Switching from A Levels to a BTEC after 1 year? Implications for Uni?

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  • Switching from A Levels to a BTEC after 1 year? Implications for Uni?
  • Premier Icon mrblobby
    Subscriber

    I did something very similar, but it was over 20 years ago now.

    May be a good thing for your son. I really enjoyed the different environment of college, was aware that it was a second chance, and really applied myself and did well, took extra classes etc. Ended up at a good Uni doing the course I wanted thanks to good grades and recommendations from the staff at the college (equivalent A level entry requirement at the time was ABB I think.) Had been in a dead end school in a small rural community. Quitting 6th form after a year and going to college away from home really turned things around for me. Still remember telling my parents I wasn’t going back to school, that was an interesting conversation!

    jimw
    Member

    My godson decided AS and A levels were not for him after about six weeks into his first year at 6th form college.
    He started an Engineering BTEC and never looked back, achieving the highest grades possible. His weekly work experience at a local engineering firm led to a full time, fairly well paid, job in a gap year before University. He is about to start an Engineering degree with scholarship funding part payment of his fees.
    I know this is a slightly different scenario to your son, but illustrates how a change in direction can lead to success.
    Edit:
    I think the practical experience he had gained from the BTEC may have been an advantage rather than a hinderance

    mst
    Member

    I did the same 18 years ago.

    Loved the BTEC in computing. Didn’t really get on with the A-Levels (can’t even remember what they were in)

    It didn’t hamper me getting into polytechnic, but I did apply very, very late and ended up with offers from 3 places with only 3 days till the start of one of the courses.

    fasthaggis
    Member

    May be a good thing for your son. I really enjoyed the different environment of college, was aware that it was a second chance, and really applied myself and did well, took extra classes etc.

    I agree.
    One of my sons had a year at a local college ,then got a place at Uni on a course that he really wanted to do (he didn’t get a place first time round). He found the college year a great stepping stone from 6th yr.

    rocketman
    Member

    It won’t be a problem unless your son’s uni application is borderline or he wants to go to a red brick uni

    At the end of the day the qualifications score UCAS points and unless the points are for something totally irrelevant the uni will welcome your son and his £27,000 with open arms

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    Sometimes a more anonymous account would be useful.

    Anyway:

    My son got his AS results today. ‘B’ in the subject he really enjoys, ‘U’ in two others.

    He’s tried hard (not always consistently, it has to be said) but there really doesn’t seem to be a realistic way back from a ‘U’ even with retaking the entire year and bucking his ideas up (this isn’t an option at his current 6th form in any event).

    6th form have basically said ‘Right, your off.’ (although with slightly less goodwill than that implies).

    So we’re looking at him switching to a BTEC at a local college in the subject he enjoys. Basically this means starting a 2 year course as of September.

    For those that know;

    1) Will he get funding for both years? He will be under 19 at the start of the second year.

    2) How do colleges tend to look at this sort of switch rather than just starting immediately post gcse?

    3) Any tips on applying? He does love his favourite subject and has some aptitude – how do we (do we need to?) convince the college of this beyond the AS result?

    4) BTEC’s are touted as ‘the equivalent of 3 A levels for Uni applications’ – is this really the case? If he applies to a uni in a course relevant to the BTEC will he lose out to A level students?

    Dropping out of education altogether is an option I guess although he wants to continue studying/working with computers and options for employment seem limited with the current requirement to be in education for N hours a week up to 18.

    Any advice gratefully received.

    Premier Icon mrblobby
    Subscriber

    It won’t be a problem unless your son’s uni application is borderline or he wants to go to a red brick uni

    Was a long time ago now, but I did get into a good proper uni (Aston) off the back of my BTEC and got acceptances from a couple of red bricks. He will need to do very well indeed and need some excellent recommendations but, at least back then, it could be done.

    uni will welcome your son and his £27,000 with open arms

    I suspect this, and declining numbers in engineering subjects, could have been a bigger factor today though!

    Junkyard
    Member

    NOT SHOUTING BUT MAKES IT EASY TO SEE ANSWERS

    1) Will he get funding for both years? He will be under 19 at the start of the second year.

    YES

    2) How do colleges tend to look at this sort of switch rather than just starting immediately post gcse?

    DONT CARE IT IS MONEY

    3) Any tips on applying? He does love his favourite subject and has some aptitude – how do we (do we need to?) convince the college of this beyond the AS result?

