FAQs - University Application


Beacon Scholars visited several Beacon Partner Schools and responded to questions from students currently considering UK university applications. The questions and answers are taken directly from those conversations and provide a unique insight into the choices and university experience of actual Beacon Scholars. 

If you have any additional questions please use the Ask Beacon box below, and the question will either be answered by a member of the Beacon Team or be directed at an appropriate Beacon University Scholar.

  1. Pre-University Activities
  2. University Choice
  3. University and Beacon Scholarship Applications
  4. The Beacon Scholarship for University
  5. University Experience
  6. Post University Prospects
  7. Ask Beacon Do you have a specific question about The Beacon Scholarship for University that is unanswered below or not in our general FAQs?


1.0 Pre-University Activities


1. What are your top tips for British Curriculum Year 12/13’s or top years IB?

One Scholar Response: Make sure you engage in useful extra curriculars that will build up your profile and add flavor to your personal statement. Remember to choose your A-Level and IB subjects carefully and start on your personal statement early.

Another Scholar Response: I have also found the number of extra-curricular activities you engage in is not as important as fewer activities that show the breadth of your skills/talents (i.e quality over quantity). This really helps in choosing which activities to spend your time on when you are not studying.

Another Scholar Response: On the academic side for A-levels, I recommend attempting and revising as many past papers as possible before the exam. The examiners tend to frame questions in the same format and expect your answer to include certain words or steps (unless of course it’s an essay-based paper). Learning these trends can easily help any jump up by at least 1 grade.

Another Scholar Response: I would strongly recommend doing A-levels or IB instead. It keeps your scope of university and course choices much wider. Medicine, for example, can only be pursued in the UK if you’ve done A-levels.

2. How important is going to university today?

One Scholar Response: This depends on your career choices and how you would like your life to play out. An undergraduate education increases your chances for gaining the skills and experiences required to successfully navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic world.

Another Scholar Response: It is important to also remember that once you leave university, you leave with more than just a degree. Once you shift your perspective you will realise that university has more to offer such as networking, discovering yourself and unlocking hidden potential only you can maximise during your 3+ years at university.

3. What are your thoughts on leaving school after Year 11 to do a foundation year at university instead of doing A-Levels or IB?

One Scholar Response: I would strongly recommend doing A-Levels, as it gives you two years to specialise in a few subjects, helping you make a more informed decision when you make your university course choices. It also gives you two years to grow up and mature, which is really important to be able to face the challenges of living abroad alone and having to make a number of life decisions on your own. The same applies to IB.

Another Scholar Response: This goes with consideration of what career you want to pursue in future.

4. What is the difference between A-Levels and the IB system in terms of students’ performance in their first year at university?

As IB students focus on 6 subjects in their final 2 years rather than the 3 subjects in A-Levels, they often don’t cover as much detail in the subjects they study e.g. engineering students who took IB Physics often find they are lacking some crucial Mechanics knowledge in first year. However, this problem is more severe in STEM subjects than in humanities such as history, where it is more important to develop a set of skills in your final 2 years of school rather than learn specific content. Performance in Social Sciences is more about skills rather than the specific content. All universities will start you off at level zero in Social Sciences, Economics, Finance (AKA Non-STEM) subjects. With this in mind, sometimes the IB can be better in terms of teaching you how to think broadly, and flexibly.

5. How did schooling at a top A-Level or IB School prepare you for moving to university?

One Scholar Response: By interacting with students and teachers from a wide range of countries and backgrounds, my school prepared me to appreciate other cultures and experiences such as those found at university, where there are people from all over the world. The teaching was of a high standard, meaning I was academically prepared to take on the content of my first year of engineering, and by having done a lot of extra-curricular activities, I had the social and other skills needed to settle in at university.

Another Scholar Response:  The leadership roles I held in school were all great learning experiences for me. They helped me discover the type of person I want to be and what impacts I wanted to create now, and in the future.

Another Scholar response: Besides what my A-Level subjects pointed me towards, I chose a field I genuinely enjoyed. This partly motivates my studies now.

Another Scholar Response: If you’ve chosen subjects that you will pursue in university, A-levels and IB really strengthen your position when you go to university since you’ll have a strong framework of knowledge that you’ll be able to build on, and you’ll be certain that you will love what you will do.

6. Looking back at your time at school, are there any things you did that really shaped you?

One Scholar Response: Extracurricular activities (sports, mountain climbing, Rhino Charge, volunteering, prefect, etc.) were the single thing that shaped me the most during my time at school. I gained confidence in trying new things, and especially things such as sport that I was not initially good at, meaning I really had to work hard to get better. I also learnt to throw myself into every activity, and through that build strong friendships with the people I worked with.

Another Scholar Response: Engaging in projects that were targeted at bettering the various communities around me have greatly shaped who I am and who I want to be. I was fortunate to attend a school that ensured that all students took part in some sort of community project and I was able to find my love for giving back to the community even outside school. Being able to connect with people from different walks of life showed me that I want to be an integral part of the positive change that needs to happen within Kenya.

7. What subject combinations offer you the widest choice of university course options?

It is probably better to focus your choices rather than broaden them, because courses want people who fit into what they are looking for and not those who are ambiguous. However, subjects like Maths, Further Maths, English Literature, Sciences, Classics, History, and Geography can keep your options open.

We'd suggest keeping to more conventional subjects since new A Levels such as Engineering/Law are not usually favoured, especially for high-end universities. However, this always depends on the university and the board offering the A Level so it is always better to enquire with admissions offices first in your target universities.

