories

Progress to university blog

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We've collated stories from Pearson Edexcel students, teachers, universities and alumni from all over the world. If you'd like to share your experiences please email progression@pearson.com.

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Gearing up for university

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Gearing up for university
(November 2018)  

Hey! My name is Subham Rai and I’m a Lester B. Pearson International Scholar studying at The University of Toronto. I am currently going through the first year of my undergraduate studies and wish to study Actuarial Science and Economics as dual majors.

The thought of moving away from your family and entering a completely new environment can be really exciting for some, and really frightening for others. I hope that with this blog I am able to ease those who are frightened and perhaps excite further those who are already excited.

When preparing for university, try to make a list of all the items you will need in your room as you start to live in it. Buy the items on this list at least a day before your move-in date. This will save you from the inconvenience of having to shop for supplies right when everyone else in your residence is enjoying orientation activities. I’m sure that it will be convenient to buy some of the things on your list at a location close to your campus. When doing so, be sure to check out the area so as to get a good sense of your campus and all the facilities around it.

Use your free time before university starts to look through the syllabi for your courses. Try to get whatever textbooks you need and read at least parts of them before your first week of lessons begin. I know this sounds like a horrible buzz-kill but trust me, you will thank yourself for it. As soon as orientation week ends, your workload will start to build and before you realize it, you could potentially be behind on your classes and so its best to hit the ground running!

University is full of new opportunities and you should try make the most of them! There will be lots of clubs and activities which you can participate in and enjoy. I would recommend that, rather than to sign up and get involved in everything that you may like, choose just a few clubs/organisations that appeal to you the most. I say this because a lot of students tend to over-estimate the free time that they will get at university. It is always better to be deeply involved in a few activities rather than to spend a lot of time just merely participating in a bunch of them; be a master of some trades – not a jack in all of them.

One last word of advice: don’t forget to make friends! Even before university starts, you have the opportunity to join Facebook groups created for your batch. Use them to connect with people who share similar interests with you. During orientation week, talk with as many other students as convenient to you. Some people you meet at this time often end up becoming your closest friends down the line. Also try to get in touch with upper-year students; they are often happy to give advice and help you as you settle in.

Hopefully my advice will be useful to you and ease your transition into university. I wish you good luck in the amazing journey that is to come. All the best!

Subham Rai

Previous blogs

Hi! My name is Maite, and I am studying Biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge. I have just finished my first year as an undergrad, and it has been a wonderful year for me on many different levels.

I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about how to make the most of university life, as I believe one should enjoy every day of it, even during the toughest moments of the academic year.

The most important advice I would give anyone about to start university is to manage their time wisely. This may sound very clichéd, but during Fresher’s Week you will realise how much your university has to offer and how little free time you can squeeze in between lectures and essays. I don’t think I would be able to do everything I wish to do, even if I spent my entire lifetime there!

So, above all, make sure you make a well thought out timetable once you decide what clubs/teams you want to join. Also try to keep a healthy balance between your academic life and your social one as one can easily be carried away by friends and on-the-spot plans. Make an effort to keep focused on what you came to university for, and allow plenty of time for you to rest and relax. This becomes especially apparent during exam period, where the workload intensifies.

In order to enjoy your course fully I would strongly recommend you go beyond the specs. University lectures will build your curiosity in different fields you may not have heard much about. In my case, I discovered how evolution is an exciting field which is still developing and goes far beyond Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection! Expanding your knowledge in these subjects through lecturers’ suggested reading books never disappoints. You may also find yourself being engrossed in one-to-one discussions with professors if you ask questions after lectures.

University life is also very socially enriching. You suddenly become surrounded by thousands of interesting young people with many different backgrounds and ideas. I found it very rewarding to be able to discuss with classmates the subject we shared a passion for, and I learned a lot from these conversations too! In addition, I would take any chance you have to engage with students who are reading other courses as well.

Perhaps the true independence from my parents and home was also an important step for me. It makes you completely responsible for your time and how to make use of it in the best possible way. 

Before you realise it, your first year of uni life has gone, leaving behind many new and endurable experiences.

Good luck!

Maite Arribas Ardura


I am currently in my third year at Kings College London, studying for a BSc Business Management degree.

This is also my last year and I can assure you that trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful. This is why you have to start to consider your options as soon as possible. In my case I had two options in mind; either continue to study by applying for a Masters degree, or apply for a job.

