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The Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Academic Essay (EPQ Advice #4)

Hi, welcome to what I believe will be my final EPQ advice blog. Sorry this has come later than expected, but, after taking you through researching your topic (read about it here), here are the dos and don’ts of writing your academic EPQ essay (or any academic essay for that matter:
DO make an essay plan – my essay plan was honestly my saviour throughout the writing process. It kept me sane. Without a plan, it’s easy to get lost in all the words and points and research, leaving you with a final product which is illogical and difficult to follow. Even having some basic ideas like different sections to your essay can keep you on track.
DON’T forget to reference – any ideas which come from your research (whether this is a direct quote or just a concept) needs to be accurately referenced. Crediting the right source is key if you want to avoid plagiarism, so whilst you can compile your full references after writing your first draft (as I did), make sure you’ve somehow noted where you got you points from so you can come back to them later.
DO answer the question – this sounds obvious, but it’s very easy to go off on a tangent when your essay is long, so constantly remind yourself of your question/title and what you aim to conclude. I found that sub-conclusions at the end of each section made it clear how each argument was relevant.
DON’T over-complicate – ‘academic essay’ makes it sound like a big deal, but in terms of language and structure, it’s very similar to regular essays written throughout school. Keep it simple. The most important thing is making sure your essay is clear, easy to understand and linked to research. So don’t stress out trying to include too much sophisticated language or complicated sentences.
DO relax – you’re an expert on your topic after all that research! The writing will come easier than you think.
Remember these few things, and you’re all set. I hope you guys found my EPQ blogs helpful, I’ll be back soon with something new.

Managing Homesickness While at University

When the buzz of Fresher’s Week dies down and Fresher’s Flu kicks in homesickness tends to launch a sneak attack. It’s something that happens to many students, not just first years, and it’s something than can be managed without ruining your Uni experience.
Try following these simple steps!
Keep in contact with family
It’s very easy to let your contact with family and friends from back home slide when you’re at Uni but with social media it’s incredibly easy now to stay in contact! Make sure to have a catch-up with your family and friends as often as you can, even if it’s just once a week. Send them a quick text or have a mammoth Facetime session and you never know how much better you’ll feel after!
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Keeping on top of your physical health massively affects your mental health. Eat well, exercise regularly, socialise regularly and get enough sleep and you’ll be much better equipped to deal with starting Uni and coping with homesickness.
Plan holidays early
If, like me, you have to catch a flight to get home then book it well in advance or similarly book train tickets so that you have something to look forward to. It can help a lot to know exactly when you’ll be going home next instead of having no plans to count down to!
Get to know yourself
Up until Uni your identity has mostly consisted of your school life and home life. Everything can be turned upside down when you move and sometimes people are unsure of who they are around new people. Set aside some time alone to get to know yourself and who you are without your family and friends and learn how to feel comfortable without the familiarities of home.
Seek help
If all else fails, make sure to seek help early. Most Universities have counselling in place to help students manage a range of issues including homesickness. You can also chat to new friends and tutors and they may be able to put your mind at rest. Most Uni students suffer from homesickness at some point during their studies. You are definitely not alone and there’s lots of help out there!

Replying to offers: give yourself enough time

You’ve waited anxiously for your university choices to make their decisions. You’ve logged in to Track to check thousands of times and now you’ve finally received all your offers. You’re probably thinking “What a relief, the wait is over!” but don’t relax just yet, as once you get to this stage there’s a big decision to make: which offers will you accept?

Know your reply deadline
Although you might still be weighing up your different offers, there’s one thing that’s certain, and that’s the deadline you need to reply by. If you’re wondering when it is, it all depends on when you received the universities’ decisions. The first deadline is 2 May, which is for those who received all decisions by 31 March, but Track will display the right deadline for you so make sure you check.

Reply sooner rather than later
Whether you’re one of the people whose deadline is 2 May or not, once you’ve had decisions from all of your choices then it’s a good idea to reply to your offers sooner rather than later. That’s not to say you should rush your replies though – it’s really important to think carefully until you know which you’d like to make your firm and insurance choices. But once you’ve made your decision it’s best not to wait until the last minute.

You might think you’ve got plenty of time but don’t let the reply deadline creep up on you. The unavoidable truth is that if you leave it until deadline day to reply to your offers in Track, you’ll be feeling the pressure – even panicking. When you’re rushing it’s more likely that you’ll make a mistake, which could mean selecting the wrong replies. Just imagine – you’ve spent months perfecting your application and working towards meeting the conditions of your dream offer and you accidently select ‘decline’ instead of ‘firm’!

