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University Cheat Sheet for Parents

Find yourself getting confused by all of the various phrases to do with University? We've explained them all to make understanding it a bit easier.

Whether you are a parent with a child applying for University, or even thinking about going to University yourself, we've explained all of the jargon and words used by people in University education to make understanding it all a little eaiser. 


UCAS- The Universities and Colleges admissions service in the UK. Applications, offers, tariffs, progress, teacher training as well as lots of help and advice are provided by UCAS. They make applying to University easy and straightforward. 


Deadlines- When courses should be applied to by. Medical degree deadlines are October, whereas most other degrees are January. 


Entry requirements- This is what is required by the students to be considered for a place on the course- qualifications, interviews, admissions tests and medical requirements. 


Personal Statement- Similar to a cover letter for your CV, a personal statement is a chance to articulate why you’d like to study a course, what skills and experience you have, your passion and your personality! 


Conditional Offer- An offer from a University to be accepted onto a course, providing you meet the conditions (grades)


Unconditional Offer- An offer from a University to accept a place on a course, with no conditions, the place if yours if you want it. 


Results day- A-level results day, where students receive their grades and find out whether they have achieved the grades needed to be accepted onto a University course. 


Deferral- If you want to carry your offer over from this academic year to the next. 


Clearing- If students don’t receive any offers for the course they applied for, declined offers, or didn't get the grades needed, they can apply for alternative courses through clearing. Clearing will offer places to students on courses which still have vacancies. 


Student finance- Students can apply for financial help to attend University. There are a number of options students can apply for, the financial income of the household and situation of the student is taken into account e.g. dependent children/ adults, disabilities, mature students, refugees, international students and carers. There are 4 student finance organisations in the UK (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales), students will apply through the organisation where they live. 


Tuition loan- this loan from Student finance England covers the teaching costs, £9,250 a year. At the end of a 3 year degree, you will owe £27,750. 


Maintenance loan- this loan from student finance england helps with living costs whilst at University, this amount will vary on the household income of the student. Students can alternatively apply for a non-means tested loan, the a minimum loan available for the region e you live in whilst studying. 


Other financial help- Students are also welcome to apply for bursaries, scholarships, long course loans and grants, but only some students are eligible. 


Student loans company- These handle the repayments of student loans, working along with HMRC, they calculate your repayments based on earnings. 


Repaying loans- Repaying your loans depends on how much you earn. For England and Wales, you start repaying your loan once you are earning over £25,725 year, for Ireland and Scotland once you are earn over £18,935. 


Open Day- these are events organised by Universities, it's a chance to take a look at the facilities, find out lots of info and meet with course lecturers. These are a fantastic way to decide on the right university for the student. 


University- This is the next level of education after college, please do not refer to this as ‘college’, it is not the same as University. 


Conservatoire- a provider of performance-based music, dance, screen, and drama courses.


Degree- This is what students receive at the end of their studies at University. This is the ‘certificate’ of achievement, and the most expensive piece of paper you’ll ever see. 


Undergraduate- A student who has not yet graduated, but is a student on a degree course. 


Graduate- A student who has graduated, they can now apply for further study. 


Levels of Degrees- There are 4 main levels. Foundation, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral. 


Foundation- Students will have to complete a foundation degree if they don’t have the grades to be accepted onto a Bachelor’s degree course, or if you want to further your knowledge without dedicating to a full-time Bachelor’s degree. 


Bachelor’s- This is what most people know as a ‘degree’. Bachelor’s are most common and somewhat expected for a large majority of jobs today. 


Master’s- This is the 1st level of postgraduate study. This involves a higher level of study, this can be taken either by choice or integrated with some advanced degrees. 


Doctoral- This is the 2nd level of postgraduate study (and the hardest and longest). There are a number, the most common PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). This is a research degree and qualifies the holder to teach at University level. 


Levels of Qualifications explained further here


Point of entry- the place in which you would start your studies e.g. 2- in the second year of the course. 


Sandwich Course- Nope we’re not talking about lunch. A sandwich course incorporates a year of working in industry between years 2 and 3 of studying. These provide students with further knowledge and experience which an academic setting cannot offer. 


Reading list- this is the suggested books/ journals for the students course, don’t buy all of these straight away, University books are super expensive. A lot of books can be loaned from the library, accessed for free via the University online library and bought cheaply from last year's students. 


Modules- Each year is made up of around 4-5 modules, each will focus on a different aspect of the course e.g. A marketing degree will have modules including: international marketing, consumer behaviour and operations management, plus many more. The modules change every academic year. 


Societies/ Clubs- Extracurricular activities linked to the University are a great chance for students to meet new people, keep fit and to put on their CV (it shows willingness, even though it's normally something fun!). 


Canvas- An online learning environment, a portal per say. Projects/ assignments/ lectures/ handouts/ reading suggestions and general messages are all communicated through this. 


Dissertation- A subject related research project, counted as one module in the final year of the degree. This is a lengthy project and will take a lot of preparation and time. Student can conduct their own research, or analyse others research on a partiular subject which is chosen by the student. 


Lecture- a information heavy talk given to a large group of students in a big room, where students will take notes of points given.


Seminar- Usually linked to lectures, subject areas are discussed in detail and presentations may be given to show understanding and critical thinking. 


BSc- A Bachelors of Science is the classification of an undergraduate academic degree. These degrees (as the name suggests) are normally more science based and are more extensive in that particular area. These tend to focus more on practical experience, exercises and laboratory based work. 


BA- A Bachelors of Arts is the classification of an undergraduate academic degree. These degrees tend to be more humanities based and focus more on theoretical knowledge. 


BEng- A Bachelor of Engineering is a classification of an undergraduate academic degree. This degree contributes to the route to becoming a ‘registered/ professional engineer’. 


Freshers- This is a term for students in their first year of University. It is also a term for the first week of University, where there is lots of social events for students to meet other first years. 


Grades- When coursework/ exams are marked, students will receive a grade, please do not refer to this as ‘a 1st or 2:1’ these grades add up to give a final mark, which can then be referred to ‘a 1st, 2:1 etc etc’. 


Final Grades- This is the level of degree which the student receives upon completion of their degree. 


First class honours- (1st) is the highest level awarded. Students normally have to score an average of 70% or above. 


Second class honours- a higher second (2:1) where marks average between 60-69% and a lower second (2:2) where marks average between 50-59%. A 2:1 is normally required for entry onto a postgraduate degree. 


Third class honours- (3rd) This is the lowest degree level classification awarded, marks will average between 40-49%. Anything below this is classed as a fail. 


NUS- National Union of Students work to protect the rights of students and campaigns for students. They offer a NUS extra card which gives students access to 100’s of discounts in a wide range of shops. 


University Halls- These are University owned student accommodation buildings, normally cheaper than private accommodation. They offer the basics and everyone living there is a student. Universities will list their accommodation buildings on their website.


Private Accommodation- Owned privately, these accommodation buildings are usually more of a luxurious option (although they will vary). These tend to offer lots more facilities and are booked through their own websites. 


HMO’s- These are privately owned houses/ flats, which people rent out to students. Students will pay rent to a landlord for a private bedroom and shared communal spaces e.g. bathroom, kitchen and lounge. 


There will be plenty more words and phrases that you’ll come across that you don’t understand. Just have a quick google or ask someone who has been to University to get a better understanding. But whatever you do, don't stress about it, most students don't know lots of these terms... (Even we had to Google a few).

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