““Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.” - Deepak Chopra
Do you love maths so much that you’d like to study it at university? Are you looking to do a maths degree after your A Levels?
While relatively few students study maths degrees in the UK, most universities offer them. There are only a handful of subject fields less popular than mathematical sciences and maths.
But don’t worry about that! If you want to study maths, go for it!
In this article, we'll look at the A Levels students should choose if they want to study maths at university, how they can apply to BSc Maths degree courses, and the decisions they need to make when choosing an undergraduate programme to apply to.
Studying Maths at A Level
When it comes to A Level courses, studying mathematics isn't optional. Barring a few exceptions, almost every university maths degree course will include A Level maths as part of their entry requirements.
The only time maths isn't a requirement is when the students applying have equivalent qualifications. International students, for example, mightn't have studied A Level maths. Students in the UK applying to a BSc Maths degree through UCAS, however, will need a pretty good excuse if they haven't studied this as one of their A Levels.
Of course, if you don't have English qualifications, most international qualifications can be converted into A Levels and if you have any questions, you can always contact the university.
In addition to being part of the entry requirements, a maths A Level is a good idea because generally, the study of mathematics is quite linear. You have to study the basic stuff before you can move onto the more advanced concepts.
The maths A Level will give you a good foundation in maths before moving onto degree level and almost every university module is taught at a level that assumes you've completed both a maths GCSE and A Level.
Studying Physics at A Level
While the physics A Level isn't essential, a lot of universities like to see that students have an interest in maths and mathematical concepts and physics is arguably the science with the closest relationship to mathematics.
Barring accounting, finance, or statistics, few subjects include as much maths as physics and by studying it, you'll be able to prove to admissions boards that not only do you understand maths, you can apply the concepts in practical and theoretical situations.
Of course, if you can't stand physics, then you don't have to study it at A Level as it's rarely part of the entry requirements to maths degree courses. However, it is recommended that you do study it as it will improve the chances of your application being accepted.
Applying to Maths Degrees through UCAS
Students wishing to study at a university in the UK need to apply to courses through UCAS. Sixth form and college students can apply to 5 different university courses.
These courses don't need to be at 5 different universities and if there are multiple courses at a single university you'd like to apply to, you can do so.
To get onto a BSc Maths degree, universities ask for 2 or 3 A Levels. Generally, 3 A Levels are required for the popular courses and universities ask for anywhere between BBC grades and A*AA grades.
AAB is the most common entry requirements for maths degrees so if you're expected to get those grades, you should have a good choice of university maths courses to choose from when applying.
Make sure you visit the website cf every university and course you want to apply to. There's a lot of information out there and a lot to consider.
Choosing the Right University to Study Maths
As you can only choose to 5 university courses to apply to, you need to be smart about which universities and which courses you choose.
As all the fees are in the same range, you can often take that out of the equation. However, you do need to think about money as some towns and cities are more expensive than others.
There's often financial help available so check these before you rule out a place for being too expensive. Similarly, while it's better for your studies if you don't have to work, you can get a part-time job during your study to help you pay bills.
Students should also consider what they want to do with their degree once they finish. If you have a very specific career you'd like to move into, you may want to check that the university offers modules in that specific field.
Many universities offer a variety of modules related to mathematical science and there are certain skills that you may only be able to learn by taking a given module.
Making Sure You Get a Place on a Course
You also need to think about the entry requirements. Even if you can get all the grades required for a course, that doesn't guarantee that you'll be accepted. Some universities get ten times as many applicants as places so some students (even those who got the grades) have to be rejected.
If you only apply to the most demanding or popular courses, you run the risk of being of missing out on all of them because one grade wasn't what you expected or you had an off day during your exams.
You may want to include some safety options to ensure that you get a place if anything goes wrong during your exams or if you don't get onto the most exclusive of courses.
Where You Study
You also want to think about where you'll be studying and not just the university. You'll be spending at least three years studying your maths degree so it's a good idea to make sure that you'll be doing that in a town or city you like.
Depending on your hobbies, the university you're applying to might be in a place with nothing that interests you. If you're an avid surfer, for example, you mightn't want to spend three years studying somewhere far from the coast.
While this can't be your only criteria for choosing universities, it is something worth considering. If you're not enjoying your time at university, it'll be much harder to study and get good results.
The Social Aspect
Whether you study maths, science, humanities, or language, it's important that you enjoy your time at university and socialising is a big part of it. You have to keep in mind that while it might be nice to stay at home with people you know, you shouldn't let it get in the way of choosing to study at a university that would be better for you and your career.
People regularly make friends at university, regardless of the courses or modules they study and it'd be silly to miss out on years of making new friends and experiencing new places because you have cold feet about moving away from home.
There's plenty of information for students who've moved away from home to study and many universities have events and clubs so that students can meet new people who are interested in the same academic subject or have similar hobbies.
You may be considering taking a year out or even doing a year abroad. If this is the case, you may want to look for a programme that offers work placement or a year of international study. While learning a foreign language in another country won't necessarily help you get better at maths, a lot of international companies look for language skills.
While maths graduates tend to quite employable (nearly two-thirds of graduates go straight into work), it can be useful to do a work placement year. There are usually programmes where students can work for a year in a related industry and maybe work permanently in the same company once they graduate. It's worthwhile seeing whether the courses you're applying to have industry ties or programmes you can take advantage of.