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So, you're thinking of a maths degree?

Scroll down for advice for those already doing a degree in Maths

This is advice compiled from several Mathematics graduates, in the hope it may be of use to someone!


Advice for people thinking of doing a maths degree

1. Have you considered other options?
You probably already get good marks in your A Level maths modules, but this doesn't mean maths is the right choice for you. For example, if you also do physics - have you thought about doing a physics degree? Physics degrees are much more mathsy than physics a level. The same goes for many subjects like chemistry and electronics
2. How do you feel about maths?
You're reading this and probably thinking ``Well, I like maths!''. Well, that is not enough to assume you will also like it for 3+ years at undergraduate level. The differences between A Level and degree level maths are not always obvious (and indeed are not always big), but never the less, they are most worthy of note.
At school, generally you are given some theory and then asked to do many examples to ensure you know how to do it. This isn't always the case at degree level, sometimes you may be given only a few questions to practise on (which probably will not be marked) for a 2 week topic. Here is the main problem, you must provide yourself with your own motivation.
For many people, because they are not passionate about maths this is a real effort, and without a teacher telling them off, they can often find themselves behind in a course (in turn making them enjoy it even less). This means you have to have a desire to listen in lectures, which is hard to manufacture without a natural desire to want to learn. In addition, there is a greater emphasis on understanding. Generally, A Level maths is a case of practise makes perfect. Degree level maths is/should not be like this. You need to understand, enjoy and develop your own ideas, and be able to apply them to new situations you have never come across, sometimes in quite inventive manors. The better you are at this kind of problem solving (and learning) the more suited you are for maths.
3. So you want to be an accountant/banker/actuary...?
Well this is what a lot of maths applicants say they want to do (or similar). In fact lots of people say this, and wanting to have a career similar to those mentioned above doesn't mean you shouldn't do maths. But if your motivation for doing a maths degree stems from your belief that a maths degree is an easy way into a high paying job in the financial sector, it's time to reconsider.
While it may be the case that employers value a maths degree more than an ecconomics degree, they are looking for much more than that - and a maths degree will make very little difference if you don't have all the other qualities they demand from their employees. More to the point, they probably don't understand most of what you know mathematically - and as a result don't give perhaps as big as an advantage to maths graduates as (I believe) they should.
4. C1-4, FP1-3 are not pure modules.
Every applicant should know this one fact. In your A Level Maths courses (with the possible exception of descision modules, which I never took), you have not really encountered pure maths. It is important not to say you like ``pure maths'' unless you know what you mean, because this will annoy everyone. Including me.
So you might be wondering what pure maths is? Google it or something.
5. Most universities are pretty similar
Bristol, Warwick, Leeds, Oxford, Manchester, LSE, UCL, Imperial, Bath etc are all good universities for maths. This list is far from exhaustive. You should know that the university you choose really doesn't mean much when it comes to studying maths. After all you don't need fancy equipment. Several things to note are the amount of choice you have in 3rd (and 4th) year - more is better, and the research scores online. Maybe also look at the unistat website to see the average UCAS points of students that go there. Many things in league tables can be disregarded for maths (for example, student satisfaction, drop out rates, degree classification, employability). Why? Well you shouldn't be planning on dropping out, your degree classification is determined by you, as is your employability, and your student satisfaction ratings are low for maths because of a lack of marked work.
So there is a few things to note - the size of the department. More students = bigger first year classes and its much harder to make friends. However the upshot is the department can put on more classes in your 3rd year so you have more choice and can do what you like. I feel this outweighs the negative points of a big year group. Consider also the facilities in the departmental building. Is there a quiet room for silent study? You do not want to need to go to the library if you have a 1 or 2 hour break in between lectures.
6. Much more to follow
7. Finally, Maths is FUN! This all sounds very negative, the truth is that if you make an informed descision and really enjoy maths you will love your degree. It is full of fantastic ideas and (see below) you have so much choice. The primary reason for this article is to dissuade some of the students (and applicants I meet while working at the interview days) applying without the passion they need in order to enjoy thie degree.

Advice for people already doing a maths degree

1. Do a project in 3rd year.
That's the best advice I can give to everyone doing a maths degree. You might not get a fantastic mark, but it will help you develop in so many invaluable ways, and make you more employable.
2. Much more to follow