First I started going through university websites searching for a Masters which I would enjoy. I found two similar courses at two great universities which I found really interesting so I started to write my personal statement the day after. This is very important because even though some universities have a late deadline, the sooner you apply, the greater the chance that you will get accepted. This is simply because they have a specific number of students they accept each year on each course. As a result, if you apply at later stages, many of these spots are already filled by other students.

The Masters degree application process is not through UCAS. It is directly through the university website or portal. It is also more expensive, as each university charges an application fee, which in my case was not lower than fifty pounds. Furthermore, they request two university references from tutors or professors who know you. I suggest you choose your references carefully because they take these into careful consideration. So make sure you are in good terms with the person who will write your reference and that they will write a great reference for you. Once they receive the documentation, payment and references they will consider your application and get back to you within weeks.

My second option was applying for a job. More specifically to a graduate programme, since I do not have much experience working and these kind of programmes are perfect for recent graduates. The most important thing is to not go crazy applying everywhere. Have in mind which sector you want to work in. Having studied a business degree I could have chosen many different paths including accounting, marketing, product management etc… However, I decided to pursue the technology path since it has always been my passion.

Once you have your preferred sector in mind, think where you want to work. Would you like to stay working in the UK? Maybe you want to go abroad to other countries? Think about not just the geographical location, but also the type of organisation. Do you want to work in a big private corporation? In a small one? Perhaps in a public institution? It is your choice and once you have everything more or less clear, start applying.

Apply to job positions that you are really interested in. There is no point in applying to everything just to have a backup plan, because if you end up with one of your backup plans you might be stuck working in something you do not even like. Most selection processes begin in October/November so start applying as soon as possible. In my case after thorough research I ended up applying to eight different graduate programmes. The application processes are long and slow but put enthusiasm and determination on each one of them, because the competition is fierce. After many ‘Thank you for applying, unfortunately due to the large amount of applicants we will not be moving forward with your candidacy at this time’, I finally received a job offer!

After careful consideration I decided to accept the job offer because this would allow me to save money to undertake a Masters degree in the future and assess whether I really want to work in technology. In conclusion, to get the best outcome it’s really beneficial to start considering your options as soon as possible.

I wish you the best of luck!

Cristina Bermudez Alvarez

Hello again,

As the summer term gradually draws to a close, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect upon my experiences so far.

It is assessment time at Pearson College, so most of my free time is filled with completing coursework, preparing for assessed presentations and revising for exams. Over the past 8 months I have learnt so much; both in the workplace and at university. It has been a huge learning curve.

We have just completed the last section in Principles of Business, which involved running a business for 6 weeks. This ended with an assessed group presentation where we covered the different areas of our company from about our business, to our marketing plan, how our finances would flow and our future plans.

Our task was to set up a business where all our profits would go to a chosen charity. My team’s chosen charity was Magic Breakfast. Our plan was to create a healthy cookbook with quick and easy recipes for those who are ‘on the go’. The project involved us working with publishers, exploring our options (i.e. eBook or hard copy) and then understanding our market and their needs and wants. It was great to put our learning into practice. However with us all working full-time, this did leave us with limited free time to get fully engrossed in the project.

As I spoke about last month, I have taught myself the basics of web design, as part of my self-managed learning project. For this I have to submit a report and present on my experiences and findings.

Studying at Pearson College London has been really good fun, I have made some good friends, gained great experiences and I really look forward to my next year of study in September. The summer will be filled with CMI portfolio work, as I am also working towards having a CMI qualification as part of the degree apprenticeship.

The workplace, has been a really interesting experience for me, as I have come out of further education and to be in higher education, whilst also working in that sector. It is fascinating to see how qualifications are developed, as opposed to taking a qualification, and it has given me a much greater appreciation for all the work which goes into the qualifications students are taking. It is even better to see the people developing these qualifications are truly passionate about their work.

It is also great to be working in the same company which runs the university I attend. Again, it is hard to see the effort which goes into ensuring that learners succeed and enjoy their time studying, until you are on the other side of the process.

I still have about three months left in Higher Education Qualifications until I move into my new role at a different company, where it will be all change again!

Catch up again next month.

Katherine Everest (katherine.everest@pearson.com)

Hi, I am Andrew Hood, Admissions Manager for the University of South Wales (USW), one of the larger UK universities. I hope to use my blog to highlight to you some of the key times in the UK Higher Education calendar, flagging up for you important topics and considerations. So here goes with my first….