8. How important are extracurricular activities for your university application?

One Scholar Response: Admissions teams place more value on extra-curricular activities because predicted A-level grades are not always reliable, while others say they help to distinguish between applicants with identical predicted grades.

Another Scholar Response: Everybody who applies for a course would at least be able to meet the grade requirements. Since there will always be more applicants than positions available in the course, the University looks for ways differentiate between applicants and decide who gets a position. This is where extracurriculars come in as they make you stand out from the competition by displaying what you could do outside of your lectures.

9. What should you consider when choosing your A-Level subjects after GCSEs?

One Scholar Response: Some degrees ask for specific A-Levels so do your research. Certain A-Levels can keep your options open like Maths, Further Maths, English Literature, Sciences, Classics, History, Geography and Modern Languages. Subjects at A-Level may be tougher than at GCSE level. Some universities prefer certain A-Levels so be aware of that. Choose A-Levels that you will enjoy.

Another Scholar Response: Do not limit yourself to a certain group of subjects if you aren’t certain what you want to do in the future e.g. just doing humanities. Choose subjects you're passionate about, and don’t let other people’s choice of subjects influence yours.


2.0 University Choice


1. Why did you choose your current university?

One Scholar Response: I decided to apply to Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge) after receiving my Year 12 results and realising they were strong enough to put in an application. As Cambridge has a slightly better reputation in STEM subjects than Oxford, I chose Cambridge as my first choice of university.

Another Scholar Response: I decided to apply to Cardiff because it was oriented towards my interests and what I wanted to do. I had always been fascinated about the workings of the brain and Cardiff university was one of the few universities that offered a course solely based on Neuroscience. Rank was equally important. Cardiff is a Russell Group university so I knew I would be getting a top quality education studying there.

Another Scholar response: I decided to apply to Bristol as it is part of the Russell Group and the university has a very highly ranked engineering department. For my course (Aerospace engineering) there aren’t many places that are better to study it in the UK.

Another Scholar Response: I chose Cambridge after doing immense research. Apart from being one of the top universities in the world and ensuring some of the best education and career prospects, there are several factors that make it stand out: (1) We have a College system, where you live and work. Each College is about the size of a high school, and it becomes a sort of family, with its own college teams. Colleges aren’t particularly different from each other. (2) We do exams every year, unlike Oxford, which does one exam after three years. (3) A lot of fun traditions like rowing, College marriages and families, formals, balls etc. (4) The College system ensures closer contact with supervisors and better quality of education.

2. When choosing university courses, how do you balance doing a course you like and doing one where your strengths lie?

One Scholar Response: Making university course choices requirest a lot of consideration and chief among them is your ability to do well on the course.

Another Scholar Response: It’s important to be realistic and do research on where such a course will take you in the next few years and how the subject area is advancing in the world. While doing well in a course is of utmost importance it is also important to have interest, or at least be willing to learn and discover new things, in the course you plan to study. This will help you in keeping determined even when certain aspects of your course don’t exactly seem to be your strong suit.

Another Scholar Response: Regardless of the course you choose there will be some form of workload that gets harder each year. Due to this, it's important to choose a course that you have genuine interest in as you really do not want to research a topic that puts you to sleep. That said it would just be self-sabotage to join a course for which you have low aptitude as this will lead to unbelievable frustration despite any interest you had. The most important thing to do is research all the options you have and choose the best combination between your interest and skill. Also don’t sell yourself short; skills can often be acquired through consistent effort.

3. For top universities, e.g. LSE, is it advisable to apply to some of their less popular courses (i.e. not law or economics) to increase your chances of getting in?

One Scholar Response: With top universities, their system of teaching and the attention each student gets offers more value than the particular course studied. With this in mind, it is advisable to apply to courses that offer a greater chance of getting into the university, rather than applying to very highly competitive courses, that would narrow your chances of getting an offer.

Another Scholar Response: You must be very realistic with yourself when thinking of applying to competitive courses in a competitive university, especially being an international student. You must not only meet the standard but also surpass it which can be a tough task for anyone. It is important to note with top universities all ranges of courses have the same high-level quality education. Therefore, your decision is based more on the university and not the course. It is advisable to apply for a less popular course (in line with your future career path) in order to increase your chances of getting in.

4. What is the difference in the experiences between a campus and non-campus university?

One Scholar Response: A campus based university is centralised and distances from classrooms, accommodations and other facilities are close. A non-campus based university on the other hand is decentralised and everything is spread out. This means that you get to enjoy a smaller community of people around you who can get very close, but everything else would be far away.

Another Scholar Response: Studying at a non-campus university allows you to immerse yourself in the culture of the city that you live in. More often than not, you can sometimes feel as if you aren't a university student at all as you interact with the different types of people living in your city, from businesspersons, lawyers and the occasional street performer on your walk home. Being in a campus based university has a stronger sense of community and is less daunting whereas being in a city, there is a certain thrill and adrenaline that comes complementary to your university experience.

Another Scholar Response: Oxbridge and Durham are college-based universities, which have aspects of both campus and non-campus universities. You live in a college, which is like a small campus, with your accommodation, hall etc, but you leave to study in your respective subject’s faculty.

5. What guided your university choices to study the subject you are studying?

One Scholar Response: Make sure subject choices at A-Levels/IB fit into the combination and that the universities you would like to attend will accept your subject combination and, of course, you can attain the required grade tariffs for the course at these universities.