    YES APPLY FOR SOMETHING WHERE HIS GCSE GRADES MEET THE REQUIREMENT FOR TH ECOURSE – BE HONEST ETC AND SEE WHAT IS LEFT
    ACT TODAY AS WELL

    4) BTEC’s are touted as ‘the equivalent of 3 A levels for Uni applications’ – is this really the case? If he applies to a uni in a course relevant to the BTEC will he lose out to A level students?

    ALL COURSES HAVE POINTS INCLUDING A BTEC
    http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/explore-your-options/entry-requirements/tariff-tables

    WILL MEAN A “LESS GOOD” UNI BUT STILL LEADS TO UNI- BE REALISTIC THOUGH 2 U’S SUGGEST THEY WILL STRUGGLE AT UNI IMHO

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    My background’s scottish colleges and unis but the principles are the same and the main advice is definitely the same…

    2) How do colleges tend to look at this sort of switch rather than just starting immediately post gcse?

    They’re unlikely to see it as anything unusual, it’s one of the standard routes into most colleges. Some are more specialised though. If you’ve got a particular college in mind I’d give them a bell just for certainty’s sake.

    4) BTEC’s are touted as ‘the equivalent of 3 A levels for Uni applications’ – is this really the case? If he applies to a uni in a course relevant to the BTEC will he lose out to A level students?

    Not simple. Truth is, every university and even departments within universities have different ideas on what makes an ideal student, based on all sorts of things including their own experience, the institution’s general attitude, sometimes they’ll have articulation agreements with colleges, sometimes they’ll actually have some criteria for wider access recruitment that means they’re keen to get applicants from different sources than school-leavers. Don’t ask me about postcode lotteries.

    So I could give you rambly general advice but I won’t, because the only good advise is, speak to the unis. If he has specific unis and courses in mind, go straight there and ask the question- get their advice, for their course.

    Many unis will have a colleges liaison or wider access officer, these guys are generally great- it’s the sort of job that just attracts good people. So speak to them too. Especially if he’s not decided on an exact subject.

    But today, this’ll mean listening to more hold music than you can believe, and everyone’s going to be thinking about clearing. So if it were me, I’d wait til tomorrow.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    2 U’S SUGGEST THEY WILL STRUGGLE AT UNI IMHO

    There’s been some frank discussions and it’s clear that whilst he was working at the ‘B’ subject he was less than focused on the other two.

    It is and will be made clear that he has to give this ‘2nd chance’ a much more enthusiastic ‘go’ and that if he doesn’t meet the various interim grades etc he’ll not be carrying on.

    I think the shock of not being able to ‘scrape through’ stuff doing a little work and a big bit of revision at the end like he did at gcse has shocked him so hopefully he’ll apply himself full time now.

    The fact that a BTEC will only be on a subject that interests him and catches his attention will help.

    Thanks re: the rest of the shouting 😉 it’s cleared things up.

    [edit]

    Northwind – thanks – he had a uni and course in mind so I’ll get him to call them tomorrow.

    jamiep
    Member

    Can’t offer advice about funding, but this was my route to fame…

    – Scrapped through school with an unimpressive four ‘C’ GCSEs
    – Retook English over the summer as I’d only got a ‘D’ (retake achieved a ‘C’)
    – Poor A-levels, two ‘D’; one ‘U’!!
    – The next year, retook two A-Levels, dropped the U, did a differnt 3rd one in just a year – got ‘C’s if I recall
    – One year at Uni, dropped out after a year because the course was poor – brand new course poorly put together at a Uni the had just switched from being a Poly
    – Accepted on another course at a Red Brick on the basis that I wasn’t a total doser as I had passed the first year last year with 2:1
    – Got a 2:1
    – Did a PhD at a Red Brick
    – Became an academic (although I’m not anymore BTW)

    Premier Icon mrblobby
    Subscriber

    wwaswas… is your son me form 20 years ago? 😉

    ALL COURSES HAVE POINTS INCLUDING A BTEC

    True, but not all Uni’s accept points (most won’t count points from general studies for example), they’re able to set grades and subjects too.

    Depends what he want’s do do and how well he does at the BTEC, most uni’s offer a foundation year for a lot of courses including engineering for students who didn’t quite meet the entry requirments, so if engineering was his choice then it won’t perclude him, but he might be 20 before he gets to freshers week.

    rocketman
    Member

    BTEC’s are touted as ‘the equivalent of 3 A levels for Uni applications’ – is this really the case?

