Ready. Set. Go for the new year.

Happy new year from everyone at bestCourse4me. Now the deadline has passed for UCAS applications for 2016 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.

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 like a cat-burglar. 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 15th2016 your personal deadline. Even that date may seem like a long way off, but that cat-burglar is wearing thick socks and approaching on a very shiny floor.
Ideally, you've already started thinking about what and where to study and maybe looked into which unis might offer you a place. 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. The social scene maybe slower than a Sunday in Siberia. The other students might not share your passion for synchronised clothes folding set to music (or whatever your idea of fun is).

Our point is, there are loads of factors to consider to find the best match of uni for you. But even though that’s true, there’s no need to get yourself into a bunny-in-headlights paralysis scenario. Just by starting to look at your choices, the things that really matter to you will start to get clearer.

You might also want to get some career ideas and inspiration from our friends at MilkroundSchool Leavers. It is a careers website for 16-18 year olds, giving students the chance to find out about the wide range of career options available to them after school or college. Students can register for free to gain access to a wide range of job opportunities based on their preferences and studies.
They are holding their first School Leavers Fair Employability Fair of 2016 ensuring 16-18 year olds are receiving the best quality advice and help when it comes to deciding your future so come join some of the country’s top employers, and discuss University options on either Wednesday the 3rd or Thursday the 4th of February, in London Bridge. 


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 from UCAS with some offers. If not, don't sweat it — they all work on different schedules. You'll hear some time 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. 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 that’s what you want to do, fair enough.

A conditional offer: This means they’ll take you if you meet their conditions. That usually means they’ll 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 and test your mettle before they decide. 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 courses.
In the meantime, as you’re starting to think about offers, it might be helpful to check out the stats on careers and salaries of your different unis.

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In the news
Grants, groans, loans
In a move that’s proved unpopular with students and opposition politicians, the Conservative Government last week axed 'maintenance grants’, the money that poorer students would receive to help them meet living costs while studying. The grants were already generally considered not to be enough to get by on by themselves and the students are also entitled to Government-backed loans to top up the grants and pay their fees. 
From next academic year, instead of being granted the money, the students will be entitled to borrow more as a student loan and pay it back once they’ve left uni and got a job paying £21,000 or more. Student representatives and Labour MPs were particularly angry because the Government made this change without allowing a vote on it in the House of Commons. These rules only apply to students from England: in the other parts of the UK, there are different funding systems in place for students.

Overseas the key to uni on the cheap?
Norway, Russia and Luxembourg have been named as the three cheapest places in the world to study according to travel money company Farifx. The company recently carried out a study into the cheapest places to study encompassing both tuition fees and living costs amongst all universities ranked in the Times Higher Education league table. 

Norway turned out cheapest, costing just £2,188 per year to live and study, with Russia costing students £4,450 and Luxembourg £4,739 per year to get by. The study noted that options further afield might be attractive to students from England who face tuition fees alone of up to £9,000. Counting living costs as well, that amounts to an average yearly cost of a whopping £21,000 (although you should remember that most students get a loan for most of these costs. You might not get the same deal choosing to study elsewhere). 

But before you start booking your flights, make sure you’re up to speed on overseas curriculums and general teaching practice. In South Africa, for example, which placed fifth on the table, students are expected to ‘earn’ their place at university having to pass a heavily attended foundation year to gain entry on to the course.

Enjoy a bit of Winter sun
Brighton & Hove Council is considering cutting summer holiday time by one week to allow an extra week’s break during the Autumn term. The idea is to make it easier for lower-income families to take a family holiday without the price tag of the peak summer season. Another option being considered by the Council involves yearly ‘inset’ days being bunched together to create an extra week of holiday. Some pupils may already be planning their Halloween-themed sandcastles. 

Don't ban the blower
An academic has said that banning children from using mobile phones will move the “problem” in the wrong direction. Professor Howard Jones has suggested that instead parents should take more of an interest in what their children are doing on their mobiles, especially online. The Prof said, “We have to accept that technology is part of children’s lives. It isn't about restricting it, but about how they should be using it in a healthy way.”