What’s on students’ minds at the start of 2022?

For students, January 2022 has meant revising for mock exams, university application deadlines, and further worries about how the covid pandemic will impact their lives and summer exams. Those in Year 11 have been selecting their A-levels – a huge decision which will shape their future education and career options. We look at key conversations in The Student Room community.

A-level choices

Our A-level forum has been busy, with 2,918 posts and 303,679 pageviews between 1 – 17 January. The most popular threads have related to exam queries and which A-Levels to choose. We are seeing a wide variety of posts from Year 11s seeking advice about which subjects to study:

“I want to do law at Cambridge so obviously, Chemistry is less relevant here. is it worth taking an AS exam in Chemistry (and not doing a full a level) or should i just drop it?”
“I’d love to take English Lit, History, Maths & Physics for my A-Levels but I’m worried they’re too broad and don’t narrow down on a specific focus”
“Is it better to go with Physics instead since i have a higher predicted grade?”

Mocks and revision 

Revising for mock exams is at the front of students’ minds in January, with many students saying they are struggling to focus and worrying about how much studying they need to do:

“I am lacking the motivation to study for my exam next week :afraid::afraid:…I find myself getting distracted very easily!”
I tested positive for Covid a few days ago and I barely did any revision for my GCSE mocks because of it, and I feel terrible about it.”
“I got covid during Christmas and it was really bad. Well, I still have not recovered…I am so behind on my all assignments and I’m freaking out.”
(see how the University of Hull‘s Official Rep reached out to help this student)

Summer exams and grading systems

In a poll this month, 44% of students said they wanted exams to go ahead this year.

Exams poll December 2021

This is despite the fact that less than one in four believe that 2022 grades will be fair.

exam fairness

While some students are in favour of exams: I want exams and last lockdown was horrible enough”, this trending thread shows that others are passionately opposed to them: Cancel A-level and GCSE exams 2022 – SIGN THE PETITION BELOW 

Fairness is also a worry for students:

“If exams are cancelled then EVERY school should have to send in all the work of students…I am horrified to hear what some schools did ie keep sitting a test until you get the ‘right’ grade … fuelled by sharp-elbowed parents.”

Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, says this is the last year that students can expect more lenient grades due to covid.

Ofqual has reinforced this message, saying that they are keen to return to pre-pandemic grading, but that 2022 will be a transition year with grades above 2019 levels.

On The Student Room, we have dedicated threads to help students cope with the impact of the pandemic – for example: Coronavirus: impact on school and exams

Students have shared how unprepared they feel for exams as a result of coronavirus:

“Soo much of the content we learned was online. Thats not proper education. And thats me talking about biology, chemistry and maths which are tough and require an actual teacher not a talking face on a computer screen”
“im just burnt out from all the extra work I’ve had to do bc of covid”

“im in year 11 and i was in lockdown from yr 9 when we started the GCSE content…lets be real nobody really learned anything over lockdown AT ALL.”

Following the announcement that advance information on exam topics will be released no later than February, students are also keen to understand how this will work and how much it will impact them.

University applications

  • Making final selections

As the 26th January application deadline approaches, students are questioning if their chosen course is really right for them and which universities they should shortlist:

“I’ve got all my offers back from my ucas…idk which one to firm? Any points to help me choose which one i should pick?”
“Warwick v Birmingham Law?”
“One spot left on my UCAS…I think it would be wise to have a safety option. Where would you guys recommend for me?”

We polled our community in early December and 71% said they had already sent in their application, but that still leaves plenty of late applicants who were undecided at the end of 2021.

One applicant said: “I’m waiting until I get my December Mock results back – hoping to raise my predicted grades up a bit .”

Other applicants have shared how worried they are feeling:

“Wasn’t that stressed, but as soon as I sent off my application I got really nervous – been refreshing my emails on repeat praying for a reply lol”

  • Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary interviews

In the first two weeks of January, “dentistry” was one of our top search terms and our Medicine forum had over 121,000 pageviews as well as receiving the second-highest number of posts (number one being the A-Level forum).

Students have been connecting with their peers onsite to share their thoughts and concerns about the interview process. Many have been asking for advice on how to prepare, while others have been comparing their interview experiences, asking how long their peers had to wait for a decision, and worrying about whether or not they will be accepted:

“I have a [Veterinary] interview for Surrey in just over a week, does anyone have any tips?”
“I am just wondering what would happen if I was offered a place in [university name] before the MMI’s for other colleges were offered or commenced?? Is there a standard period of time you have to accept on UCAS?? Or does it depend on the college?”
“has anyone else done their [Dentistry] interview?”

Medic Mind’s Official Rep has been offering sound advice to students on how to approach the interview process.

  • Oxbridge decisions

“Oxford” and “Oxford 2022” were the most searched terms on The Student Room in the first two weeks of January, with “Cambridge” coming third over this period.

Students who are waiting to hear back from Oxford and Cambridge have been very active on the official applicant threads:

University of Oxford 2022 Applicants Official Thread  – 202,757 pageviews and 1,757 posts
Official Cambridge 2022 Applicants Thread – 53,648 pageviews and 842 posts
(1 – 17 Jan 2022)

Many applicants are trying to predict whether or not they will be accepted:

“looking at the stats, Oxford interview about 3 students for every place, whereas Cambridge interviews about 4 for every place. Decision day on the 25th is therefore going to be tough for the majority unfortunately.”
“Do we think all decisions have been made by now?!”
“how are interview scores given?”
“does not having second interview in oxford mean anything?”

  • Personal circumstances

Individual concerns and questions relating to specific personal circumstances have been high in January:

“unsure what universities I would have a chance of getting into with my grades”
“How do I inform my universities that I have gotten a better grade. PLEASE HELP!!!”
” i was planning on firming [university], but now it’s the one with the lowest conditions…do you get dropped by your insurance automatically if you get the grades for your firm?”

This is a key time for universities to engage with prospective applicants and ensure they have access to the information they need. Official Reps are an ideal tool for applicant engagement:

Bangor Official Rep

In this excellent example above, the University of Bangor’s Official Rep has reached out and congratulated an applicant, while also signposting them to useful information.

Connecting with students

The first months of the year are particularly challenging for students, who are facing a range of pressures. It’s a really important time for students to feel connected, supported, and in control of their futures – which is why effective engagement strategies are so important.

Find out more about our Official Rep tool, which allows you to participate in the key conversations which are happening in our student community on The Student Room.

You can also access our regular sentiment decks to find out more about what students are thinking and what problems they are facing.

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