September 2018 probably seems a long time in the future but many schools and colleges in the UK start to encourage students that are thinking of enrolling at a university in September 2018 to start researching their options from May (2017) of the previous year.

1) How to find out about UK universities

There are all sorts of resources available and plenty of people offering advice which can be very confusing. To cut through this I would recommend two places to start: Firstly UCAS which is the UK’s central organisation through which applications are processed for entry to higher education. UK universities enter details of all their undergraduate degrees which is published on their website

Loads of information here including:

  • Entry requirements
  • Fees
  • Course content
  • Details about the location of Universities
  • Accommodation options and a lot more

Hopefully you are still keen and interested… Higher Education in the UK is recognised amongst the best in the world. So where next?

Secondly, once you have done your initial research, it’s time to take a closer look at the universities that have caught your imagination. The best way to do that is to visit those universities own websites. As an international applicant you expect to have access to dedicated information as well as course specific details. The University of South Wales website provides comprehensive guidance taking you through all stages:

  • Considering a course
  • Applying
  • Obtaining visas (where necessary)
  • Scholarships
  • Agents and much, much more

See the University of South Wales website 

As you will see on our website we might be visiting your home country. Don’t worry if we’re not though, because our professional team of advisers is on hand to respond to your questions

2) How and when to apply

Again, there are several options. As already mentioned UCAS is one and is probably the route to go if you intend applying to multiple UK Universities (up to 5). However many universities accept direct applications from international students and will have details of how to do this on their own websites. I think mine is a good example, hopefully you agree?

If you are applying through UCAS you can start to do that in September 2017 and full details on the process are available on their website. If you are applying as a direct applicant check that University website – USW accepts applications throughout the year although we would encourage early application wherever possible (as there are lots of preparations to make).

3) Advice and Guidance

You might experience information overload, there certainly is a lot available. It’s vital you keep talking to family, friends, and school or college teachers. Most Universities will have support which will range from advice and guidance help lines, in country agencies and some like us will have an Immigration and International Student Advice team as well to help student once they arrive. – 

Hopefully I have encouraged you to make that choice to come to the UK. We have a lot to offer, but at this stage there is plenty of time, don’t be rushed, think through your choices and options before making your commitment. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact the university you are interested in.

Good luck!

Andrew Hood

Hello again,

Today I thought I’d share the benefits of a degree apprenticeship with you. There are so many benefits: from gaining great work experience whilst studying, to putting theory into practice as you learn, and gaining hands-on experience to reinforce what is taught in the classroom.

I have completed my first term at Pearson College and submitted coursework for my first two modules. So you could say, I’m well into the swing of things. At university, I have studied two modules so far: Principles of Business, and Introduction to Research.

The great thing about working in the Higher Education Qualifications (HEQ) department as an apprentice, is that it is a relatively self-sufficient department in the respect that we have marketing, IT and legal aspects of the team, along with the product development, and everything which we need to run as a business unit. This gels really nicely with the first term, as Principles of Business provides an overview as to how businesses operate.

In HEQ, I have been involved with communications – through the co-creation of our intranet page and its maintenance. I am also assisting in looking after the Licensed Centres for Higher Nationals, which has given me an oversight into some aspects of contracts and the legal side of business. I am also helping in the operations of the department – which has been great in understanding everything from the demands on the department are, how recruitment works and thus gaining an insight into HR.

At Pearson College we are undertaking some more experiential learning through the creation of our own business. We have been put into groups with the aim of creating a product or service to raise funds for our chosen charity. Our chosen charity is Magic Breakfast and we have decide to create a product – a healthy eating book which will include meal ideas which are nutritious and can be made on a budget.

The Introduction to Research module was great as it enabled me to combine what I was doing at work with the research project I had to produce for uni. Therefore I conducted research into ‘Marketing and Information Provision to Potential BTEC Higher National Students’. This allowed me to apply the theory into a real-world and [my] everyday context, as it helped me to better understand Higher Nationals as a whole, who our target market was – or who it could be – and from this I could use the theory of marketing which I had learnt in the classroom to make suggestions about next steps.