Another Scholar Response: The 'rank' heavily guided my choices especially because my course was science based. A further consideration was the amount of research the university was doing and the connections the university could provide me with when starting my career. For example, Cardiff university is one of the few universities that have a neuroimaging center with world leading facilities. Therefore, I know what I learn there will not only benefit me while I’m in university but also when I leave. Also research what activities the university is engaged in with regards to your particular course. It is important to look outside just 'learning' at the university; you must also think about what edge a degree from that university will give you.

6. How do you finally narrow down to one thing to study at university?

One Scholar Response: I made my choice by figuring out what my passion is, where my strengths lie and researching various courses that would fit into these. The course selection must also be in something that you can build a career on, and that will give you a good chance at getting different kinds of jobs. Unless of course you are really keen on one thing, then you should pick that and run with it.

It is also worth noting that when you are doing one subject at university, you are still covering various areas in it so you still have a wide variety of options to choose from - wouldn't say it is monotonous at all!

Another Scholar Response: Do your research. Before narrowing down, I found that I had lots of stereotypes about what certain courses were and what career they would lead me to. I researched the university, the course at the university I was interested in (including the modules of the course), how the course was assessed, and finally the qualifications at the end. When I paired all this with my interests and views on my own capabilities it really gave me a complete view of what I would be studying, enabling me then to make a realistic decision.

Another Scholar Response: Talk to friends who have done the subjects you’re interested in. Don’t take their opinions as law, but use them to get an insight into what studying a certain subject will be like. Engage in internships in fields that interest you.

7. Does your university choice determine your likelihood of finding a job?

One Scholar Response: Yes and no, since your university education is the basis on which you may be trying to find a job. There are some courses of study that will prevent you from doing certain jobs, for example you cannot study Law to become an Engineer. There are some jobs however that look at your skills and not necessarily what you studied at university and these may open up opportunities for you.

Another Scholar Response: To an extent it does. The defining variable in the equation of degrees, apart from the level of achievement of the degree, is the university from which you attained the degree. It is the reason why rankings exist. While this can make little difference with regards to universities of the same calibre it will count heavily in other cases. For example, if you’re looking to study a science degree going to a Russell Group university is always the better option.

8. Are you happy to study at a UK university or would you change it given a choice?

One Scholar Response: UK universities provide a unique experience for learning as opposed to those elsewhere eg the US, Europe or other countries. Key differences include immediately specialising in your degree subject in your first year, as opposed to US universities where you often have to study a range of general subjects in your first year; a shorter course length - most UK degree courses are 3 years long, instead of 4 years; and a smooth transition from A Levels, as UK university courses are tailored towards students who studied A Levels or the IB, meaning you won’t need to take extra courses or do 'catch-up' in your first year. However, each university and course has its own experience, so choosing a course and university you like can be very influential in enjoying your university experience, whether in the UK or elsewhere.

Another Scholar Response: I am happy to study at a UK university I believe it provides a different experience from any other place not only in terms of the teaching style and qualifications it offers but also in terms of culture, food, and different landscapes and locations. I study in Cardiff Wales and therefore I experience Welsh culture, food, language, and landscapes such as the Brecon Beacons.


3.0 University and Beacon Scholarship Applications


1. How difficult is the application process?

The scholarship application process is fairly straightforward and plenty of information is offered on the website on how to go about it. The first step is registering and downloading a Nomination Form from the 'Apply' section of the website and getting that completed by your School Head. Winning a scholarship is highly competitive and only those with the best applications that meet the Beacon Scholarship criteria receive awards.

2. When do you know you have got The Beacon Scholarship?

Final decisions on The Beacon Scholarship for University are made by August of each year. That is when A-Level grades are published and places at university are confirmed (ie when candidates have successfully met the conditions of their offer). See here for more details: https://www.beaconscholarship.com/index.php/apply/apply-for-university

3. Once at university, are you able to switch courses? Are the subjects you studied at A-Levels still relevant then?

It will depend on the programme that you wish to change to as to whether this is possible, as well as whether space allows. It is usually possible to switch programmes within a department as there will often be some commonality in modules. Switching to an entirely different subject, though, usually requires students to re-commence the degree programme in the first year. There is no guarantee that this will be possible as they will be considered alongside other UCAS applicants.

You must also remember that the Beacon only supports three to four years of undergraduate education and you will have to fully pay for any difference. You will also not be able to switch to a course like Medicine, which the Beacon does not support, if you want to retain the scholarship.

4. What is UCAS clearing and how useful is it?

UCAS Clearing is a system that operates between July and September. You can participate in Clearing if you have already applied through UCAS and one of the following situations applies to you:

  • You have not received any offers.
  • You have declined all your offers or not responded by the due date.
  • Your offers have not been confirmed because you have not met the conditions (for example, you have not achieved the required grades).
  • You have declined a changed course, a changed date of entry and/or changed point of entry offer.
  • You applied for one course which has been declined/unsuccessful and you have paid the full application fee.
  • UCAS receive your application after 30th June. If they receive your application after this date, they will not send it to any universities and colleges.
You can obtain more information on this from: https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/results-confirmation-and-clearing/what-clearing

5. What should you include in your personal statement and how can you prepare the best personal statement?

A personal statement is the most important part of your application – it’s your best opportunity to give an overview of why you should be accepted by the university and onto your chosen course. Here you can showcase personal and professional achievements, and any extracurricular activity that will bolster your application. This statement can be up to 4,000 characters and it should be a comprehensive overview to support your application. Take time to really prepare for this, and start early so you have enough time to redraft. Do get one of your teachers or another independent party to check this over and give you feedback, and ensure you only write information that’s relevant to your course and application.

