Intercalation can be a really big decision and there are a few things you may want to think about before or during the application process to make sure it’s the right path for you! It can be a great opportunity to study something you’re interested in greater depth and open up doors for you, or improve your chances of pursuing that competitive career you’ve always wanted to go into! Be aware that you have to manage the application process often whilst studying for exams etc, so it’s about time management too!
Choosing the right course
There are usually 2 types of degree that are offered as an intercalated degree: a Bachelor’s (BSc/BA) or a Master’s (MSc/MA/MRes).
A Bachelor’s is probably what you’re doing now, lasts an academic year (September/October-May/June) and costs the usual (£9000-£9250 depending).
It is a ‘lower’ level degree than a Master’s, but can be a lesser workload.
Having said this, some intercalation courses are exclusive for intercalating students, whilst in some you join the final year of an existing course so they will all have their own demands!
Another thing to consider is if your university offers something you want to study or if you will have to go externally. Most universities will let you do this if the course is not one they offer, or you can make an academic case as to why you’d like to go externally, you need to be prepared to put this in writing to your university and get references supporting you. Most of the time though, universities are looking to encourage intercalation so they will be pretty lenient!
A Master’s usually lasts an entire calendar year and is considered a ‘higher level’ qualification than a Bachelor’s and can’t usually be awarded until you have completed your undergraduate Bachelor’s degree due to this.
They can cost upwards of £10,000 and usually involve a large research project which is why they are longer courses. Ensure you check with the course provider the cost and timescales for no nasty surprises.
Having said this, they can be very beneficial and give you lots of independent research skills and get qualified sooner than your peers!
“Intercalation opens up so many doors for you…”
Check what is needed on your application
Check if you need to write a personal statement, get some supporting references and provide an official exam transcript or university permission letter. These are some things you could be asked for so make sure you have everything ready before the deadline, especially if you’re asking tutors or lecturers to write you a reference and give them plenty of notice!
Some more advice on writing application forms on our dedicated page.
Check the deadlines
This is really important especially if you’re applying to a few different places with different deadlines. A few people I know have had their heads in a muddle with this, especially as at Bristol the Vet applicant deadline differed to the general faculty of health sciences deadline.
Considering student finance
Despite the number of intercalating students that go through every year (it is thought that around two thirds of Bristol Medical Students will intercalate), arranging Student Finance can be an absolute nightmare, as there’s no space on the online application form to say you’re doing an intercalated degree (they will just class it as a second degree), therefore, check with your university’s fees and funding office, at Bristol they have produced forms to explain to Student Finance what you’re doing and to ensure when you return to your main degree you are still going to get your original funding.
I cannot emphasise how important it is to check and put things in place for when you come back otherwise it’ll be even more stressful!
Another thing to consider is that Student Finance will only give you just under £11,000 in total for a postgraduate degree (check current amount here) to cover the course and living, and the amount is not dependent on your family’s income unlike undergraduate loans.
“Are you doing it for yourself or to please others?”
Leaving your current year group
When you intercalate, you’ll leave your year group behind and when you return you’ll rejoin the year below. This can be a bit disconcerting as you always imagine graduating with the friends you’ve first made, but actually there’ll likely be a group of you going off to intercalate, so it’s worth finding out and getting to know these people if you don’t already, and mingle with the year below so you know a few faces when you come back! I was nervous about this at first, but our group of intercalators are all so lovely and will be nice for us to stick together when we come back!
Finding somewhere to live
Once your application is confirmed and you have an offer, it’s best to start looking for accommodation as soon as possible!
It can be nerve wracking if you’re going to a new area, so do some research on the best places to live suited to your needs.
Are you able to stay where you are now or do you need to move out to a new city or find a new place once your tenancy ends?
More advice can be found on our Finding Somewhere to Live Page.
Finally… are you doing it for yourself?
Don’t intercalate just because your parents want you to or your friends are doing it, ensure you’ve considered some of the things we’ve mentioned above and make sure it’s the right thing for you. I’ve never known anyone who’s completely regretted their decision, but once you embark on the course it’s difficult to go back to your original degree that year once you reach a certain stage in the term.
Really hope this page has helped give some guidance on things you need to consider when deciding whether to intercalate, feel free to navigate the pages at the top for more detailed guidance and to contact us if you have any further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org !