We also had to complete coursework for Principles of Business, by looking into an early-stage start-up and creating a business report and recommendations for them. This was good fun as it enabled me to look into a brand new company. I chose Babylon Health – a company which has developed an artificially intelligent triage nurse through the use of a mobile app. It is free to download and use. They have also incorporated access to medical professionals from around the world which, for a fee, you can have online video-call consultations. It was great to look into depth about a company which is only just finding its feet, in an area which is of interest to me, and it also enabled me to compare this company to the ways of a larger company – such as Pearson. This gave me with a better overview of the different ranges of businesses that are operating.

So far I am enjoying every aspect of the apprenticeship, and I am so glad that I decided to take the chance and apply.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please get in touch!

Katherine Everest (katherine.everest@pearson.com)

My name is Esther, and where I currently study, I identify myself as a full-time medical student and a part-time traveller. These are two of my passions in life and I am grateful for the opportunity to be both. I owe this in part to the unique nature of my medical degree which entails 2.5 years in University College Dublin, Ireland and the later 2.5 years in Penang Medical College, Malaysia.

A little more background before I ramble on. I am a Malaysian government scholar, which means that my studies are fully-sponsored with the expectation that I serve in the civil service after graduation. Perhaps this arrangement is to the government’s advantage in that it costs them less than a full 5 year course in Ireland but this has also allowed me to gain two very different perspectives on my future career and on life.

My Irish experience was a huge first for me – being so far away from home, and a first step into tertiary education which Pearson Edexcel A-levels have paved the way for. This allowed me to compare the way of life and of thinking which differed greatly from the Malaysian culture.

I remember thinking that the Irish are very privileged in having flexibility of choices and an open-minded approach to charting one’s own path that were less bound by parental expectations and societal norms. I discovered first-hand that English, while a universal language, could be so confusing with the many intonations, slangs and accents, that made it sound totally foreign. And Ireland, to my delight, is the hub of budget airlines. I took every opportunity to explore parts of the continent that I never dreamed I would be able to go to.

I am now in the 4th year of my medical degree and this means I am back in a society I have grown up in. It took a bit of re-adjustment at first, partly due to the longer hours in clinical experience compared to mainly theory work in Ireland, and partly due to the difference in way of thinking and functioning. Malaysia, as progressive as she may be, remains bound by the Asian culture of a tilted work-life balance and conformity. Doctors/tutors are more direct and critical in their approach, while patients generally can be less educated, for the lack of a better word. But being back in Malaysia has reminded me why I chose to serve in this field in the first place, and it has given me a real impetus to learn for the sake of being a good doctor.

Would I recommend this path to those after me?

Absolutely. Being in a totally different environment grows your mind and character in an invaluable way. You will discover strengths you never knew you had; capacity to be stretched and tested beyond what you thought you could withstand.

Go for it!

Esther Shan Lin Hor

I hope 2017 is going well for you so far!

I’m sure many of you have written New Year’s resolutions. I could write a blog post sharing mine, and giving tips and tricks as to how best to keep to yours. Instead, I thought I would share with you some quotes which I find motivational, and may encourage you to set or stick to yours.

“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

This quote has been a motivation for me to take chances which I may be nervous to pursue. Arguably, if it wasn’t for me seeing this quote, I wouldn’t be doing this apprenticeship, as this encouraged me to take the chance, and to apply. I also try to take opportunities at work and university, say yes to trying new tasks in order to broaden my skill-set and to explore which aspects of work I enjoy.

“Rise up and attack the day with enthusiasm.”

Some days it can be hard to find motivation to get out of bed or to get something done, but a lot can be said about managing your mindset.

So I wake up and tell myself I will be enthusiastic about everything that happens in a day. Even menial tasks I will make a point of enjoying, because I believe positivity generates positivity. For example, some people find spreadsheets boring, whereas I see them as a useful tool, and have fun exploring how to code them in order to create a more automated system.

“If you get tired learn to rest, not quit”

At any point things can feel like they are getting too much, you get tired and sometimes it can seem like the easier option to stop and to quit. I know through my GCSEs and A Levels I found myself getting fed up and tired with all the revision and I was tempted to just give up.

An example, which I have experienced more recently is managing my time through this apprenticeship (as mentioned in my previous blog post). However, it is important to have days which are more relaxed – productive, but not exhausting. I have found that with my coursework and revision for university, that little and often is most beneficial.

However, everything worth doing is not always easy. As a result, I have learnt to rest. Having time to rest can mean that when you do work, focused work, you’re more productive.