A good personal statement shows evidence that the writer has really thought about their choice of degree programme and has a feeling of excitement about it; a feeling of intellectual curiosity. It is not just a list of things that you’ve done or experiences that you’ve had but something about how they set you thinking; the questions that were raised in your mind by visiting a museum or going to Greece or Italy. Admissions teams are looking for convincing statements, academic interest in the future, their future, the future of the world. The personal statement should also talk about yourself, a little bit about the work experience that you have, the things that you do. Show the admissions team that you’re a person that is concerned for society at large, not just the financial benefits that your course can offer. Always keep the personal statement very specific rather than general. 

6. When should you start working on your university application?

One Scholar Response: You should start preparing for application in Year 12 by selecting the right extra-curricular activities and start your application early in Year 13. It would be advisable to start making a list of what you'd like to include in your personal statement over the summer before Year 13 since this can be super helpful in saving you time during term.

Another Scholar Response: What I found helpful is to start early. Having a couple of drafts of your personal statement written in the summer before year 13 will put you in a good position; especially for those who are applying for Oxbridge as their deadline is always earlier than the general UCAS deadline. Not only does starting early help with dealing with the tension and stress that comes with the process but it also allows you to get your application sent out early and you can then put your head down and work towards achieving the grades to which you aspire.

7. What do I need to do to get an unconditional offer?

Put in a strong application, that includes a well-tailored personal statement and the right predicted grades. If you receive a conditional offer, you will need to meet all the conditions set, including getting the right grades, to confirm your place at the university.

8. If one doesn’t get the required grades after receiving an offer from the university, what happens?

If you miss the grades of your conditional offer at your first choice university, the university may still accept you if you only missed the grades by a small margin. If they reject you but you met the grade requirements for your second choice university, your place at your second choice universtiy will be confirmed. If you fail to meet the required grades for both universities, you will then enter UCAS Clearing. See [question about Clearing] for more information.

9. If one writes in their personal statement that they have participated in something, do they need proof?

Hopefully, you will have included in your personal statement only activities that you have actually participated in and how you describe these activities will help determine the truth of your statements. That notwithstanding, no evidence is required of assertions made in the personal statement but some courses may ask to interview you.

10. Is it possible that one can be rejected from all five choices of university because of their grades?

You might be able to add another choice through the UCAS Extra service if you've received decisions from all five universities or colleges and weren't accepted, or if you declined the offers you received. Extra is a free service – available for you to apply to one course at a time between 25 February and 4 July. If Extra is available to you, it'll show up as a button when you sign in to Track.

11. Can one change their course after application?

If you're happy with the university or college but you'd like to change the course details, you'll need to get in touch with the university or college rather than UCAS. Then if they agree to it, they'll let UCAS know about the change. If you've already had an offer from them, UCAS will update Track to show the new details.


4.0 The Beacon Scholarship for University


1. What is the process of getting a Beacon Scholarship for University?

Already in the separate general FAQs.

2. Is the Beacon Scholarship only for those who want to study in the UK?

The Beacon Scholarship for University is only available in the UK.

3. What do you need to qualify for The Beacon Scholarship?

We are looking for Leadership potential so candidates must show strong evidence of:

- Exceptional academic ability; and
- Excellence in sport, music or drama; and
- Outstanding interpersonal skills; and
- Model citizenship.

Additionally, they should, in their behaviour and outlook, demonstrate that they are a Change-maker:
(a) show the capacity to 'take people with them'; and
(b) already be making a difference now, not at some later point in time.

For more information look in general FAQs and on the University Scholarship Application Page

4. Can someone who has gone through the Kenyan 8-4-4 system still apply for the scholarship after the IFY programme?

Yes, that is possible. As long as the person successfully completes the IFY (International Foundation Year) and meets the criteria for The Beacon Scholarship for University, they can apply.

5. What does being a Beacon Scholar involve?

The Beacon Scholarship is a leadership development programme that nurtures 'change-makers'. We find young people with leadership potential who have financial need; provide them with access to the highest quality education; offer leadership training and 'high-touch' mentoring; and create a vertical pathway for transition into leadership positions.

6. Can you go to Beacon universities e.g. Cambridge without being a Beacon Scholar?

Yes you can, each partner university has its own independent selection process and decision making apparatus.

7. What are the key advantages you have as a Beacon Scholar compared to other university students?

The Beacon Scholarship is specifically a leadership development program and not just a funding scholarship. Specific interventions around leadership workshops, mentoring and performance monitoring are designed to help accelerate Beacon Scholars’ leadership potential and performance in all areas of their university life, and prepare them for strong starting jobs and change-maker careers.

8. Does being a Beacon Scholar give you a better chance of getting into a Beacon Partner University?

No it does not. An offer from any Beacon Partner university is independent of the Beacon’s participation and each candidate must meet the required grades to gain access to the university.


5.0 University Experience


1. What are the main challenges have you've faced at your university?

One Scholar Response: The pace of life during term time in Cambridge is extremely fast, meaning you rarely have a chance to take a break. In first year, I found settling down to be a lot of pressure as you have to sort out logistics such as a bank account, start building social networks, join societies and keep up with your academic works all within the first two weeks. However, now having a strong friendship group, doing societies that I enjoy such as football and being more relaxed when it comes to work has really helped me keep up with the pace. I also found that if you want to do work placements, you have to get prepared really early on, within the first few months of your university life, which can come as a shock. My most challenging period in Cambridge was the term where I combined my regular university studies with applying for internships, which involved regularly having to travel from Cambridge to London for interviews, as well as constantly working on interview preparation.