Now that’s not to say this doesn’t happen to even the most prepared applicants. You may be able to change your replies within seven days of making them – if you call us then we'll be able to let you know if this is possible.

Avoid unnecessary stress
If you miss the reply deadline altogether you’ll end up lumbered with unnecessary stress, as the offers you received will be automatically declined. We call it ‘declined by default’ and if you find yourself in this situation you should contact our customer service advisers straight away – they’ll be able to accept your chosen offers, but only if you get in touch within seven days.

So the most important piece of advice is to give yourself enough time to reply before the deadline. Here are just some of the benefits of replying in good time:
  1. You’ll get peace of mind –  your replies will be done and dusted and out of the way, so you can begin enjoying your summer
  2. You’ll avoid last minute problems – you’ll have the chance to ask for help from your teachers and UCAS, should you need it. 
  3. You’ll be able to make plans – universities and colleges will often wait until you’ve replied before they let you apply for accommodation. 
For help replying to your offers, take a look at our Replying to offers page - where you'll also find our video guide.

Why I Applied To Uni

I’ve had many different opinions about applying for uni. When I was in my final year of sixth form, I applied much like many other people in my year. After applying and receiving my offers I changed my mind and withdrew my application. I realised the courses I applied for just weren’t the ones I wanted to be doing and at the time uni just wasn’t for me. However, after working for a couple of years I completely changed my mind.
For the last few years I’ve toyed around with ideas of writing, creating little pieces here and there. I’ve run a blog where I’ve reviewed movies and TV shows among other things and after doing this for around a year it made me realise I wanted to create my own content in that industry. This spurred my decision to apply for a film and tv production course. Had I not of had this time to think about the choice to go to uni I honestly don’t think I would’ve been applying for a course I really wanted to do.
I suppose one of my main reasons for applying to uni is that I simply wanted to learn. I’ve always found the film industry fascinating in literally every aspect and have always wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. I’d love to be able to write and produce my own TV series one day although I’d love to have my fingers in all the pies so applying for a Film & TV Production course was perfect for me. Another main reason why I applied to uni is from watching other people I know thrive and succeed in things they’ve become so passionate about. Watching my friends graduate and go into so many exciting avenues in their lives I thought to myself ‘I want to do that!’ so I did!
Although in my particular university story there has been more than a few times when I’ve veered off in a completely different direction to what I was expecting I couldn’t be happier that I’ve finally decided to go. I feel like it can’t come around quick enough and I can’t wait to start in September.

Unconditional offers: are they as great as they seem?

When I first received my unconditional offer I wasn’t as happy as you would imagine.
This year I am hoping to do English Literature BA as an undergraduate. I began my UCAS application in October last year and the offers started arriving within a week of submitting and my final offer arrived a month later. Disclaimer: don’t worry if your offers don’t arrive as quickly as mine, I was just lucky and you should remember that it can vary based on what course you apply for and the universities you choose to apply to. You should also note that the process of offering a place varies, some places may wish to interview or see a portfolio before accepting you onto a course.
Anyway, by my fourth week of receiving offers I had been given conditional offers from 4 out of the 5 that I had applied to (Leeds, Nottingham, Cardiff and Exeter).Then I received my final offer from Birmingham.  An unconditional. I had heard about unconditional offers before and knew they were rare, I was in no way sure I would get one but I had been hopeful, they were a stressed student’s dream come true and I don’t know anyone who would have complained about getting one.
But, there I was after receiving it, silenced.
Why was I not dancing around and breathing a sigh of relief that university wasn’t riding on my performance in the exam hall?
I was beaming when I was given the offer from the University of Nottingham with entry requirements of AAA. It was the only town and university I had visited and I had decided then and there that I was going there and that was that.
I hadn’t even looked at Birmingham or any of  the others when it came to applying- I had done a little research on rankings and the best institutions for English and had chosen the other places purely based on that.
I had applied to the University of Birmingham just like the majority of the others, without visiting, and now I was facing this choice.
Since then I have done my research on Birmingham and discovered its a brilliant university that is so much more than it’s position on a table. The city has great shops and nightlife and the university has a great student union, a range of clubs and brilliant facilities. I’ve visited the city now and went to the university applicant visit day and I feel it’s a great fit for me. It has been a happy ending for me however it got me thinking about how many students will visit one university, set their heart on it and not bother to look around others. I seriously urge all of you whether you believe you will receive an unconditional offer or not to look around as many universities as you can so that when you make your decision you have gained the best possible information about where the best place for you is.
If you have any question get in touch!
Instagram: alanahswift

Starting University as an LGBT Student

When starting university, you may be a little apprehensive as to whether or not you will make friends and fit in. It can be daunting leaving your comfort zone and starting somewhere new, regardless of who you are as a person. It can sometimes be difficult for LGBT students when starting somewhere new, as you have to go through the whole process of telling people who you are.

