Preparing for University

Virtually all our Sixth Formers choose to go on to university and we are highly successful in helping them secure places on courses of their choice.

There is a comprehensive programme of careers advice to assist in making important decisions about their future and our students have access to a Careers Library and ICT facilities with careers guidance programmes, which are available to them at all times. This programme is also complemented by talks from visiting speakers on a wide range of topics to help with the making of wise decisions about their future.

The Form Tutor is also central to the UCAS process, providing personalised individual guidance and a special UCAS parents evening gives key information so that parents may also successfully become involved.

Emphasis is placed on accurate research and support with the personal statement, to ensure that applications are well directed. Preparation starts early so that each student should have completed a mock UCAS form by the end of the summer term in the Lower Sixth. A whole school day is set aside to start this application process.

Extra tuition is available for university admissions tests and those Sixth Formers applying to Oxford and Cambridge. Mock interview practice from staff also helps students to gain confidence and perform at their best to secure the place they desire at university.

Planning for Higher Education

The majority of our Sixth Formers progress to a university degree so that in the Lower Sixth students have to make important decisions about their future. At a time of increasing competition for entry to both Higher Education and employment, all options have to be carefully researched and applications have to be planned ready to be put into action by the beginning of the Upper Sixth year. A well-defined sequence of events informs the students’ decisions and assists them in their final choices.

  • All students complete the UCAS Stamford Test at the beginning of the Easter Term to help them identify university courses that reflect their academic interests. Further follow-up is available through the ‘Centigrade’ scheme, which students may opt to take.
  • During the Easter and Summer Terms small groups of Sixth Formers visit the Head of Careers for counselling on researching Higher Education institutions and courses.
  • An evening for parents to learn about the UCAS procedures at Birkdale is offered in the Easter Term.
  • During the Summer Term, Sixth Formers are encouraged to organise their own visits to Open Days within the parameters laid down by the school. Visits are arranged annually to Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Detailed instructions on how to apply to UK universities through UCAS and advice on writing personal statements are provided to enable our students to produce Mock UCAS forms towards the end of the Summer Term.
  • Towards the end of the Summer Term pupils and parents are invited to attend a meeting with their Form Tutor to discuss which subjects should be continued to A Level in the context of Higher Education plans.
  • Final decisions on choice of courses and institutions are made at the beginning of the Upper Sixth year, after individual counselling from Senior Staff under the leadership of Mrs Parsons (i/c UCAS).
  • Instruction on interview techniques and individual mock interviews are given from October onwards to members of the Upper Sixth.
  • Specific guidance is provided for Oxbridge candidates and for students applying for competitive subjects such as Medicine to help them with each stage of the admission procedures. Extension classes (which any sixth former may attend) are offered to broaden students’ subject knowledge and preparation is offered for pre-entry tests such as UKCAT or BMAT.

These events are complemented by talks from visiting speakers. Topics include choosing a university course, student life in Higher Education, admissions policies, sponsorship and scholarships, student grants and Gap Years. Former pupils also come back to speak about their chosen careers and universities or Gap Year experience.

The final stage in the university application process is when the A Level results are published in August, when experienced members of staff are in school and available to advise on taking up places or looking at alternative options should results be different to those expected.


Careers guidance ensures that the individual career needs of every pupil are identified and met at different stages of their schooling. At Sixth Form level our careers guidance becomes more personalised.We have a Careers Room with ICT facilities within the Sixth Form Grayson building which is well-stocked with up-to-date literature about universities, courses and careers to which students have access at all times. Students may also use the careers guidance programmes, Kudos, Discourse and Ecctis. Individual counselling and advice are available from the Head of Careers, Form Tutors, the Joint Heads of Sixth Form, and other senior staff.To provide specialist advice in individual subject and professional areas, particularly in terms of Higher Education applications, there is a biennial Careers Convention held in the Easter Term, where students have the opportunity to meet representatives from approximately 75 professions and universities. The involvement of parents in careers guidance is also actively encouraged.

Work Experience

Work experience is a great way to try out a job you might be interested in, see what it’s really like and talk to people who are actually doing it. It allows you to understand the job and have experienced enough to know it’s definitely for you. Birkdale enjoys strong links with local industry and commerce. We have a programme for the Lower Sixth in which all Sixth Formers spend one week on work experience in either the Christmas or Easter holidays. In addition, the school is a member of ISCO, the Independent Schools Careers Organisation, which offers a wide variety of work -shadowing and careers experience courses.