If you choose the UK, you are applying to study a specific subject for three or more years. If you choose the UK you are applying to study a specific subject for three years. You have to know exactly what subject you wish to spend three years studying and convincingly show this in your personal statement. It is very unlikely that you would be able to change your degree subject once you have started though there may be a slight possibility of a move within the same department. You would not, however, be able to go from studying English to Biomedical Science for example. In many areas there is a degree of choice within a subject e.g. Engineering or Electrical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering. Offers are strictly conditional and only confirmed after your IB results have been received by the university. You apply centrally through UCAS to a maximum of 5 universities (with the same personal statement) which you then have to reduce to 2 (Firm and Insurance) prior to results. You must meet the exact terms of your offer to be accepted.
Around the World
In Asia the situation is very similar to Europe with the expectation that you will achieve the predicted/required grades in the final exam. In Canada you apply directly to individual universities and usually to ‘schools’ e.g. Science/Social Studies/Arts and there is a degree of flexibility as to the exact nature of your degree. The system is based almost entirely on your grades achieved and predicted and you are expected to achieve these predicted grades, or be very near them.
The USA system is very different. In the USA, it takes four years to complete a degree course and they take a holistic approach. While grades are important (including the SATs for the majority of the universities) all your other activities and achievements are also taken into account. You have to write a short essay (known in advance) and in many cases answer university-specific questions as well. Unlike all other systems previously mentioned, you are applying for entry to an institution NOT to study a specific subject. Key criteria that US universities ask about during the process are: ‘What are you going to uniquely bring to the institution?’ ; ‘Are you and the institution a “good fit”?’. You will not need to make a decision about your degree specialisation (‘major’) until the second year of your four year degree course.
In the next article I will be giving a range of links that will enable you and your children to start independently exploring the areas that I have covered in these articles.
Mr Simon Bird
Career and University Guidance