Your UCAS form
It’s time for you to start seriously thinking about university, and you’re well on your way: you’ve trekked all over the country with your armful of prospectuses, sat in endless lectures listening to admissions tutors waxing lyrical about why you should choose their subjects; you’ve finally decided on your five choices and you’re dreaming of freshers’ week and the SU Bar. UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Service) is the online system that you will use to make this a reality.
There are several stages to the UCAS application process, and it is easier to create a check-list that you can tick off. Remember we are not UCAS and our advice is just that, advice. But we will try and guide you through the system and help you get on to the course you want.
You first task is to register with UCAS. You will be asked to fill in personal details (name, address, contact information), as well as supply additional information such as your education so far, any past employment, any work experience related to your choice of degree, and a range of personal details about nationality, ethnic group, etc. This is so that universities can measure how effective they are in relation to widening opportunities for everyone.
Remember to make sure you have completed each section –the on-screen registration will prompt you to do this. You will also be given your own personal ID Number (a long ten-digit number that is unique to you). Keep this safe as if you have any problems or enquiries, you will need to quote this to UCAS.
Your Course Choices
You can choose five courses to apply to and the UCAS system will store these in alphabetical order. You are not required to indicate a preference at this stage. If applying to Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary courses you will be allowed a maximum of four choices, and if applying to and Art and/or Design course through Route B, you will be allowed three. Some courses and universities will also ask you to take a specific admissions test over and above your A-levels/Highers – it just depends on the competiveness of the course you’re applying to.
Make sure that you have listed the year of entry correctly. If you are taking a gap year (known as deferring), enter the year you want to start – this will usually be one year after. Also re-check the course and university codes you’ve put in – you don’t want to end up applying for the wrong course because you’ve put the numbers in wrongly!
Don’t worry about who you are applying to in terms of ‘will university A reject me if I have applied to university B?’ The universities are not informed who else you have applied to until you have received offers (which hopefully you will!).
The Personal Statement is the part of the application processes that takes the most work. Admissions tutors will read it in detail in their search for the best students – it is without a doubt the most important part of your application. It is your chance to say something about yourself, and really convince the admission tutors of your love for your subject -so pointing out why you have chosen it, what enthuses you and what you have done so far in relation to the subject would be very wise. Be yourself and write about your interests, but make sure you have someone that you can check it over with. Avoid being too chatty or informal; make sure everything you say is in the most concise way possible – you only have 4000 characters. Parents and friends can help, but try and get a college tutor to help you ensure that you have presented yourself in the best light. They work with university applications all the time, so they know exactly what admissions tutors are looking for.
Try and include any relevant experiences (including any work or non-school activities) and tell the truth - you don’t want to get caught out if you are asked about it in an interview. Also, don’t be too shy in describing your personal traits - your ambitions, what you are good at, what you really enjoy. Course tutors are trying to judge whether your personality is right for their course and institution, not just whether you have the academic requirements. Try and relax – admissions tutors often choose those who have real interest over supposedly cleverer applicants who might not have a passion for the subject.
Make sure your personal statement is relevant to all the courses and universities that you have applied to (particularly if applying to joint subject degrees). Avoid saying ‘exclusive’ things like ‘I have always wanted to study in London’. Aside from anything else, this has nothing to do with the subject you are applying for. Use your common sense.
You will need a ‘referee’. This is someone who knows you and is familiar with your academic performance. If you are applying through school or college, they will normally arrange this for you, but it is worth asking your head of year/class who your referee is. Schools normally choose your referee as someone who has had a good amount of contact with you in the past. Schools will give you as good a reference as they possibly can - they obviously want you to succeed so that they look good too. If you are applying independently, you need to find a referee who will be able to supply information about your academic and personal details.
Your referee will tell admissions tutors what your academic performance is likely to achieve (predicted grades), their opinion of your enthusiasm for your chosen subject or profession, and any relevant details that may affect your performance. It is important that your school, college or independent referee also knows about any other relevant details such as any illnesses, bereavements, parental separation or divorce. Obviously if you have a permanent or temporary disability, your referee should be familiar with your circumstances.
The whole of the UCAS process may appear intrusive, but course tutors need to understand and know about you as much as possible in order to be fair. Also, your details will be fully confidential, so do not withhold information that might affect your chances of success.
Ensure that you tell the truth, and do not include false or misleading information. You will be asked to complete a declaration that includes accepting that untrue statements and information will mean that your application can be withdrawn.
The below dates are when your completed UCAS form should be submitted. They are important and above all inflexible – don’t miss them!
– all courses for Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science and Veterinary Medicine; also all courses at Oxford and Cambridge.
– all other courses, aside from those for Art and Design. No university has the obligation to consider you if you apply after this date.
– Art and Design courses that didn’t have a 15th
– the absolute deadline. Any applications received after this won’t be sent to the universities, but will be automatically entered into Clearing.
Costs and Payments
The UCAS application process is unfortunately not free. The normal (up to five) multiple choices application fee costs £23. If you are applying through school or college, they will normally arrange payment (you may then have to reimburse them). If you are applying independently you will have to make an on-line payment via credit or debit card.