Another Scholar Response: My biggest challenge was effectively utilizing my free time. The first year is a bit unique, as the things you cover are only slightly more complex than A-Level. This means you may find yourself with a bit of free time once studying is done. Growing up, my childhood was a bit restrictive. So once I got to campus, on my own, I spent a lot of time indulging myself in things that were purely recreational. Getting myself involved in activities that would develop me as an individual and actively socializing were difficult. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you need to remember to always preserve time for shaping yourself. Have fun in measured quantities, make time to go to the Gym, get involved in your SU, read outside your field. Whatever it is, work on yourself.

Another Scholar Response: Managing my time during my first semester proved quite challenging. Everything moves by so fast. Between settling in into a new environment and the many activities that go on on-campus, it was very easy to lose track of time and fall behind on the targets I set for myself. I have found that planning in advance e.g. through making timetables goes a long way in making me more accountable for the time I spend.

2. Does the university help you with work placements?

One Scholar Response: Yes, universities have a Careers Service, which has links to companies and can give you information about available placements. However, you have to do the bulk of the work individually, such as writing applications and preparing for interviews. It is a lot of work, but early preparation is key. 

Another Scholar Response: The university helps every student by letting them know of the work opportunities available in their field. There are CV writing workshops and Interview preparation sit-down classes as well. Nonetheless, the bulky of the work e.g. writing to different companies is done by you.

3. What is the culture of the student body at your particular university like?

One Scholar Response: As the student body comprises both people from the UK and people from all over the world, and because people generally have such varied interests and characters, it is difficult to define a single ‘culture of the student body’. Instead, I would say the student body is a mix of a wide range of cultures, and purely because of numbers, there will always be spaces where you find people with the same cultural outlook as you.

Another Scholar Response: Due to the fact that there are so many students from such different backgrounds, it is hard to define a single ‘culture’. Your view of the culture of the students may also be dependent on the social groups, year-group or course group you are in. From my experience, there was a large, close-knit, family-like culture for the first year student body, but it turned more competitive whilst in the classroom.

Another Scholar Response: At Cambridge, I live in a College system, and it has become like a sort of family to me. Apart from being diverse, the people are incredibly friendly. I found that it was easy to find people who related to my interests, and they were happy to incorporate me into their friendship circles. In universities like Cambridge, there tend to not be a lot of students from Africa, but I’ve found that university students are willing to learn more about your culture and don’t treat you any differently because of it.

4. What is the diversity in a UK university like?

One Scholar Response: Cambridge has students from all backgrounds, be it religious, cultural or geographical. However, the proportion of students from each background does vary, for example at undergraduate level there are fewer students in Cambridge who came directly from Africa, whereas at postgraduate level, the number of these students is a lot higher, partly explained by the availability of funding. There are plenty of societies where students can interact with others from the same background, for example the East African Society.

Another Scholar Response: From the perspective of a campus university just outside London (Surrey), a large number of the student population comes from within London. London itself is a multicultural hub and hence Surrey attracts quite a diverse range of people from all over the world. Nonetheless, you’ll be sure to meet people with a background similar to yourself through the university societies.

5. Besides just doing your degree at university, what other things can you do to really stand out?

One Scholar Response: It is important to get a number of extra curricular activities under your belt, as simply having a good university grade is not enough for most employers. Activities where you take initiative, control a budget, lead other people or organise events are usually good examples to have taken part in. Besides that, there are societies where you can build specific skills e.g. I joined a consulting society to get some insight into the skills you need to bring to the table in that sector.

Another Scholar Response: Besides taking part in a number of societies, experience in the particular career can help you stand out as well. This means taking part in internships or similar opportunities as much as you can.

6. What were your biggest challenges in your first year?

One Scholar Response: First choose your social life and other activities to be things that you genuinely enjoy doing, so that it never feels like extra work. I play football at weekends, and use it as something to look forward to during the week. In terms of workload, by making sure you meet every deadline, you automatically keep yourself on top of your work. I have also learnt that it is okay to give in work that is not 100% of your best, especially if it doesn’t count to your final grade, if you are really under pressure. Having regular breaks in your day to socialise/relax works well, as does maintaining a daily rhythm - I do not recommend trying to pull an all-nighter to get some work done! Finally, use your holidays wisely to catch up on any work you may have missed or any topics you found difficult. 

Another Scholar Response: My biggest challenge in first year was finding out what worked for me and what did not. I feel like time-management in Uni is crucial and it did take a while to find out my balance!

Another Scholar Response: Getting used to the amount of freedom and responsibility of university life took time. I stayed in self-catered accommodation and in Bristol attendance in lectures is not checked in any way. This meant I now had to cook all my meals, or I would go hungry and that if I did not attend a lecture there would be absolutely no one to call me out for it. After few hungry nights and reviewing lecture recordings, I gradually gained the discipline needed and formed a routine that suited me.

7. How do you balance your workload, social life and other activities at university?

I try to find a healthy balance between my academic workload, participating in social and extracurricular activities, and giving yourself time to relax. Put yourself on a schedule, but do not make it so strict that you never have time to unwind. Having this balance will help with your time management.  

Get involved in things you enjoy doing. This can be anything, sports, debate, volunteering, or even working in the library! Doing this means your university experience will stand out for you. It means you will look back at the three or four years fondly, and not just as a generic academic blur. 

