AAAdmissions Blog

This blog is maintained by the Undergraduate Admissions Tutors in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol. Here you will find FAQ answers and news updates on our admissions process. For more information, visit the Department home page or the undergraduate admissions home page.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Insurance: A Cautionary Tale

The first responses are starting to come in.  Naturally I'm pleased to see a good number of applicants firmly accepting our offers.  The rate of firm acceptance is roughly on a par with last year, but it's noticeable that a greater proportion of students are choosing Bristol as their insurance place.  I imagine this is because at least one other university is asking for two A-stars in their conditional offers.

I'm reminded of a cautionary tale from last year.  An applicant had a conditional offer from Bristol and a higher conditional offer, by one grade, from Imperial.  He went firm with Imperial and insurance with Bristol.  Come August, he unfortunately missed the conditions of Imperial's offer by two grades and hence missed Bristol's by one grade.  He was subsequently rejected by both universities and was left without a place at all, despite having pretty good grades in general.  I gather he did find a place elsewhere but only after a very stressful experience of phone calls and clearing.

If you miss your firm choice conditions, it's their discretion whether or not to take you anyway.  Lots of people still get in as "near miss" acceptances.  We aim to work this way, as it's really the only way we have to control our actual numbers.  If your firm choice doesn't take you as a near miss, but you've met the conditions of your insurance offer, then your insurance university is required to admit you.

If you put Bristol as insurance and you then miss our offer conditions, we are extremely unlikely to admit you.  This is because we always work through the "firm" near miss candidates first.  That's because we can be confident they'll accept the place.  An insurance near miss could still be taken up by their first choice.  We normally have enough firm near misses to fill our places, so insurance near misses rarely ever get a look in.

So, an insurance choice just one grade lower than your firm choice is pretty risky, or even no insurance at all.  Miss by one, and you still stand a good chance of getting into your firm choice.  Miss by two, and you could get nothing.

Bristol could be the right insurance choice for you.  Maybe you somehow know you won't miss your firm by more than one grade.  Or maybe you're committed to withdrawing and resitting If you don't get Bristol's grades or higher.  Those seem unlikely, but they are consistent with how insurance works.

BUT if Bristol is your second choice, then that doesn't make it a good insurance choice.  Or perhaps you can't decide between the last two but you let the grades do it for you (as there's no point accepting a harder offer as insurance than firm).  Your insurance choice ought to be the lowest offer you would be prepared to accept, and that's not necessarily the same as your second choice.

This post isn't intended to just pile extra pressure on making your firm choice.  I'm aware this might sound a bit like "firm us or nothing" and there's a lot of that around.  But please just think it through - I don't want more people to end up like my cautionary tale simply because they didn't know the risks.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Day in the Life

Admissions tutor Arthur Richards captures the activities of various Aerospace Engineering students over a 24-hour period in March.

I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday morning on the prowl around Queen's Building, looking for Aerospace Engineering undergraduates going about their business.  The results are rather less polished than you'll find in our prospectus, but here's a collection of genuine "aeros" just caught in the act.

Down in the wind tunnel labs, a group of first years are performing a fluids lab.  They're using a manometer to measure pressure distributions on an aerofoil, including the effect of changing the angle of attack.

Over in the student workshops, second years are working on their wings, as part of the design-build-test project.  These aluminium wings are designed and built by student groups.  Later, they'll be tested both in the wind tunnels, for aerodynamic behaviour, and in the structures labs, where they'll be loaded to destruction to test deflections and strength.

Down on the dynamics lab mezzanine, third years are working on their control coursework.  They're designing control laws for the helicopter-like model on the blue arm.  Reversing the sign of the feedback led to some interesting moments (not shown) but the end result is stably hovering and responding to commands.

Back down in the wind tunnel lab, another third year student is performing some experiments in the low turbulence tunnel for his individual project.  He's using the Laser Doppler Velocimeter (LDV) to measure the flow around a perforated disc.

Upstairs in the avionics corridor, two fourth years are working on their individual research projects.  Lucy is working on feature detection for aerodynamic shapes, to predict where vortices could form.  Alex is working on task allocation and route planning for unmanned aircraft teams.  I think they were rather embarrassed to be photographed - that or they're finding their projects for too enjoyable.

In the composites lab clean room, fourth years Phil and Karim are making composite coupons for their research projects.

And, of course, there are lots of lectures going on all around the building.  Here are my third years (or at least a rather thin selection of them) fresh from the delights of control compensator design using frequency methods.

Thanks to all of the students for agreeing to be photographed.