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Happy new year from everyone at bestCourse4me. Now the deadline has passed for UCAS applications for 2017 and the year 13s are readying themselves for the unis’ responses, it's time for year 12s to get out their new year's resolution list and write 'find my ideal uni' at the top.

What to think about if you're starting year 12
What to think about if you're starting year 13
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This month
What to think about if you're in year 12

In all probability, in less than a year’s time, your application will be sitting on desks in your chosen universities. Your fingers will be crossed so tightly they'll look like knotted chipolatas. And you may even have got an offer or two. But a year? You’ve got ages, right? Once you've factored in holidays, exams and standard human procrastination, suddenly it'll have crept up quicker than you'd have thought. It's also worth remembering that although the official application deadline for most courses is 15th January, for some it's as early as 15th October. That's also when the unis start building their 'yes' and 'no' piles. So get ahead of the game and make October 15th 2017 your personal deadline. Even that date may seem like a long way off, but making the right big choice means breaking it down into several smaller choices. The longer you have for each, the better the choice. 
 
Ideally, you've already started thinking about what to study. You may started to think about where to study. Maybe you've looked into which unis might offer you a place. These three questions are all parts of the big choice, but there are others to consider too. Some of the unis that are answers to those three questions could still be wrong for you in countless other ways. Some won’t have anywhere to live that you like. The social scene might be non-existent. Or there might not be a decent chippy on the high street. 

Our point is, there are loads of factors to consider to find the best match of uni for you. But just by starting to look at your choices, the things that really matter to you will start to get clearer.

What to think about if you're in year 13

Apart from a few art and design courses, the deadline for most UCAS applications has been and gone. Having said that, if you missed it for some good reason, all is not lost. You can submit a late application and, if the unis have places left, they'll usually still consider it, but it might be worth explaining why it's late in your personal statement. But only if it's a good excuse. "I was too busy eating Christmas leftovers" won't cut it. Failing that, there's always next year. By then you'll probably have your grades which, in some ways, makes the process easier. Mind you, it'll mean you have to take a gap year.
 
You may have already heard back already from UCAS with some offers. A good thing to remember is that you don’t have to decide anything until you’ve heard from all the unis you applied to. Some unis might try to hurry you into a decision, saying that places fill up quickly. The fact is, if they've made you an offer, they have to stick to it. Watch out for more from bC4me over the next couple of months about strategies for handling offers, but for now, sit tight.

If you've not had replies yet, don't sweat it — they all work on different schedules. You'll hear from them some time over the next couple of months. If you're worried just check on UCAS Track for news.
 
Just so you know, a uni can respond to your application in one of four ways:
 
An unconditional offer: This means they’ll take you no matter what. They were that impressed. This is unlikely unless you've already got your grades, although some unis use it as a tactic to encourage you to make them your first choice. If you've considered all your options and that’s what you want to do, go for it. 
 
A conditional offer: This means they’ll take you if you meet their conditions. That usually means they’ll take you as long as you get the right grades at A Level (or whatever qualifications you're doing). They might say what grade you need in what subject and there might be other conditions like language tests, for instance.
 
A rejection: They don’t want you. Never mind. C'est la vie. 
 
Maybe, but first... they want to invite you for an interview or some other kind of assessment. This isn't that common — it tends to be the older, more traditional universities that still go in for interviews or certain courses such as medicine, teaching, or art. (With that in mind, if you're thinking about applying for a medicine course why don't you have a look at the latest blog with tips for Medicine course interviews?)

In the meantime it might be useful to check out the stats on careers and salaries of your different unis.

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In the news
 
Fake it till you... get caught 
Over the last six months more than 40 fraudulant sites have been shut down after they had been found offering degree certificates under the names of real British universities. University of Kent, Stafordshire University and Surrey University are some of the institutions which have been 'piggy-backed' by these sites to sell fake degrees for as much as £500 as far away as China.  If in doubt, just remember: degrees prove you studied. You can’t just buy one that’s worth any more than the paper on which the badly spelled certificate is printed.

The Apprentice: You're hired... 
The new Institute for Apprenticeships has just published guidelines to help companies and colleges offering apprenticeships make sure they’re up to scratch. The Skills Minister Robert Halfon claimed that 90% of apprentices go on to secure a job with their employer and that businesses will be investing £2.5 billion in apprenticeships (double what was spent in 2010 to 2011). Apprenticeships are simply a way of packaging up getting taught while you get experience too. They’re expand fast as a key option for school-leavers. You can even do a degree as an apprenticeship without paying fees. Worth exploring perhaps?

How much is your mental health worth?
A recent Freedom of Information request asked how much money the UK's education institutions were spending on mental health for each student studying with them to reveal some interesting results. Cambridge and Oxford have topped the charts spending an average of £44 on each student per year, while at the other end of the Russell Group Warwick spent just £11.92 per student per year. Some unis outside the Russell Group scrape even lower still with The University of Central Lancashire spending a mere £4.64. Although it's not surprising that some of the richest and most high pressure unis can afford to spend the most on mental health and feel the need to, but perhaps this report will encourage others to think about how they can help their students better too.
 
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