Thankfully, times are changing. It has become less of a taboo to be gay, and rightfully so people don’t treat you differently because of who you like. Yet starting somewhere new always brings in self doubt: what if I’m not accepted?

When I went through secondary school, I was bullied for being gay. Whilst that has changed as I’ve got older and people have become more mature, when I first started at university I felt as though I needed to withdraw and keep that side of myself secret. It sounds ridiculous, I know, and I had to keep telling myself that as an adult now, there was no need to do that.

University is very supportive if you feel like you may be struggling to adapt to a new situation. Many universities offer guidance and support to those students who need it. University is full of mature people looking to better themselves. Many people are supportive and even interested in learning about the LGBT community, and learning about you as a person.

The key thing to remember about going to university as an LGBT student is that you’re not alone. In many universities there are societies, where people meet up to learn new things, discuss new options and relax and make friends. Included in these societies are a group for LGBT students. It’s a way for people to make their universities inclusive and supportive of the LGBT community. Many LGBT communities organise LGBT student nights or activities. It’s a good way to meet new people and work towards a greater cause.

We’re lucky here in the UK that we are able to be out and be supported. If you’re feeling afraid of starting university, then don’t be too afraid. It can be an added pressure when you’re an LGBT student, but just know that the support is there and you will always be accepted for who you are.

Top tips for meeting the art & design application deadline

Our next application deadline is just around the corner on 24 March, and it applies to some art and design courses. Here we’ll cover the most common questions we get about this deadline, to make sure you send in your application on time.

How do I check if the course has a 24 March deadline?
You can check which deadline a course follows in our search tool. Once you’ve selected the course you’re interested in, scroll down to the ‘How to apply’ section. This will is where you’ll see which deadline your course has.

What time is the deadline?
The deadline is at 18:00 UK time on 24 March. We must receive your completed application, including a reference, by this time for it to count as on time. Make sure you allow plenty of time before the deadline for your referee to complete a reference.

Also remember, you need to pay the application fee before it can be sent. The fee is £12 for one choice or £23 for more than one choice. Try not to leave payment until the last day – just in case you encounter any problems. If you're having difficulties making a payment then follow these tips to overcome this.

What will happen if I send my application after the deadline? 
Your application will be considered late if it reaches us after 18:00 on 24 March, and the universities and colleges don’t guarantee equal consideration. Although some may still consider you, this would be less likely for more popular courses.

If you’re in this position and you want to check whether you’d be considered after the deadline, then get in touch with the universities to check.

Why can’t I log in to my application?
If you can’t log in to your application, check that you’re trying to log into Apply and not Track. If you’ve forgotten your username or password, try to reset your details using our ‘Forgotten login?’ tool. If you’re still having trouble then give us a call so one of our advisers can help.

Good luck with your application!
If you have any further questions about the 24 March deadline, get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Thinking about an apprenticeship?

Over 1 million people have started an apprenticeship since May 2015, with plenty of different industries offering apprenticeship places – covering everything from dentistry to law. So, if you have a clear idea of the career path you’d like to follow, an apprenticeship is definitely worth exploring.

If you’re considering an apprenticeship, here are five things you should know:

1. Apprentices get paid
Apprentices are employed members of staff, and are paid a salary, a pension, and are entitled to other company benefits, just like everyone else.

2. You can get a full degree 
All apprenticeships are fully certified by a university – this means you’ll receive a full degree at the end of your apprenticeship, and, in most cases, attend a graduation ceremony, much like a full-time university student.

3. You have to work and study – it can be tough
Unlike a full-time undergraduate university student, you’ll be in full-time employment, meaning you’ll be expected to work a full-time job, alongside studying for your degree. It’s a huge commitment, and you’ll need to be able to manage your work and study commitments.

4. More are in development
If you can’t find an apprenticeship in the industry you’re interested in, there’s a chance it’s on the way. You can find more information about upcoming apprenticeship plans at instituteforapprenticeships.org.