    Distinction at Extended Diploma level is worth 360 UCAS points i.e. the equivalent of three grade ‘A’ A levels but a Distinction at the more usual Certificate level carries 120 points i.e the same as one grade ‘A’ A level

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    wwaswas… is your son me form 20 years ago?

    No, he’s me from 30 years ago 😳

    pop larkin
    Member

    Similarish boat here with Pop Junior- 1 c , 2 d’s and a U- he can carry on to the next year but the U was in computing and he wanted to do this at degree – he reckons the a level and degree computing courses are massively different content wise but Im unconvinced!

    Defo another case of doing the minmum and expecting to scrape through I wonder where he gets that from 😳

    TiRed
    Member

    30 years ago, my best friend left with good O’levels to pursue BTEC in computing, his first love. His career has been writing computer game simulations ever since.

    It sounds like your son knows what he wants to do, and the conventional academic study route does not suit him. I’m sure he will flourish in a more mature study environment without the padding of additional subjects that he is studying as an entry adjuvent.

    I have five teens downstairs hoovering up food and beer after receiving their results this morning, some of whom have not done as well as they would have liked.

    thom
    Member

    Exactly as junkyard says, I have students like this every year on my Level 3 BTEC course. Best of luck to him!

    mudshark
    Member

    27 years ago(!) I decided to do a BTEC OND Business Studies instead of A levels as was told equivalent to A levels, I should have questioned this more as later I realised this would not get me onto a degree – I had 8 O’levels from a decent private school so quite a change.

    So I did an HND then switched to a degree on completion missing the 1st year. Then did an MSc at Warwick Uni which I got funding for so that was nice.

    So worked out OK in the end though took an extra year to get there.

    oliverd1981
    Member

    I did an HNC alongside my apprenticeship (I’d previously done A-levels) most of the other students had gone straight from GCSE’s to ONC and they made that sound like the course was a bit easier than a-levels. The HNC was probably harder than the first year of my degree, although I felt much better supported by the college tutors than the uni.

    The best thing about the HNC was all of the guys were doing it because they were interested and it was relevant to there careers, not just because it was what their school offered, and what their friends were doing.

    A lot of companies send people to do BTEC’s and have done for a long time, this means that the colleges have always been treated as the service provider and the students as the customer. This helps to keep good standards of facilities and teaching.

    Overall potentially a good alternative to a-levels, and maybe even uni (I never finished my degree..)

    I kinda skipped a few posts so please excuse if this has been stated.

    This is not 5,10 or 20 years ago (to be fair things have changed massively in the past 2) so stories from the past don’t count for now.

    He needs to talk to Uni’s early next week (they will be massively busy working through successful both overly and less than pupils for the next few days). An admissions tutor will set him straight on which route will work.

    There are non-academic routes into lots of things but unfortunately lots of areas only accept degrees and above (thanks in part to the politicians push into tertiary education), he needs to look into potential employers and ask what they will accept.

    wobbliscott
    Member

    I did a BTEC HND in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering as part of my Engineering Apprenticeship. I qualified for 2nd year entry into UMIST to do either Mechanical or Aeronautical Engineering sponsored by my company. Unfortunately I fancied a change and moving over to Manufacturing Engineering. My training manager told me that if I could get 2nd year entry onto a Manufacturing Engineering course with another Uni (UMIST didn’t do one) then he had no problems with my making the switch. I went for interviews with about 5 ‘proper’ universities and all but one (Nottingham) were happy to take me on with 2nd yr entry. So in my experience I don’t feel my BTEC held me back a bit.

    I did find that the BTEC was not quite as academic as A-levels, so did find my pure maths skills a bit lacking compared to my counterparts, but I put the extra effort in and soon got unto speed. On the other hand with my practical experience through my apprenticeship I (and others who had taken a similar route) was much better at the practical stuff and the concepts, so we worked well together.

    YoGrant
    Member

    What subject is his good one? This will help with the advice……

    (Teacher for 15 years and running level 3 BTEC for 6).

