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Higher Education advice and planning enables you to choose the right courses at every stage of your life at Downside and beyond. The majority of Downside pupils will apply to a UK university through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). This process begins in earnest in the spring of the Lower Sixth year with the UCAS Exhibition. Pupils will register with UCAS and begin their application at the end of the Summer Term.

At every stage, pupils are guided and supported by the specialist team of Sixth Form tutors and by the Head of Sixth Form. From the start of the Lower Sixth, pupils are encouraged to think about the next stage of their education. Careers guidance delivered both through the tutor programme and by our independent careers partners, FutureSmart Careers Ltd, helps pupils make these important decisions. Pupils also have access to Unifrog, a one-stop platform for researching university options in the UK and abroad, as well as providing a wealth of information about other pathways.

The typical timeline for Downside pupils applying through UCAS is as follows (with some dates subject to minor changes each year):

  • Summer Term of Lower Sixth: UCAS Predicted Grade Examinations, after which provisional predicted grades will be published.
  • End of June in Lower Sixth: UCAS & Higher Education Day, with workshops on UCAS registration, Degree Apprenticeships, Personal Statement Writing and Applying to Study Abroad.
  • End of September (start of Upper Sixth): Applications for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine completed.
  • October Half Term: Predicted grades locked for all remaining applications.
  • End of November: All remaining UCAS applications completed.


With Careers Education, Information and Guidance embedded in the school curriculum from the First Form, Downside pupils enjoy a structured programme of information to help them make their choices at key points in their education, for example GCSE and Sixth Form options and, crucially, what they are going to do once they leave school.  All pupils are registered on Unifrog, an excellent platform for both careers and university options. Through Unifrog, pupils are able to research degree courses both in the UK and abroad, read guidance on application procedures and draft their Personal Statement for UCAS applications. Through this process, all pupils are supported by their tutor;  the team of Sixth Form tutors at Downside, led by the Head of Sixth Form, is an excellent pool of knowledge and experience to guide pupils through this important stage in their education.

As pupils move through their Lower Sixth year, they will start to explore their options for the next stage of their education. Interviews with external careers advisors, as well as discussions with their tutors and subject specialists, help them to narrow their options, and all pupils attend the UCAS Exhibition in the spring of their Lower Sixth year.  This is an excellent opportunity to discuss degree choices with a range of universities and to start to build a short list of possible destinations. In the Summer Term, a day is dedicated to some of the finer details of university applications, and we are lucky enough to be supported in this by excellent external speakers to give our pupils advice on writing their personal statement, applying for degree apprenticeships and applying to study abroad.

Although the majority of Downside pupils choose a UK university as their next destination, there are also always a few who decide to study abroad, with Hong Kong, the USA, Spain and Italy being popular alternatives to British institutions. Some pupils also decide that a traditional university education is not for them, and may, therefore, choose to enter the workplace or apply for a degree apprenticeship. Whatever they choose to do, however, Downside pupils enjoy the full support of the School in ensuring a smooth transition to the next stage of their education.

As well as preparing pupils for the academic side of their next steps, at Downside we are determined to help them also develop the skills they will need to live independently. To this end, our PSHEE programme in the Sixth Form covers a broad range of topics and skills, including university study skills, budgeting and student finance, free speech, cooking simple meals, making pastry, basic first aid and other medical matters, road and driving safety awareness, household chores, CV writing and letters of application and equality and diversity.

We are proud of the broad range of disciplines that Downside pupils go on to study when they leave us. Labels such as the Russell Group (UK) or the Ivy League (USA) are not necessarily very helpful, and we advise both our pupils and parents to be cautious in lending them too much weight. We are, of course, always delighted when pupils are successful in applying to the most competitive courses, but what gives us the greatest pleasure is to know that our pupils have found somewhere they are happy and settled once they leave us.


Our science department take very seriously any pupil’s wish to study Medicine and we endeavour to ensure that each pupil who is applying for Medicine is as fully prepared for the application process as possible.

Aspiring Medics

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