8. Compared to A-Levels, what is the workload at university like?

One Scholar Response: The workload at university is significantly higher than at A-Levels, but gradually ramps up in your first year, so you are able to cope with the increasing workload.

Another Scholar Response: I am in my first year and I have found that it is true that the workload is significantly higher in university. You are able to have more free-time i.e. fewer lecture hours, but, more individual study is expected from you.

Another Scholar Response: In university, it is up to you to manage your time well and study. No one will be there to push you to finish something. A lot of independent study is required, and the drastic increase in workload from A-levels to university will demand effective planning and commitment to study if you want to succeed.

9. Do you enjoy your life at university?

One Scholar Response: Yes! I’m in my final year now and part of me wishes I could do university again. Having a really strong friendship group has played a huge part in how much I’ve enjoyed university. I met my strongest friends by doing societies I enjoyed, such as football, which meant I had common interests with the people I met there, forming the basis of our friendship. 

Another Scholar Response: Yes. I am in my first year and so far, I am growing and learning so much, especially about myself. There are so many people and activities on campus to not only enjoy, but also learn from. 

Another Scholar Response: Absolutely! There is nothing more amazing than university that I have experienced. You really flourish as a person in university. The environment of open-mindedness really allows you to play to your strengths and try out all sorts of activities without fearing failure, and you end up becoming more confident and self-assured. Also, you’ll definitely find someone similar to the way you are, and you will form some of the tightest friendships you will ever make.

10. How do you cope with going from being the top of your class in school to being average at university?

One Scholar Response: Even in school, I always saw myself as performing for myself, so setting myself a certain standard that I wanted to achieve. I still continue this at university, setting myself individual targets on the quality of work I want to produce, rather than about my position in the class relative to others. I find that this helps a lot because you don’t see your classmates as your competition, and you are instead much more willing to be collaborative with them, therefore helping everyone out.

There is no one perfect balance. It is more important to find the balance you are comfortable with and find joy in. You will find yourself doing more of one thing naturally, and it will be okay. I think as individuals it is perfectly natural to have preferences. It is worth repeating: it is okay to hand in your level best given the circumstances. You do not always have to hand in your absolute best, or even worse, 100%.

Another Scholar Response: I love this question. It is important to realise that the fact that you’re feeling this is proof that you’ve made it somewhere in life since you’re now being compared to such intelligent people. You cope by learning from them. Don’t look at it as a negative. Use it to challenge yourself to work even harder.

11. What do you do/who do you go to when you are really feeling under pressure at university?

When under pressure, my first point of call is taking a break (even 30 minutes) from my work to have a social conversation with my friends or to play a bit of sport - both of these help get my mind away from work, making me much more focussed when I do restart work. Secondly, splitting large tasks/amounts of work down into small manageable goals can help them feel less overwhelming. Instead of thinking of all the work I need to do for a week, I think of what I’d like to achieve that morning and work towards that (and treat myself when I achieve it!) Finally, there are a number of routes for you to get more formal help if you are consistently stressed/under pressure, such as counselling services or having a chat with your tutor. There are a lot of people at university whose job it is to help students out with a wide range of problems.  

First, pause, breathe and think. There are so many types of pressure. Internal (“I have to improve my writing skills by X”), external (“The deadline for that application is X”), social (“Everyone is doing X and getting Y, so I must do so as well”) and all the others in between. It is always important to understand the pressures facing you. Who is giving me the pressure, what is the nature of the pressure, what are my personal opinions on the pressure, how would I go about achieving what is outlined in the pressure, and should I succeed, what impact will it have on me, and how will I feel? You may not have answers to all the questions, but just knowing them has really helped me deal with them. After I understand them, I can then decide, decisively, whether or not I want to follow through with them, or whether they are not worth pursuing personally. Understanding also allows me to make action plans, and sensible timelines with which I can check progress against. Should you find it too much, never be afraid to seek help from the school, which will have structures specifically in place for dealing with different types of stress. 

12. How do you cope with winter?

One Scholar Response: Make sure to prepare for a season colder than you have experienced in Kenya by getting warm clothes, then learning how to layer your dressing, which is important. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket as well. Remember that the days will be short, unlilke in East Africa and plan your schedules accordingly. The short days (<9 hrs daylight) in the winter were harder to cope with than the cold, as it seemed to affect my mood a bit more. I now try to get outside at least once a day to get some fresh air/see the sun.

Another Scholar Response: I try to drink more warm beverages to encourage myself to stay hydrated. Keeping active also helps ward-off the winter blues. In the winter, it is not only cold, but it is also very rainy and windy. I found that having a good, long, waterproof coat with a hood, went a long way. Layering your clothing is also important so that when you go indoors you can remove layers. 

Another Scholar Response: For quite a few people, especially for those who have moved from sunny countries like ours in East Africa, the winter can come with 'seasonal affective disorder' or 'seasonal depression'. The lack of sun can greatly affect your mood and a lot of research is beneficial to see how you can prevent it. My tips are Vitamin D supplements, exercising regularly and staying hydrated. Moving to a different country can take a toll on your body especially during winter and it is important to look after yourself at all costs. Keep warm of course and make sure you are equipped with medicine (Lemsip, strepsils etc) to combat the inevitable flu or even better yet, get a flu shot at the beginning of Fresher's week.

13. What do you wish you had known when you started university?

One Scholar Response: How easy and attractive it is to cocoon yourself, and how important it is to do exactly the opposite.