“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after a taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s more like a cha-cha.”

This quote links to the one above, as not every step back is negative. It may be an indicator that things need to change, or your first method was not the right one. Taking a moment to evaluate the situation can mean that you move forwards, better than before.

Plus I think it’s a really fun quote on its own.

“Instead of ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority’ and see how that feels.”

Now, this one I discovered recently as part of a longer quote, but this encapsulates it perfectly.

It is well known that if you want to do something, you make time for it. This is another mindset quote – if you think of activities as priorities, then you’re more likely to commit to things. Everyone has time for the things they want to do, and people will make time for things which are a priority. So next time you find yourself saying “Sorry I didn’t do [task], I didn’t have time”, instead imagine yourself saying “Sorry I didn’t do [task], because it wasn’t a priority” and it is amazing how much of a difference this makes when looking at tasks.

Please let me know what you think of these quotes, and please share any of your favourite motivational quotes in the comments below.

Let’s be motivated this 2017!

Katherine Everest 


It’s Katherine Everest here to give you another instalment of my life as a degree apprentice.

Here in London the days are short and cold, we get to work all bundled up in coats and scarves, but there is a warmth around – the warmth of Christmas lights which light up the streets, the hubbub of activity and the excitement for the Holidays.

What am I up to?

I am now in my third month at Pearson and absolutely loving it!

At work: The Higher Education Qualifications (HEQ) Department has enabled me to get stuck in and working on a variety of tasks ranging from helping with the Licence Agreements with the Higher Nationals, to arranging and taking minutes at meetings. I also helped to redesign the HEQ intranet page. I have recently been given project to create a collateral for information, advice and guidance for students about Higher Nationals – which I am very excited about!

At college: We have Principles of Business in seminars on Fridays. Prior to this I have to watch two hours of lectures during the week and complete the relevant readings. I have also been given a research project to complete as part of the Introduction to Research module. I have just written a proposal for this which was due in the beginning of this month! I also have two other pieces of coursework due in at the beginning of January.

Extra-curricular: Outside of college and work I play netball with Pearson College and Squash on Sundays and any free time and energy I have left over is spent exploring London, or baking!

Time Management, Focus and Motivation

As you can see I like to keep myself busy, so time management is an important skill I’ve had to enhance and develop – from making flexible meal plans to timetabling my days so that I get all the prep for college done in time, whilst giving myself some time to relax and enjoy being a student in London

I also look for new ways to be more productive, focused and maintain motivation. I find the YouTuber and Blogger, Thomas Frank who has created CollegeInfoGeek, a useful resource. He does a lot of research into the best methods for students to study, but I believe that these methods are relevant to anyone who has to get any work done. For example, he has written a blog post which outlines some of his productivity hacks ‘To Help You Work Better’.

My colleague, Yasmin, has recommended ‘Speedmailing’ which is a book published by Pearson and guides you through the process of reducing the amount of time spent replying to emails and work more efficiently.

These ‘Work Hacks’ could be used in daily life, at work and at home.

That’s all from me now, please do get in touch and feel free to suggest any other ‘Work Hacks’ in the comments below!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Katherine Everest


My name is Katherine, I’m 18 and I have joined Pearson on the Rotational Degree Apprenticeship after completing my A Levels. I am from a small town called Stratford-upon-Avon or, as better described to some as, ‘Shakespeare’s Town’.

I will be regularly writing a blog post about my role as an apprentice at Pearson, what I’m doing and what I’m learning from the experience.

What is the Rotational Degree Apprenticeship (RDA)?

The RDA Apprenticeship scheme allows me to work for three of the six participating companies over the duration of my course. The participating companies are: Pearson, Unilever, Direct Line, Tesco, WPP Ogilvy and IBM.

How does it work?

I will spend the first 12 months with my Home Company (Pearson), 8 months at a second company, 8 months at a third company and a final 8 months back with my Home Company. During term time I will work four days a week and spend the fifth at Pearson College London studying for my degree in Business Management, which is validated by the University of Kent. I also have my tuition fees paid for along with earning a salary – an appealing combination to say the least!

What was the process?

The application process took place over four stages:

  1. Complete the online application form
  2. Business workshop at Pearson Business School – this included psychometric testing, interviews and group assessments
  3. Company Assessment Days – which involved the participating companies giving presentations and then a longer group assessment.
  4. Final interview with Home Companies – which was here, at Pearson!