    Premier Icon boxelder
    Subscriber

    Resits of the same course are no longer funded, so he would have to start new courses. BTEC covers a range of qualifications from single AS equivalent to 3 full A Level equivalent (30 credits for each AS, 60 for A level). Funding will be reduced for his third year at his age, but if the college take him that is their issue.
    As Head of Sixth Form, I’ve covered a couple of these cases again today. Email me if you don’t get the answers you want and I can discuss it on the phone. In some subjects – Maths for e.g. U grades at AS are surprisingly common, as you either get most of it correct and an A/B, or not…………
    BTECs, if done well, allow staff to keep a close check on progress and avoid disasters. Some Unis/courses won’t accept them through UCAS – he needs to check the entry criteria for each course through UCAS.

    Premier Icon phil40
    Subscriber

    Hi,

    The reason the college is saying no to retakes is a change to the funding methodology, colleges now get no funding at all for students retaking a course. We used to have quite a few retake the year, but the govt has said we aren’t allowed to.

    With regards to the btec, be aware certainly at level 3 extended, they are hard work and although there are currently not examined components (although the govt is trying to introduce some) with changes to assessment guidelines he needs to be getting merits/distinctions right from the start (only one resubmission of work after the deadline and a few other bits and pieces to tighten things up).

    As for using a btec to get into uni, it is perfectly ok, we have lots of our lvl3 ext dip students going each year, just be aware that more traditional red brick uni’s (Russell group etc) don’t like btecs, but certainly new uni’s are fine, and for media/arts subjects btecs are actually preferred due to the vocational/coursework basis of the subject.

    We have students who have done btec in forensic science off to do law, criminology, psychology etc all at good modern uni’s.

    The best advice I can give is get an appointment ASAP with a careers adviser at one of your local colleges and talk through the options. There are lots of uni’s and even more courses, there will be something perfect, even if you don’t yet know about it.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    Grant (and others who might advise) this is the course he’s looking at;

    http://www.northbrook.ac.uk/courses/?s=&code=FFDSGY

    He wants to do a Games Development degree and had identified the uni to do it at (we’ll talk to them and confirm this would be an acceptable route to entry).

    Thanks for all the advice so far – it’s really helped 🙂

    gobuchul
    Member

    NOT SHOUTING BUT MAKES IT EASY TO SEE ANSWERS

    No it doesn’t.

    It is much harder to read something in caps than in lower case.

    WILL MEAN A “LESS GOOD” UNI BUT STILL LEADS TO UNI- BE REALISTIC THOUGH 2 U’S SUGGEST THEY WILL STRUGGLE AT UNI IMHO

    Not really. For a lot of people there is a massive difference between their focus and drive when they are 16 to when they are 18 or 19.

    Also, some individuals perform much better in a Uni environment than in their school.

    I would suggest that the BTEC route sounds like the most sensible option for the OP’s son.

    I did find that the BTEC was not quite as academic as A-levels, so did find my pure maths skills a bit lacking compared to my counterparts,

    If maths is an issue, just buy a textbook called Stroud Engineering mathematics (there’s a couple of advanced volumes too). It’s pretty much most uni’s default science/engineering maths textbook and it’s laid out as a series of slides with information/test questions, pretty much starting at basic algebra and ends in stuff that I’ve not touched since like Laplace transforms. I managed to fail maths in the 2st year, binned the notes and turotrial work, read the book, got 1st’s in all the resits.

    McHamish
    Member

    You don’t need to be academically brilliant to succeed at University, but it depends on the subject. After Uni I started in a graduate programmer job…I was rubbish at it, and struggled with coding. It takes a certain way of thinking – I eventually moved into a business analysis career path, and then project management.

    Does your Son read? I read A LOT growing up – this helps with written English, but for programming, maths is essential.

    YoGrant
    Member

    Northbrook has a decent rep. I’m up in Crawley.

    I can’t see how that course would be any less well regarded than doing A levels tbh as it’s quite specific and vocational.

    The extended diploma is worth the 3 A levels worth of credits.

    Alternative if he wanted to have a broader set of qualifications would be do that course at just ‘diploma’ level (worth 2 A levels) and another different course too. Maybe another BTEC at sub diploma (worth one A level), or do an A level
    too in something related (ie maths/Ict/physics).

    Some uni’s like an A level along side Btecs to show an aptitude for exams. Worth checking with a number of uni’s you might be interested in.

    Otherwise…… Looks like a good move.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    For such a specific subject, if it’s done right that course’ll probably be far more useful than 3 A levels.. But, like I say, uni admissions aren’t always totally intuitive or even logical or right so that’s not the be-all and end-all. But it is basically positive and well thought out and I’d be surprised (though not amazed) if it didn’t go according to plan. I don’t know that college and there’s nothing very useful in our database so I can’t comment on that side of things.