Another Scholar Response: I wish I had known more about the workload. Personally, I like being mentally prepared before I start anything new and for me the workload threw me off at first. There is a rampant rumour that says 'first year is easier than A Levels' and having heard this a lot, I went in with this mentality. I would like to say that first year is definitely not easier than A Levels, not only is the workload more but the expectations from you as a student are very different and incomparable. Besides the academics, you are also dealing with moving to a new country and beginning a new phase of your life and being aware of this beforehand can help smoothen the transition between year 13 and your first year of university.

14. How much contact do you still have with your friends from school and how important are they in your university life?

One Scholar Response: There are some friends that you can be close with for many years and others who you will never see again. I try and stay in touch with as many people as possible, but I know that I cant keep up with everyone, so social media can be helpful. Not many of my high school friends are still there, and most of my close friends are from university. I am still in contact with a few of my friends but since we have not seen each other in ages, it is quite difficult to catch up on everything. I would not say they are very important in my Uni life but this is a very personal thing and thus will vary from one person to another.

Another Scholar Response: It is really important to keep in touch with old friends. I still speak with my closest friends every once in a while. Finding an avenue of communication, and frequency you are comfortable with, then sticking with it is key. Everyone has their own style. Some like meme groups on WhatsApp, some will Skype on weekends, and others somehow keep in touch using only Snapchat! Since we are all doing such different courses, we are often of very little help to each other academically. They are still important in my university life as they provide emotional support, and some stories are better told with someone you spent 10 years of your life with.

Another Scholar Response: With some, I have very little contact e.g. once a month or every other month, whilst with others, we communicate almost every other day. Most times, it is difficult to keep up with everything in each other’s lives. Nonetheless, there is something emotionally motivating about knowing that you are all going through the same experience. Despite not communicating often with my good friends, when we talk, it is like nothing has changed, and we even give each other advice if we are going through particularly similar experiences. 

15. How does accommodation/catering/laundry services work at university?

Each university has different systems and this also depends on whether you live in university accommodation or outside. You will have to learn to cook, do your laundry and sort out accommodation details if you are living outside university.

16. What fun activities can you engage in at your university?

Everything! The range of societies and activities you can get involved with at university is endless - from sport to theatre to volunteering to talks by interesting speakers, there’s honestly something for everyone. I’m personally really involved with a range of college sports and I’m planning my college’s May Ball, a large end of year party for all students. I have also been on a few trips abroad with my football team and regularly go out with my friends. 

17. As an international student, can you get a job while studying to supplement your allowances?

Depending on your visa restrictions and the amount of work you have at school, you could get a job but would have to balance it with your studies very carefully. At some universities, it is possible to get a job while studying and I know a number of friends who have been able to do that. At Cambridge, students are strongly discouraged from taking up jobs during term time, as the pace of work is so fast, that you most likely will not have enough time to keep a job. However, Cambridge terms are really short, which gives you plenty of time during your holidays to get a job if you want to. I have spent two of my summer holidays working, which both gave me some income and also gave me important industrial experience. In particular, getting an internship in a field you would like to work in during your final summer holiday can be quite important to set up opportunities for you after graduation.

Generally, the Beacon prefers that you focus on your studies and extracurricular activities in order to make the most of your time at university. You receive a generaous stipend as part of your Beacon Scholarship, so you don't actually need to work to sustain a good living standard. However, it is a good idea to try to secure a paid internship in the holidays to gain work experience.

18. What determines the final year grade at university?

One Scholar Response: This varies from university to university and course to course, but on my engineering course, the final grade is determined by both end of year exam results and  coursework marks from the whole year.

Another Scholar Response: In my course and other quantitative courses, your final year is determined by exams at the end of the year and computational modelling projects, also submitted at the end of the year. As far as weightings across the three years, at LSE for my course it is 10%,40%,40% for first, second and third year respectively.

19. If you had to go back to your school years, what would you do differently?

I would have exercised and read a lot more. Physical health is an important aspect of our lives, and I found establishing a routine for exercise challenging in my first year. Had I come in with a regular routine from high school, I feel I would find it easier to keep up my health now. Finding time to read things not related to your course in University is almost impossible at times. I have always loved reading, both for entertainment and knowledge's sake. I should have done more of it when I had the time.

20. Was the the University you ended up in your first choice?

One Scholar Response: Yes, LSE was my first choice. It has a reputation of being top quality, and also one of the few institutions offering Actuarial Science (as opposed to Statistics) at undergraduate level. The more important question would be whether it would still be my first choice if I could go back. The answer is yes! Incredible place to learn, incredible people and it has given me so much to think about over the past few years.

Another Scholar Response: Yes and no. Initially, my first choice was a university outside the UK. My decision to study in the UK was to some extent influenced by the university’s reputation, the placement Year offered by the university for my specific course, as well as the Beacon and the great opportunity it offered.

21. Did you find difficulty interacting with people in such an environment as the LSE?

Yes, I did find it a bit difficult. You really have to look for the people you gel with, and who also help mould you individually. Different people are focused on different things, and there can be pressure to conform to focusing your free time participating in finance related activities. Once I accepted that it was fine I did not enjoy those activities as much as some people do, I found it easier to experiment, and find my crowd. There are also individuals who make it difficult to interact with them, maybe due to a difference in lifestyles or attitudes. This is true of everywhere in life however, and is not LSE specific. There is a crowd for everyone, it can just take a bit of time to find.