Find out more here.

What subjects did you study at A Level?

Psychology, Biology and Economics. I did General Studies and History at AS and completed an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

Why didn’t you go to university?

Up until July, that was the plan!

Saying that, I had been looking throughout my time at Sixth Form for degree apprenticeship schemes and they were few and far between – or in subjects which didn’t appeal to me. However, when I found this apprenticeship scheme I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – it was perfect!

In my opinion, with a course such as business, it is essential to have some work-place experience because learning the theory is not always enough, there are a lot of practical skills which are best learnt ‘on the job’. Therefore, to have the opportunity to work for three FTSE 100 companies whilst studying for a degree was ideal.

Completing this scheme will allow me to explore different industries and different companies, to find out what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I like and what I don’t like. It allows me to extend my learning outside of the classroom so that when I complete this scheme I will be better placed in knowing two things: 1) Which industry I would like to enter into, and 2) What role(s) I will enjoy, when I come to apply for jobs.

So what does an apprentice do?

I am currently working in the Higher Education Qualifications team and I have spent my first couple of weeks meeting everyone and seeing what I can do to assist people.

As my first year at Pearson College will provide me with an overview of businesses as a whole from Finance and Marketing, to Law and Digital, being able to help where I can will provide me with a better understanding of each of these modules and how they can be applied to the workplace. Also I will be given set responsibilities and projects to carry out throughout my time here at Pearson.

As part of my course I will also have to complete an independent research project therefore I am hoping to combine this with work.

I will keep you updated on what I am learning on my placement and how my job role is evolving.

Quick Fire Questions

Pets? – Yes, I have a cat called Barney

Favourite Film? – Intouchables (The French film)

Favourite Author? – Sarah Dessen

Favourite Artist? – The Zac Brown Band always puts me in a good mood!

Favourite TV Show? – Supernatural. Although I am a big fan of the Big Bang Theory, and Our Girl and historical dramas such as Victoria.

That’s it from me for now, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Katherine Everest

My name is Tamsyn and currently I am a Junior Tester for a great company based in London. I have studied many different short courses over the years but the most recent has been my Higher National Diploma along with a BSc in Computer Systems through Pearson. Out of office hours I enjoy coding on my Raspberry Pi and learning all I can about coding and automation testing in order to further my career.

After many years of studying various different courses, I realised that I had developed a passion for looking deeper at applications and wanted to know how they worked. So I decided to look around and see if I could study further. The catch was that since I had a day job, the studies would have to happen part time (evenings and/or weekends). I looked around for quite a while and found plenty of colleges/universities that had the course I wanted to take but unfortunately none of them part-time. A few of them did have self-study courses but I didn’t trust myself to be disciplined enough and at least if I had classes I would feel more accountable.

I then came across CTI in Cape Town (part of the Pearson group) and I decided to sit down with one of the student advisors to find out more information. They were very friendly and helpful and were able to advise which course might suit my goals the best. We also discussed financing options and they had all that information to hand. After meeting with the student advisor I was convinced that this was where I wanted to study. It was so quick and easy to enrol and the student advisor took care of everything, including arranging the financing option I had chosen. The plan was to study for my Diploma (which would take 2 years part-time), then do a short 6 month part-time course to upgrade it to a Higher National Diploma and finish off with another 1 year part-time to get a BSc in Computer Systems through Heriot-Watt University. No other colleges offered an internationally recognised degree and as my aim was eventually to move out of South Africa, I thought this would be a very good opportunity. All the study materials also came straight from Heriot-Watt and they even sent their own invigilators during exams.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying at Pearson and I think the trick with studies is to really concentrate on what the teachers are explaining to you and soak it all in. Take the course seriously and do extra research on your own. Ask lots of questions to ensure that you understand what you are doing and not simple parrot it off as if you understand it then it will be far easier to learn for exams. Also use real world examples to help you out as you are more likely to remember a scenario than just facts. You are studying something that you are passionate about, so it should be far easier than studying at school where you don’t have too much choice on subjects.

The degree I studied certainly helped me get a step ahead in the job market as companies recognised the course and university, which definitely makes a big difference. I certainly would not have been able to study at Heriot-Watt or for any degree without first obtaining the Higher National Diploma, so I definitely think that studying further is a must, even if it’s something small as a stepping stone. Everything you study will further your knowledge and to get anywhere you always need to be learning new things and keeping up with the world. Make sure that the course and college/university is well-known, preferably internationally recognised like Pearson, so that no matter where you go people acknowledge what you have studied and reward you for it.