    I appreciate he’s got a preferred uni, and that’s great, but branch that out- find other similiar or related courses, you get 5 UCAS choices so start planning for that now rather trying to deal with it later (it’s exactly like picking high school subjects, in this respect). Shoot higher and lower.

    But, here’s the hard work bit, it’s a good idea to speak to them all, even the secondary options, to see what they reckon about the college route. Because if the preferred uni say “Yeah, it’s great” and everyone else says “No, do A levels at college” things get tricky. Essentially commit to one route as far as possible but it’s wise to have a plan b, and c…

    I think possibly I gave you the games design course chat before in another thread? Games design is a weird subject and quite easy to do wrong, both for the student and the uni… It’s a difficult combination of science subject and applied/artistic outcomes. Unis have mostly got their heads round it now but it was a notoriously chancy subject for a long time and it’s still not the sort of subject where just graduating opens a lot of doors.

    So what we reckon is the best approach, is to use the course as the toolkit to build a portfolio of work- whether that’s work experience with a developer, (even basic stuff like testing work) or working with mods and level kits and the like, or the new hotness is indie games design. Coming out of a games design BSc and going into the industry is a big ask without this personal development- frankly I’m not convinced it happens at all, except at the most basic/intern level and nobody goes into a games design course with the goal of becoming a cubicle coder. The course should include design projects, but it’s all about taking that further.

    It’s kind of like doing an architecture degree where potential employers would like you to have already built a house 😉 But the positives are crazy, we’ve got one kid who’s funding his way through uni with a game he designed in high school… And others getting more or less headhunted, we usually have some who’ve taken years out of their studies because of industry opportunities etc. Pretty cool.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    He’s definitely focused on the coding side of things rather than design – the uni course he looked at doesn’t really include design work.

    He’s at Northbrook this afternoon so we’ll see how he gets on and call the uni tomorrow.

    Thanks for all the info 🙂

    Chew
    Member

    Like others have said getting into a Red Brick Uni will be difficult if he goes via the BTEC route.

    Theres a huge jump between GSCE’s and A’Levels and an even bigger jump to a degree which jumps up every year. If hes struggling at A’Levels now then he would really struggle doing a degree.

    If you cant get into a Red Brick then i’d be thinking is it worth the fees and the other costs now associated with going to University.

    I’d consider going down some vocational route such as Apprenticeships.

    ajt123
    Member

    Why would it be important to attend a red-brick if your aim was to work in software – games development?

    Very few red-bricks will have the specialist courses, seems to me in this industry getting practical experience is more important.

    Mrs AJT has a 1st class honours degree in film and theatre design and is incredibly talented. No one off her course is working in the field apart from a chap whose Mum is a film producer – Gurinda Chadha – and a chap who has a massive trust-fund and it able to work for free. She became a florist then an art teacher.

    Conversely a mate has an English degree, but was very technically astute, boot-strapped himself to a 70k free-lancer.

    Additionally, why the focus on games design? Why not software engineering in general? Is he being realistic. As a teacher I’m very sceptical of students who want to go for glamourous sectors.

    Good luck. I’m sure he’ll get there in the end.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    Just to reiterate it’s games coding he’s doing, not design.

    Talking to the uni they call it games development to give them something to hang a more code than computer science theory based degree on – they’re happy to stretch ‘game’ to include a wide range of coding activities.

    Red brick isn’t really something that were worried about.

    Chew
    Member

    Getting a job in the Games industry is going to very difficult. A lot of people are going to be interested in working there and there are only a small amount of jobs available.

    Yes, strive to work in that area, but have a plan B. Doing a niche degree could end up as a waste of time if its not transferable to other areas or seen as a ‘mickey mouse’ degree.

    If i was 18 again i’d probably not bother with a degree. Just get another 3 years of work experience and be earning rather than racking up debt.

    Premier Icon Ginger
    Subscriber

    I set the admissions policy for my faculty, although it is business so not completely relevant to your son. I would strongly recommend that you phone to have a chat with the admissions contact for the course and ask for their guidance. It is not straightforward any more, with government level targets in different areas and a range of how offer standards are arrived at. If they use a gathered field (or hybrid) offer approach this might also impact who they offer to and what is needed.

    The admissions contact should be happy to give guidance and if they are not i would reconsiders his choice of institution as it doesn’t bode well for the level of pastoral care provided when he goes.

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