For many people, going to university is their aim throughout their school education. Needless to say, all universities have far more applicant than places, especially the highest-status institutions, such as Oxford or Cambridge. This means that they impose entry requirements that you need to fulfil before they'll even consider offering you a place. The most common requirements involve the number, subjects and grades of A Level you've passed, but there are other possible routes to university.
In most cases, you'll need post-16 exam passes in order to be offered a university place, although pre-16 qualifications such as GCSEs may also be taken into account. The main types of qualification are:
In some cases, universities may accept lower grades for contextual reasons — e.g. if you live in a deprived area, if you've been in care or if you've been acting as a carer while studying.
Alternative Ways of Qualifying
If you don't have the exam results required, especially if you're applying as a mature student, there are other ways of getting the qualifications. You may be able to take an Access to Higher Education Diploma in an appropriate subject, generally offered by local colleges. Alternatively, some universities may allow you to take a foundation year, which will fill in the gaps in your education. In both cases, look up the courses you're interested in and find out if either of these routes are available for it.
Undertake an Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships and university courses have traditionally been seen as completely separate, but some apprenticeships can be used as qualifications to get into university. If you're able to get a level 3 Apprenticeship, this is regarded as equivalent to an A Level, so it can count towards your university requirements. You'll train both on the job and at a local college and get paid for it at the same time.
When you apply for a university course, the faculty will want to know if you're the right kind of person for the course, as well as about your qualifications. In your application, you'll be invited to talk about yourself, while you may also be invited for an interview. In both cases, it's vital to check what's said about the kind of interests and attitude they're looking for and to emphasise everything about you that demonstrates those qualities. In extreme circumstances, the university may even be willing to lower their requirements, if they feel you'd be an asset.
Nevertheless, getting good grades is the easiest way to get into university, and hiring a private tutor to supplement you school education is likely to help with this. Register with TutorExtra to find a wide range of private tutors.