Published on May 10, 2018 by isabellaford

ucas choices

“There are no regrets in life, just lessons.” – Jennifer Aniston

This could not be truer. Whilst I don’t regret the choices I’ve made in my legal journey, there are things I’ve learnt along the way.

When it came to choosing my UCAS choices, I thought that I had made the best and most informed choice for me. However, almost two years later I realise that there are definitely things that I didn’t consider and wish I’d known beforehand.

In this article, I hope to shed some light on the things that I wish I had considered and done before selecting my options.

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1. Extenuating circumstances can hit anyone

When selecting my choices, I decided to only consider the following:

  • University Ranking;
  • Reputation;
  • High entry requirements.

It seems foolish now, but I used to think that the best university for me had to be within the top 20. I used the entry requirements I saw as an indication of prestige.

As a result, I applied to universities that were within the top 20, had an incredibly well regarded reputation and high entry requirements.

I wouldn’t say that I was particularly snobby. I worked very hard during my GCSEs and Year 12 to achieve highly. Teachers were also very supportive and recognised my potential.

My attitude was hugely fuelled by what I had heard about the legal profession – anything beyond the top 20 and/or Russell Group wasn’t good enough, which I now know to be untrue.

Something I hadn’t even considered was the possibility of being hit by extenuating circumstances. I was so focused on prestige and the future that I didn’t have a plan B. Not many students expect that something can happen to them that are beyond their control and I was certainly one of them.

However, in the summer of 2017, I  suffered a medical issue that prevented me from sitting my exams. As a result of this unforeseen situation, I had missed my offer by a grade and received grades that I felt did not best represent my academic potential.

So, something I wish I thought about was that extenuating circumstances could hit anyone. If I had thought about this, I would definitely have had a plan B and chosen universities with varying entry requirements just in case.

A common extenuating circumstance can be mental health problems, so looking after your mind is a crucial part of completing your A-levels/degree – find out a little more on how to take better care of your mental health with our blog post here.

2. A maintenance loan varies depending on where your university is located

Until my experience entering UCAS Clearing and accepting an offer to study law at Royal Holloway, I did not know that my maintenance loan would be greater if I studied in London. I didn’t know much about student finance, as we weren’t really taught about it at school.

If I had known that the loan was greater for universities in London, I would definitely have considered a university such as Royal Holloway which benefits from the ‘London allowance’ whilst offering much more reasonably priced accommodation.

Unsure about Clearing? Anxious about Clearing? Find out more about it with our free guide here.

3. Just because some LLB programmes are ranked highly, doesn’t mean they are the best for you

Something I did notice was that the higher-ranking LLB law programmes did not offer a placement year. For those that don’t know, some universities offer a year where law students can gain real work experience in a legal setting.

Just some of the benefits to doing a placement year include:

  • It looks good on your CV;
  • You’re more likely to stand out;
  • Your employability is boosted;
  • It has a positive impact on final year grades upon returning to study.

Other than law degrees with a placement year, there are other cool degrees I hadn’t even come across. The University of Westminster offers a four-year M-Law degree, combining both the LLB and LPC. This means that you can expect to graduate with an exempting degree and commence your training contract.

The University of Northumbria is another provider of the M-Law degree except that theirs is tailored for the Bar. It therefore exempts you from taking the BPTC. Both universities offer an attractive package – for those worrying abut funding their future training course, this is perfect!

I definitely wish I knew about sandwich courses and exempting degrees. They are definitely a well-kept secret that many students could benefit from.

Doing a standard three-year LLB at a high-ranking institution may seem attractive but there are other courses out there to be explored.

Find out more about some of the universities available to you with our university comparison table!

4. Where your university is located is not as important as you think

I definitely thought that the location of my university made a difference. And to an extent, it does. It’s important to be located somewhere that is easy for you to commute to or where you feel safe.

However, when I say the location doesn’t matter, I mean when thinking about legal opportunities and networking. Something I realised after submitting my choices was that City firms don’t mind travelling out to network with law students. Magic Circle firms attend universities as far out as Durham University to offer opportunities and network.

So whilst being in London may seem like the most ideal place, law firms do not express a preference of location. So you can expect to benefit from opportunities and networking just like those in the City.  


And there we have it – things I wish I knew before selecting my five UCAS options. Like I said above, I don’t regret what I chose initially as it’s brought me to where I am now. Everything I’ve experienced has been a lesson.

I hope that you find this useful and insightful. It’s important that you make well-informed choices as opposed to what you think feels right.

All the best with the run-up to UCAS in September!

Want more help selecting your UCAS options? Take a look at these next:

Published: 10/05/18      Author: Ali Chaudhry


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