I love what I currently do and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without studying through Pearson. Good luck!

Tamsyn Murphy


This blog is intended for teachers and Heads of Sixth Form/Senior Tutors who are new to writing UCAS references but it could also refresh the ideas and approaches of more experienced colleagues.

I want to highlight the main considerations which apply when you write UCAS references.

Firstly, how well do you know the person you are writing about? This should be no problem if you are writing a subject reference for a student you teach, but it might be more of an issue if you are a Head of Sixth Form with several hundred students on roll. You will have to rely on the quality of the information you get from the people in your team who write the subject references and form tutors who write personal references. The best references show that the referee is well-acquainted with the applicant. The least effective references include statements which could apply to any other similar student.

There must be one reference for each subject the applicant is studying. The reason for this is that the subjects will determine the number of UCAS points [as part of the UCAS tariff] the applicant will need to get on to the course for which they have applied. As well as the subject references, there will also need to be a statement about the applicant’s personal qualities which will usually be written by their Form Tutor.

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges you will face is to ensure that the reference is consistent. If you make statements which do not reflect the predicted grade the applicant is likely to attain, this could undermine their application. If statements about their personal qualities are very different to those you write about their academic ability, then these need to be explained.

You must ensure that you write about the following criteria: subject knowledge; examination skills; achievement and progress. Your statements must include judgements about each of these criteria. It would be useful to have ready a suitable vocabulary of terms which you can use to make such judgements.

Finally, have you checked that the applicant’s personal statement does not make claims which should be in your reference? You should also ensure that what is in the personal statement is not contradicted by a statement in the reference. You must check the personal statement thoroughly for this.

I am running a webinar at 09.00 UK time on Monday 10 October where I will be talking in more detail about writing UCAS references and giving some examples of the sorts of approaches you can take. Register for my writing UCAS references webinar.

I hope you will be able to join me.

Best regards,

James O’Leary

“Yeah!” I was in Cambodia with my family when the A-level results were released. Before the exams, I was offered a place in University of Nottingham with the condition of getting at least 2 As (compulsory A for Chemistry) and 1 B. Nervous and excited. I checked the result online and I’d got 3 As. I was so relieved and really happy.

I have always been very interested in science and research, especially those related to healthcare, because with this knowledge I could help more people. Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy is at the forefront of pharmacy education and it is rated 1st in the UK. My original aspiration towards being a pharmacist is to keep people healthy. I knew, I was one step closer to my dream.

Time flies. I am already in my final year of study. It feels like yesterday when I took my Edexcel A-levels. I was grateful for what I had learnt during my A-levels, it laid a robust foundation of scientific knowledge for my university studies. Looking back, the journey is the reward. I met inspiring teachers, made great friends and created wonderful memories.

Being an MPharm 2+2 student, I finished my first two years of studies at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and I came to the United Kingdom for my 3rd and 4th year. This give me the opportunity to experience university life as well as the practice of pharmacy in both Malaysia and the UK.

While working hard for our studies, it is very important to have a balance and experience everything university life has to offer. We have to challenge ourselves to push our boundaries further and improve ourselves. I organised activities for the Buddhist Society, I joined the university Acapella group, I volunteered in Brazil and I did things that I have never done before. These experiences have not only developed my communication, time management and leadership skills, they have also made me more compassionate and humble as a person. I would highly recommend that you take as many opportunities that are available in your university of choice.

University life is an important stage of our lives, when we shape our personalities and learn as much as we can. After all, we ought to be serving the community with what we have learnt and acquired along the journey. Together, we make this world a better place.

Good luck!

Zhi Yi Wong

Hello again,

Firstly, big congratulations to everyone who got a university place. You are now excited about leaving home, meeting new people, having different experiences and most importantly of all, learning more about the subject[s] you are going to study.

If you have not already done so I would recommend a look at the UCAS web site page ‘Been accepted?’

It contains useful information especially about finances and whilst you are at it, you should also be getting information about student loans. I am sure you are already ahead of the game, but just in case the following link is probably the best starting point as it has a guide you can download: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/overview

More detail is available from the student loans company.

