Dr Rachael Griffiths is a Researcher and Educational Consultant who has previously worked in admissions at the University of Oxford, as well as supporting sixth form students with university applications.  


The pandemic has significantly shifted the landscape of university applications, making it more competitive than ever, particularly for some of the most prestigious institutions. However, there are some steps you can take to make sure you’re set out to succeed and achieve your goals.  


Plan Early and Think Ahead 

Planning early and thinking ahead are key. There are strategic decisions that are important in advance, such as choosing subjects at school and building an impressive academic application. 

With applications for some subjects rising rapidly, students are being encouraged to think carefully about their choices. Mike Nicholson, the director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at the University of Bath, has encouraged students to think tactically about their university choices to avoid disappointment. For example, if you’re thinking about studying medicine at university, it’s also worth considering alternative degree options in specialised healthcare and/or research. 

Be Flexible and Strategic  

Of course, if your heart is set on a career as a doctor, then studying medicine is essential. However, there are lots of other degree options available if you’re open to the idea of a healthcare career in an area related to medicine that doesn’t involve qualifying as a doctor. These degrees are typically less competitive than medicine and many universities ask for lower entry grades; courses include, Radiotherapy and Oncology, Pharmacology, Medical Innovation and Enterprise, and Human Sciences. 

Similarly, there are various types of law degrees. Courses range from LLB degrees that provide the skills and knowledge required to practice in law, to BA/BSc degrees that focus on law more as an academic subject.  

If you’re looking for more flexibility within the course syllabus or don’t necessarily want to follow the traditional legal training route, joint honours or combined courses can be less competitive and offer a more mixed curriculum. There are a range of courses that combine Law with other subjects, for example Land Economy (Law, Economics, and Geography), Criminology and Criminal Justice, Law and Global Development, and Anthropology and Law. A joint LLB or BA law degree with a language is a great option for those who enjoy studying languages and/or aspire to a career with an international firm or business.  

Thinking about studying business? There’s a huge range of courses available, from broad courses such as Business Studies to more specialised ones such as Business Analytics and International Business Communications. If you want to develop a solid ground in key elements such as management, marketing, and business law, then a broader course is ideal. However, if you’re interested in a particular area of business, such as property management, spend time exploring specific programs, for instance Real Estate, Commercial Management, and Rural Property Management.  

With over 50,000 courses available at more than 395 institutions in the UK, it can be difficult to know where to start. UCAS have a comprehensive overview of university subjects to explore, which list A-level requirements, possible career paths, and allied subjects. The Uni Guide has created an A-level explorer, which provides you with a list of university courses based on your A-level choices. 


Eton X’s Applying for University course offers more personalised support, tapping into students’ interests, goals, and ambitions, equipping students with the knowledge and confidence to research university and course options and make choices.