An interview this week with Olivia Taylor cemented in my mind a quality that is all too often overlooked by students and parents when applying to university: authenticity. In the search for prestige, or conversely safety, the honest conversation with oneself about the values and interests that are yours are mown away by often false ideas about what one ‘should’ do.

I can (and do) talk for hours about a good fit. But what is that? YOU, your authentic self, fits the course, place, that you wish to belong to.

How do you know? Well, right now, I have students sending in their drafts of essays to me and most of my comments are the same. Go back to the website and LOOK at the course outline, the academic profile of the students (diverse) and work out how you FIT that.

That means it must be you. You must be the one excited at the subject matter on offer, on the way the course is taught.

How do you do that? This is a case of doing your homework!

At the beginning of this academic year, I talked about the need to be prepared for a changing landscape. I had no idea that would mean a global pandemic, hybrid classes, online, or continued disruption. You need to plan, but your need for plan b, and c, are never more necessary.

But despite all of that, something stays constant. You. That doesn’t mean to say you can’t change, learn, or grow, indeed that desire to do better is exactly why you should consider university and applying to courses that excite you. There is the apocryphal story of why holidays fail to live up to expectations. While the place has changed, you are still there.

In trying to shoehorn yourself to a place without doing your homework, or being authentic, you are likely to end up like one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters, trying to fit into a shoe that doesn’t fit.

Going into a shop yesterday for the first time, I realised that you can’t now try on clothes. How do you know if something fits? You check the measurements! Yours and the course.

Being honest with yourself if hard. But there’s no excuse for not having done your homework. I prefer the modules of this course over that course. Keep digging. In the virtual world we have more information than ever out there for you to find.

As July comes to a close and it is high summer, ask yourself if the shoe fits? And if it doesn’t, why not? What else would you like to try. Some of my favourite meetings with students at the beginning of a school year where those were students told me that they’d tried something and didn’t like it. Brilliant. Better to discover with a short taster (take a MOOC, or check out You Tube) than commit to several years at university.

As Olivia reminded me, you must be true and open, and not be afraid to be honest with yourself. What have you got to lose?