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News > Careers > Hamish Lloyd PGS 2020-2022

Hamish Lloyd PGS 2020-2022

Hamish saw the benefits of online research and in person visits in helping him choose his university. He takes a quick dive into University Open Days to introduce the concept to our current students.
21 Sep 2022
Written by Hamish Lloyd

Never underestimate the rapidity of time. I’ve gone from a nervous pupil coming to Pate’s for the first time, to now saying farewell and travelling off to Cardiff University, all within two years! However, I have returned to give advice to all prospective university students about the daunting idea of visiting the universities you are thinking about applying to. From my experiences, there are four ways to investigate university courses you have interest in:

  • UCAS, Unifrog and the University website
  • Going to a Careers Fair
  • Open Days
  • What I term “Doin’ it Yourself”

Let’s start with UCAS and Unifrog. These will start the process of narrowing down what you’re interested in. I wanted to study a Mathematics degree as I loved studying it at A-level (Yes, I know I am weird liking Maths). I also wanted to stay close to home, so I narrowed my list down further. Then look on the university websites for more information on course structure, modules studied and entry requirements. As I didn’t study Further Mathematics at A-level, this ruled out many University courses from Oxford, Cambridge and Warwick. Other useful information such as types of accommodation, can also be found on their website. This is especially important if you want to find out which halls have the luxury of cooked meals or even the fabled ensuite bathroom, and how much they cost.

If websites aren’t your thing or you want to talk in person to current students or staff, Careers Fairs are the next best thing in narrowing down your selection. The one held at Pate’s each November is brilliant, with stands from lots of universities. The university representatives will answer your question well and will give you a prospectus, though these go quickly so go early! For those of you who have everything planned or those who are unsure where to go, the events have various employers there too so you can begin to explore your post-university life.

But before you sign away the next part of your life, I strongly recommend you check for university Open Days. I would recommend taking the train, bus, or even cycling as you will rely on these modes of transport once at university. Once there, you will get a map and other goodies, as well as directions on where to go. On my visit to Birmingham University, we went into a Mathematics lecture hall, where one of the lecturers began by talking about the basic structures of the course. We then passed through part of the building where a different lecturer talked about the support on offer before moving on again. This was repeated, finishing with an informal chat with the lecturers. Nottingham University was different in that once you entered the Maths building, we were assigned a student who toured us around the building and answered any questions we had.

So, each university will run their open days a little differently but both those I visited had tours around the site, had all buildings staffed and had university halls open to look around. These elements allow you to complete the main objectives of an Open Day - to see in-person the university by walking around it and to talk to people who already know what studying there is like. Do also try to look at the area surrounding the university, as you will then gain an understanding of the community which your university is a part of; look at what accommodation is offered after the first year and, very importantly, find your nearest Greggs and Tesco (the proximity to a Greggs, I’m sure you already appreciate

These three ways are sufficient to see you ready. But I am sure some of you will be asking, “Is there anything more I can do?”, “What if I can’t go to an open day?”, or maybe “Hamish, you said you were going to Cardiff University but haven’t said anything about preparing for it. Why not?” Well, this is where the fourth step comes into play. To answer the first and second question, I present to you the “Doin’ it Yourself.” This entails simply visiting the university; something I did twice with Birmingham. With no guided tours and not being able to access all the areas I could on an open day, I still managed to get a vibe for the university and talked to librarians, receptionists, and other members of the faculty. Though not as great as an open day, “Doin’ it Yourself” was still enlightening and I recommend doing it.

But what about the third question? I chose Birmingham as my Firm and Cardiff University as my Insurance and in my great wisdom, I forgot about Cardiff Open and Taster days. Unfortunately, Birmingham rejected me, and I was now going to Cardiff. I had already researched the university, but I still hadn’t been to see the university myself yet. As you can guess, I enacted the “Doin’ it Yourself” philosophy and visited the Cardiff area. When I went, I was fortunate in that I found a student on the accommodation reception who I was able to have a long chat about the university with (thanks Adrian) and although I didn’t get a tour of the Maths Department, I had gained enough from the experience to be comfortable going.

So, you know every detail of the course, you have your lecturer’s mobile number, and you have read every book related to your course. It now comes down to which you prefer. In my case, it came down to what I was learning in the course, its location locally within the area, and its location nationally. It may be true that the university is well renowned for being the best of the best, or someone you know went there and loved it. It may also be true that the best work harder than anyone else to exceed, and you and the person you know may have vastly different experiences. But what is always true is that you prepare for what is to come now, so that wherever you go you will love the time spent there.

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