The end of sixth form is nearing. But there’s one more job to get done. Yes, we’re talking UCAS applications.
A task that begins exciting, becomes arduous, gets exciting again and finally becomes awesome.
Like with any official processes, though, it can be a bit confusing and a little scary. But, as they say, knowledge is power.
Read on to prepare yourself for the coming milestone and you’ll sail through it right to the door of your new halls.
So. UCAS. Let’s walk through it.
Your first mission is to set up your UCAS account. It’s the first step towards university life.
Tell them everything
Every qualification from secondary school onwards needs to be entered into UCAS. That includes ungraded results and any that you’ve not got the grades back for yet. For those, you’ll need to get your referee to add your predicted grades to your application.
So pop your GCSE grades in, then navigate to ‘add qualifications’ to put your AS Levels in.
If you've had a job before you apply to uni, you need to include the jobs in your application too. Be it full or part time, tell UCAS the company name, address, job description and your start/finish dates.
Save up any unpaid or voluntary work for your personal statement (because it makes you look really good).
The countdown begins
Check your UCAS deadline. Memorise it. Put it in your calendar with alarm notifications. Most courses are the same but if you’re applying to Oxford, Cambridge or a conservatoire, it can vary. Also, some courses will have different deadlines and application methods too.
Double check. Then triple check.
It can feel like the application demands a lot of personal questions but the majority of the information will never be passed on to the universities you’re applying for or otherwise. Only the key details you submit (like name, address, grades) will be shared. So don’t worry, all of your other information remains under lock and key.
That’s the easy stuff.
The following two items to tick off your to-do list are a little more tricky...
Share your story
Next is the dreaded personal statement. If you’re not sure what to include or how to structure it, tackle it like this:
- Beginning: what excites you about the course you want to do? Perhaps you’re a total bookworm with English Lit aspirations or maybe the next Steve Jobs with a killer knack for all things tech. Write it down.
- Middle: what have you done that makes you a great fit for the course? Think along the lines of great essays and projects you’ve worked on, outside reading on a subject you’re into and any jobs you’ve had that relate.
- End: hobbies and interests that make you sound like a great fit for the university. Maybe you love to surf and that’s why you chose to study on the coast. Tell them! Universities like to see well-rounded people.
Make notes. Draft and redraft. Edit. Get it proof read. Once more. There it is.
Now you need a reference.
Keep it simple by asking a teacher – they just need to know you academically, be able to talk about your work ethic and comment on how you interact with other students. They’ll write up a little something about you that shows how perfect you are for university.
Student finance. These two words will haunt you for the rest of your days. But don’t be put off, they give you free money! Well, obviously it’s not actually free. But you don’t have to worry about that for years after graduation.
The loans are split in two: tuition fees that are paid directly to the university (thank god) and maintenance costs that are paid directly into your bank account at the start of term (steady now).
Make sure you get yourself set up with a student bank account too, as they’re designed specifically for your circumstances.
Keep it all on Track
In UCAS you can choose up to five different options. Once you’ve done that, you can track the progress of your application.
It’s not as fun to watch as the Domino’s app but the result is even better than pizza. Bold claims, indeed. But true ones.
You’ll get an unconditional or conditional offer (or rejected but let’s not worry about that for now), depending on your grades.
Then you’re invited to reply to your offers. This bit’s important – select your ‘Firm’ and ‘Insurance’ choices. The rest you’ll have to decline.
If you change your mind, look into Adjustment. You’re not the first to go in a new direction and you certainly won’t be the last!
If you don’t get in? Don’t be disheartened – you can still find your place at university via Clearing. And it’s not all about second best. More and more students are holding out to see if they can get a better course or place via Clearing. So it’s become almost a secret weapon. Arm yourself with information about it now, so when the time comes you’ll know exactly what to do.
The last step is getting your place. No matter how you got there, take a second to revel in the pride of your achievement.
Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and pack up that childhood bedroom. You’re about to have a hell of a ride.