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Happy new year from everyone at bestCourse4me. As year 13s submit their UCAS applications and start to prepare to hear what the unis think of them, 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 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? That's an age, right?
Once you've factored in holidays, exams and standard human procrastination, suddenly it'll have crept up like a tortoise in a slingshot. It's also worth remembering that although the official application deadline for most courses is 15 January, for some it's as early as 15 October and that's when the go-getters will have got going. That's also when the unis start building their 'yes' and 'no' piles.
Ideally, you've already started thinking about what and where to study and maybe looked into which unis might offer you a place. (I'm sure you have if you've been following recent bC4me newsletters) If not, this link will help get the fuse lit.
Your search shouldn't just be about what and where to study, although they're great places to start. A uni might offer the right subject and be in the right place, but it could still be wrong for you in countless other ways. It might not have any housing you'd like. It might have less atmosphere than a slow Sunday in Siberia. It might not share your passion for nude bungee-jumping (or whatever's your idea of fun).
Top Tip: It might be helpful to look the grades current students achieved when they took up their places at uni. Sometimes what a uni says and what it does can be different, at least as far as entry requirements are concerned. We’ve been busy updating all the info on the bestCourse4me website, so now you can see all the info about what grades people actually had when they accepted on to different courses.
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 watching the Christmas TV I'd recorded" 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 simpler. Mind you, it'll mean you have to take a gap year.
You may have already heard back from UCAS with some offers. If not, don't sweat it — they all work on different schedules. You'll hear in sometime over the next couple of months. UCAS will let you know as soon as they hear from each uni and if you're worried just check on UCAS Track for news.
Whether you've had offers or not, 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.
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. Highly unlikely unless you've already got our grades.
A conditional offer: This means they’ll take you if you meet their conditions. That usually means they take you so 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. So it goes.
Maybe, but first... they want to invite you for an interview or some other kind of assessment. They want to see the cut of your jib, test your mettle and sniff your nether parts before they decide. This isn't that common — it tends to be the older, more traditional universities that still go in for interviews.
In the meantime, as your grey-matter is starting to think about offers, it might be helpful to check out the stats on careers and salaries of your different unis.
In the news...
Uni applications down 6%. Good news for applicants, bad news for unis. UCAS has said that by the middle of last month, they'd received just over 6% fewer applications than at the same time the year before. This could mean less competition for places for anyone who's already applied but it's worth remembering there will still be tens — if not hundreds — of thousands more applicants than places.
Students drinking takes a dive. A report from the Department of Health has suggested that students are drinking far less then they used to. Reacting to the report, Leeds University said that, as well as seeing students drinking less, they think that more are joining clubs and societies and taking part in activities like skydiving and horse-riding. Whatever you like to do in your free time, it's worth thinking about whether there’s a uni out there where you can do it. With or without a pint in your hand.
Students worried about cost of living. Fees are not the biggest expense you’ll have at uni, despite what some people might say. A survey by the National Union of Students suggests that living costs are more important to most students. Nearly half the students they spoke to said they had considered dropping out because of high rent and bills. That makes sense because very few students pay their fees out of their own pocket while at uni, but the living costs are different at every uni. There’s a big range of types of housing and prices. It might be a key factor in deciding which uni is right for you.
New government apprenticeship scheme. Want to help run the country — or, more realistically, help make the country run — but not sure if uni is for you? The Government is starting a new apprenticeship programme for people who want to join the civil service. The first 100 apprentices, aged 18 to 21, will be recruited in April and will learn on the job in government departments from September for at least the next two years. Apprenticeship schemes at higher levels in all sorts of careers and jobs are on the up in a big way and, if you're not sure uni is for you, they can be an alternative way to get qualified.
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