Once you have started, if you change your mind about the course you are on, the first person you should talk to is your university supervisor or tutor. Discuss your concerns with them and listen to the advice and recommendations they suggest. Don’t do anything without thinking about it carefully first. And don’t worry if you do change your mind. People do!

Whilst the main focus of my blogs has so far been about going on to higher education, there are other possibilities. You could look for employment. You could look at a gap year. You could do some voluntary work. If this appeals to you, then there are a number of things to think about. First of all, get advice. Good advice. I know that the first place you will look will be online but make sure that you go to sites which are trustworthy. Ask other people what they do. You don’t have to take the first opportunity you are offered. One thing to remember is that higher education will always be available and you can come back to it in the future.

So good luck with your first term at university. I really hope that it goes well for you. You deserve it. One last thing: don’t forget to thank those who helped you get there. Your parents. Your teachers. Your friends. And yourself.

Till next time.

James O’Leary

I am Gianluigi. I graduated two years ago with a First Class Degree in Visual Effects from the University of Hertfordshire. Since then I have been working as a Digital Compositor in London on major feature films at the Moving Picture Company. It is almost September and many fresh students will be starting their adventure into University life. Making that decision though is not the simplest step to take.

Is it really worth to take the leap?

I have been there too…

Making a decision about University is very different to how it was for our parents, and taking the leap to undertake an undergraduate course is very difficult now. Student fees are getting higher and higher and the thought of the commitment required to complete the course might put you off. As I said, I was there too! Besides these facts I was more worried about which university would fulfil my expectations. I went through several interviews before even thinking which one I would go for. Well that was not that easy either. Lecturers and University staff are really, really good at advertising what they can offer to fresh students. Is it really the case of trusting them? Or should you do something different?

Home work…

I was offered a place for my undergraduate course at more than one university. You might think it is all done then! Well I would strongly argue against that. Higher education is the process of formation for a professional career – you need to make sure you make the right decision.

Before accepting the place you should consider many factors. Would the course chosen prepare me enough for the real world? Is the infrastructure at the university good enough to satisfy my expectations? Can I afford three years of rent? These questions are a few of the sort I had before I even thought about making the decision.

It was essential to do some homework. Research the universities which are willing to offer you a place. The internet is a great resource, of course, but I would advise to go to an open day and meet actual students. Talking to people is the best thing you can do in these circumstances. Students in the year above will tell you exactly the structure of the course and the pros and cons of the University – use this as guide to make up your mind. It is essential to meet the lecturers that are running the course. This will provide you with knowledge of how professional the people running the course will be.

Always go for quality, ignore the quantity. Don’t choose something because your friend has chosen the same. You are different and you need to look after your needs.

We are almost there.

Undertaking an undergraduate course is tough, but is the one of the best decisions I have taken in my life. The competition is high out there and University is the best way to prepare yourself for the journey ahead.

Have fun, head down and work hard, I shall see you out there soon.

All the best,
Gianluigi Bevilacqua

Hello again,

Maybe you are reading this ahead of results day on 18 August. The first thing I should say is don’t worry. There is nothing you can do about your exams now. But a little bit of thinking ahead might help you on the day.

If everything goes according to plan you will be in contact with your first choice of university and accepting the place they offer. You will have a lot to think about, including making sure you have done the pre-course reading, ensuring you have the necessary study resources, sorting out your accommodation and planning your travel. Don’t forget what I have said in my previous blogs that you need to think about the people you will leave behind and the impact which leaving might have on them.

Being sensible, you will also have your back-up strategy in place. This could mean that you will have to accept your second choice of university because you did not get the points you needed for your first one. I know that you might be disappointed but you need to look forward and see what opportunities there are. It could be the best decision you have made so far.

Whilst I mentioned clearing last time, I now need to give you a bit more detail about it.

Information about clearing is now available on the UCAS website. To find out more about what happens in the run up to clearing visit the UCAS website.

Make sure you look at this before 18 August so that you are well-prepared for all possibilities. And, it won’t surprise you that I am telling you to talk to your friends and parents about this now. Your teachers might be on holiday but they will probably be around on results day if you need any help.

Information about the clearing process can be found at here.

If you did not get any offers or you did not apply, it may be possible to use clearing to find a place by following this link.

Alternatively, it is worth taking a look at some of the suggestions and ideas which Pearson have on their website.

I hope you have a great summer and that it ends with you going to university, feeling confident and happy with your choice.

James O’Leary

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