5. You don’t have to pay tuition fees!
That’s right! As an apprentice, your employer pays your tuition fees. You don’t have to repay it either – it’s part of your contract of employment.

For more information on apprenticeships in your area – as they differ within the UK – visit ucas.com/apprenticeships.

How to Approach EPQ Research (EPQ Advice #3)

Hello again! Welcome to my third EPQ Advice blog! So my last blogs took us through the basics – what an EPQ is, why you might consider it, how to choose a topic and title – but now we’re down to the tough stuff...research. Ever since Year 7 that word has sent shivers down my spine, but this blog will hopefully help reduce the fear. Here’s how I did it:

In my last advice blog, I mentioned that Google Scholar is a good research tool, but now I would like to reiterate: GOOGLE SCHOLAR IS A GOOD RESEARCH TOOL. Your EPQ essay is supposed to be written in an academic style, and that means academic research and references. Google Scholar will ONLY show you academic sources like journal articles or university level papers which are perfect for gathering ideas for your essay to reference later. Honestly, the majority of my research was done on Google Scholar. Note: there are other similar academic source websites, but this is the best one I know of that is free – but check with your school/college to see if you can get access to any others.

Where else did I do my research, you ask? Well, in some cases I took it old school and read physical non-fiction books about my topic – it’s a little bit more effort, but what I found proved highly valuable to my essay. In other cases, I did just have a little wander on the internet. Academic sources are important, but you’re totally allowed to use other stuff too, as long as it’s reliable and relevant to your title. For example, I used a few news articles and official statistics. It’s also important to use a variety of sources for your research, so whilst it’s ok to have most of your references as journal articles, for example, try and include other types of source too. You can even use YouTube videos, documentaries and your teachers as sources!

Finally, I strongly advise printing out as much of your research as possible. Not only does this make things easier if you’re highlighting or annotating your sources, but it’s incredibly helpful later on down the line where you might want to quote a particular source or when you’re creating your reference list/bibliography.

That’s that guys! I appreciate that research is easier said than done, but you’ll find it stacks up pretty quickly once you get started and you’ll have everything you need before you know it. Then you can get down to actually writing your essay – look out next week for my top tips on that. See you then...


How to Choose an EPQ Topic and Title (EPQ Advice #2)

Hello and welcome to my second EPQ advice blog! If you want to know what an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is and why you might consider doing one, please read my last blog here.  In this installment I’m giving you the three main things you might want to consider to help you decide a topic and title for your project.

Before we start, I ought to tell you about my own project (which is now near completion). Drum roll please...my EPQ is on The Hunger Games!!! If you’re anything like the people I know, you might be surprised, and fair enough – it’s not really a conventional topic choice. My title concerns the originality of the first novel in the trilogy, so in the most basic terms: is Suzanne Collins a copycat? Don’t get me wrong, I love the books (and the films too), but my title was the best option when I asked myself the following things:

What do I want to get out of the EPQ? – I knew I wanted to use my EPQ to help prepare me for university, where I’ll be doing an English Literature degree, and that led me to choose a topic related to literature so I could research similar ideas and write in a similar style to how I will in the future. You might want to relate your chosen topic to your own future prospects, especially if you think your EPQ might help you receive an offer from university or other higher education options. And don’t be put off if your plans don’t involve ‘essay subjects’ – I know people who’ve done projects on biology, medicine and loads more.

What do I like? – Having decided that I was going to focus on a book, it didn’t take me long to choose The Hunger Games as my specific focus. It’s one of my favourite novels and belongs to a genre I know pretty well, so it made sense to go for it. But YOUR personal likes are super important when picking a topic because you’ve got to spend a long time on your project and it’s ten times easier if you actually like it. So pick an area which interests you so you can become on expert on something you WANT to know about.

What makes a good EPQ? – At the end of the day, you probably want to pass the EPQ with a grade you’re happy with, and your chosen topic and title inevitably affects this. For example, your title must allow you to write an objective, academic essay using references, so it must have potential for a counterargument and some sort of debate. So before you choose a specific topic and title, make sure there are some academic sources you could refer to, and enough things for you to discuss in detail. I suggest searching things like Google Scholar for sources and talking to teachers to get their opinions.

So that’s my advice
on choosing a topic and title. Although I chose The Hunger Games as a topic very quickly, it took a long time to decide on my title to ensure I could produce a good essay, so don’t rush this decision – it may make things difficult if you discover problems with your topic/title later down the line.

Look out for my next EPQ advice blog (sometime next week) where I’ll focus on my approach to research – a massive part of EPQ!