22. Are extracurricular activities taken seriously at University?

One Scholar Response: Yes they are. The LSE has over 200 societies, or starting your own society, to volunteering for a local charity, or attending a public lecture by a world-leading figure, there is a lot to choose from. In a way, yes. Our societies can get quite large, and quite serious. A lot of funding is provided to societies, and there is a high level of engagement from students with their societies, even for the more casual ones. Sports on the other hand are treated as more recreational. We do have high performing sports clubs, but the majority of them are a nice way to have fun and relax on a pitch somewhere.

Another Scholar Response: This is also true at the University of Surrey. The university directs a lot of funding towards societies in order to engage the student body outside academics.

23. How is the LSE experience in general regarding learning and other aspects?

One Scholar Response: In general, it is good. When it comes to learning, the LSE is an amazing place to be, as the staff are almost all top notch, and the level of material is very high and challenging. The people are also incredible as well, and there are very few places more diverse. There is a community for everyone, you just have to find it. One of the few downsides to being at LSE is not living on campus. You miss on the more stereotypical college life, and are more likely to hang out at a local spot with a few friends far from school. It also means you will meet with your friends less often, and have to make a bit more effort keeping networks.

Another Scholar Response: LSE is known for constantly getting their students to actively engage with current issues in the world. This is not only in your degree of choice but also in the compulsory course that all undergraduate and general course students have to take which is called LSE100. There is always an opportunity to learn outside the classroom as there are a wide range of public lectures and seminars and even conferences that, as an LSE student, you can attend and learn about things that you may not necessarily cover in your degree but are still interested in. 

Socially, studying at LSE can be daunting at first due to the reputation that it has built of having very career oriented students. This is true but I feel like you shouldn't let the constant talk of spring weeks and summer internships get in the way of discovering your own career path. Don't feel pressured to conform to the norm. 

My advice would be to make the most of the opportunities you have and go out and meet new people as making new friends isn't as easy as it may be for those studying in campus-based universities.

24. What is the experience of having contact with lecturers at University, is it a big shift from your experiences in Kenya?

One Scholar Response: There are two types of teachers at university. The Professors who administer lectures are staff of the school, most lead research projects, have PhD students to supervise, have to run around seeking funding etc. This means they are extremely busy and it is unlikely they will have time for you in your first two years. Your class teacher on the other hand is often a PhD student, or in your final year courses, a staff member specialized in that field. This means they are both more free, and have more to talk about with you. They will readily make time to speak with a student, and you can come to them with questions, or just to discuss course related things. In High School, I remember my headmaster talking to me about relationship troubles he thought I was having. In that way, it is definitely different. Having that personal, friendly relationship with your teacher or professor is almost unheard of at the LSE.

Another Scholar Response: Due to the difference in size i.e. between school and university, the contact you have with your lecturer is more detached. Nonetheless, lecturers and professors do have office hours when you can reach them and ask questions. Furthermore, unlike school, there are also many more teaching resources; teaching assistants, personal tutors, mentors and fellowship students are also there to help you.

25. What other universities offer actuarial science courses?

A few of the ones I know are: Heriot Watt University, University of Kent, Cass Business School, University of Liverpool and University of Manchester. There are of course others, and searching on UCAS will pop up almost all of them. Having met people who have studied at all the above except Liverpool, I can say that they all offer good courses, and all have an exemptions scheme in place with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. I will however advice all students planning on Actuarial Science that the course involves a lot of Actuarial specific content, and so can very quickly restrict what you will be learning in school. It is advisable to also consider doing a more flexible Mathematics degree, such as Mathematics or Statistics. Other restricting courses include Financial Mathematics, Finance and Risk Management and Econometrics.

26. Of what you have heard, how are UCL and Warwick in comparison to the LSE for Economics?

An education in Economics is a skill set, not simply content. Economics students are valued for the unique combination of: how they think; their mathematical abilities and industry awareness. LSE has a bit more focus on the thinking side of things. The course has an angle towards further research, rather than heavily exploring industry applications. There is more variety in courses offered, and more staff who specialize in highly specific Economic subject areas. Warwick and other universities on the other hand might leave you more prepared to skills application in the workforce. LSE Economics is also really, really tough to get into at the undergraduate level. A lot of people apply, and should you not be accepted, I would advise not interpreting it as an indication of your talent or potential.


6.0 Post University Prospects


1. How does getting a Master's degree or further education increase your chances of getting a job?

One Scholar Response: Although getting a postgraduate degree increases your knowledge and expertise in a particular subject, it might not offer a chance for work experience depending on the degree you study. You must carefully weigh the advantages of working immediately after your first degree against the advantages of advancing your studies at that stage depending on the area you would like to work in.

Another Scholar Response: This depends on your field of study and what opportunities are available to you at your time of graduation. Usually but not always, a postgraduate degree is valued higher in the job-market; it may come at the expense of gaining work experience. You must research keenly before making the decision.

2. After graduation, will you go into the world of work immediately or do a Masters degree?

This depends on each individual and the field they are working in. Some people don’t need Master's degrees for work and have not yet figured out research areas in which they might need an advanced degree. You have to take your time before or after graduation to consider work versus a Master's degree and how this will factor into your career.

3. Is it possible to get a job in the UK after university?

Yes, it is possible, but will depend on various factors. Some international students are able to get jobs based on summer internships they have done, interviews they have attended while still at school among other factors. There is no guarantee of getting work though, and visa restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK looking for work exist, so this must also be factored in.



 ask beacon2

Enter the characters below