University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Jon Cheek

by Jon Cheek


posted on 1 Jan '24

A parent case study: meet Jackie

Jackie lives in Cheltenham with her husband and two sons, William and Elliot, who are both at university. By sharing the journey they took to get there and her thoughts and experience as a parent, Jackie hopes to reassure other parents and supporters that it’ll all be fine!

Introducing William

William attended a grammar school in Gloucestershire and studied A Levels in Geography, French and Economics. He completed a BA in Geography at the University of Exeter in 2022 and is currently studying a Master’s Degree in Town Planning at the University of Birmingham, closer to home.

Introducing Elliot

Elliot studied A Levels in History, Business and Economics at a comprehensive school in Cheltenham before going on to study History and Politics at the University of Nottingham. After taking a year out to travel around South America and start some part-time work, Elliot is currently studying a Master’s programme in International Security and Terrorism back at his alma mater (this is the term used for a student’s original university) in the hope of progressing his career in this area once he’s graduated.

We asked Jackie a few questions about the experience

1. What did William and Elliot want to be when they were young and has that changed over time?

Neither expressed a particular interest in what they wanted to be, they both selected subjects at school and university that they enjoyed and were good at. In the second and third year of their undergraduate degrees, both had a better idea of a potential profession.

2. Did they always want to go to university?

Both William and Elliot knew they wanted the experience of studying at university and didn’t really show an interest in entering the world of work after leaving school.

3. Did you attend any school events, talks, UCAS fairs or Open Days?

Yes, lots! Open Days were essential in finding out what they did, or didn’t want, from a university. It was also helpful for them to think about what they’d compromise on too – whether that was the location of the university, the halls of residence or degree type. We attended lots of Open Days together as a family, which was a great way to see what the university was like and also have a look around the town or city. It helped both my sons, and us as parents, to get a feel for the university and experience what the city had to offer. It also helped to cement their desire to study at a Russell Group university.

4. How did you decide which Open Days to attend?

My sons took different approaches to picking Open Days and researching universities. Elliot did his homework and did lots of research online before choosing which universities to attend. He read lots of online forums, blogs and reviews to help him get a feel for the university, understand it’s reputation and get a gauge of what student life might be like.

William, however, had a more relaxed approach to selecting which Open Days to attend. They both decided they would like to be around a two- hour train journey from home, so that helped to narrow the selection too. Every university was so different from the next, so Open Days really were a vital research tool that helped with their final decisions.

5. What was the biggest factor that influenced their decision to study at the University of Nottingham and the University of Exeter?

As mentioned, both wanted to be approximately two hours on a main trainline from home. This turned out to be a great decision as it meant they could pop home for the weekend without it taking too much time and costing the earth!

Both William and Elliot were led by the subjects they wanted to study, but the campus and student life also had an impact on their decisions.

"They’ve loved every minute and have really thrown themselves into student life. They’ve taken on lots of different experiences, joined various clubs like surfing, rugby and a debating society – and had lots of different opportunities which they’ve thoroughly enjoyed."

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