Throughout school, one frequent go-to phrase for teachers to get us to do something was ‘”It’ll look good on your Uni application.” This had variations of course, such as “it’ll look good on your CV” or “it will help you later in life.” Teachers were not always wrong of course, but what I found towards the end of school and in the first week of University is that a lot of ‘advice’ that teachers gave was unfortunately scare-mongering. Here are five things teachers told me (and many others) that would ‘help’ us that turned out to be pretty much false.
Neat, beautiful handwriting matters
I can already see my Mum reading this in horror! In Primary School we were taught neat, joint-up handwriting was the way forward – and anything other than this did not please the teacher. Of course, I completely agree that legible handwriting is important – but for me it stops there. Now, even if our handwriting isn’t legible we can type up exams – and many assignments at Uni, if not most of them, are typed up. Neat handwriting may look better of course, but I feel that the amount of emphasis and time spent on beautiful handwriting at school is increasingly becoming time wasted – plenty of people I know with bad handwriting (including myself) managed to get to University. Furthermore, there are many people with good handwriting that don’t join up their letters! If your handwriting is legible to some extent, then there is nothing to really worry about,
The Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award will help you with your application
Ok, I’ve never sat with the people that decide who gets a place at University and seen whether they consider the Duke of Edinburgh award or not, but the amount of people I know who took the award so it would look good on their CV or Uni application is numerous (it played a significant part in my decision to do the award as well). I have no doubt that the award looks great on your application, but do it to learn some practical skills instead such as learning how to put up a tent, read a map or cook while camping (all of which I am still awful at, by the way). Otherwise, do something else that you would enjoy instead – don’t just do it to look good on your University application (it’s not worth the walk, seriously).
National 5’s (or GCSE’s) matter just as much as your Highers (or A-Levels) do
I don’t know if everyone was told this at school, but in fourth year some teachers did a fantastic job of scare-mongering people pupils when sitting our National 5 exams. That’s not to say they don’t matter at all – it helps to have done well at National 5 at Higher, and to develop a good work ethic. However in terms of your Uni application it is Highers that are looked at first and foremost. If you got 4As at Higher, you’re probably going to get in (unless it’s St Andrews or Oxbridge). Yet if you got straight As at National 5 but average grades at Higher, there’s no guarantee. I have heard some Universities consider National 5s, but all in all it really does not have equal significance to Highers. So if you’re sitting National 5s – or you’re doing Higher and are really worried about the grades you got last year – do not worry. Work hard on your Highers (or don’t if you’re just naturally really smart) and get the grades this year – even if that fails, you still have sixth year to make up for it!
Extra-curricular activities will make a huge difference on your application
Now I can see a lot of disapproving looks when parents and teachers read this; but hear me out. Extra-curricular definitely help in terms of giving you different skills, confidence and something else to focus on outwith your exams; however the amount of time teachers spent drilling this into us and seeing people who had essentially done nothing until sixth year get unconditional offers for University came as a surprise to some. This is relative of course; for subjects such as Medicine and Law this really does matter, as well as for most degrees at Oxbridge. However for many degrees, it’s the grades that take precedence, then extra-curricular activities. I make this point mainly so that people realise they have it’s not vital to do 101 activities and find masses of time to study. Find one or two activities that you enjoy to do to take your time off things and if that’s enough for you, do not stress about doing any more.
And finally…University is the best way to go
This is the biggest and most important one I think. Whilst I always knew that academically, University was the best for me, the idea that University is the best end point for every high school student is inane. There are numerous other options out there for pupils such as college, apprenticeships or simply straight into work. Whilst it is great that more students are going to University than ever before and is something to celebrate, it seems like getting more students into University is becoming a good statistic to show off on a school’s (and a government’s) record. If more pupils got more accurate guidance on what is good for them based on what they want and their academic record, less career advisors would get things wrong and more people would leave school happy rather than confused.
These things will have not been told to every single pupil of course – like with many of my other articles, I’m talking from my own experiences. However I feel like the points above are true not just for me but for many of my school mates. I’d also like to add, I had some fantastic teachers at school and not all of them were like the ones I describe above! However, I feel the day teachers try to be more honest with their students rather than try to tick a few boxes on a form or get a good statistic will be the day school – and the future – improves for school students.