Completing a UCAS application is a major stepping stone to securing a place at university, but with so many students applying for courses, you need to make sure that your application stands out and effectively showcases your potential to the admissions tutors.
To help you on your way, here are 10 top tips for a brilliant UCAS application.
1. Do your homework
Research is key when you’re working on your UCAS application. Start by using the UCAS search tool to find available courses. When you see a course you like, head to the official course page on the university website to get an idea of the skills, qualities and experience required. This will help you to identify points you can cover when you come to write your personal statement.
In addition to this, you should check out the league tables on The Complete University Guide to see which universities are the best for your chosen subject area and how universities measure up against each other for different criteria (student satisfaction, research quality, graduate prospects etc).
2. Choose your courses carefully
Whether you’ve known what you want to study for years or are still deciding, take your time when making your UCAS course choices. You can apply for up to five courses, but before you commit, you should ask yourself some key questions – why do I want to study this subject? Will it help me achieve my career goals? Will I enjoy it?
Think about entry requirements too. You should aim for the best universities for your course, however, it’s a good idea to choose a couple with lower entry requirements, in case you don’t get the exam/coursework results you’re hoping for.
3. Don’t be too specific
Unless you’re applying for just one course, it’s important that you’re not too specific in your personal statement by mentioning course names and universities.
If you’ve chosen to apply for similar courses you should talk about the subject in general; if you’ve chosen a variety, focus on the common themes, for example, research or problem solving.
Remember, the admissions tutor doesn’t need you to explain the course you’re applying for in detail, they already know about it. Keep your statement focused on you and why you’re the ideal applicant by using examples to show how you meet these more general aspects.
4. Get some work experience
Completing a work placement that’s relevant to your desired university course is a great way to strengthen your UCAS application because it shows that you’re a go-getter who’s serious about personal development. It also provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate a deeper understanding and commitment to the field of work you’d like to go into.
If you’re unable to secure a work placement before sending your application, online courses related to your chosen subject are a great alternative. Like work experience, they demonstrate your passion and ability to go the extra mile to learn about your field of interest.
5. Avoid clichés
Admissions tutors eat, sleep and breathe applications, so if you want to stand out, you need to present yourself in an original and authentic way.
This is especially important when explaining why you want to study the course you’re applying for. So avoid cliché statements like “I’ve wanted to study Nursing since I was born” – it’s boring and unrealistic.
The best personal statements back up points with real life examples, which reveal more about you as a person. For instance, “I’ve wanted to be a nurse ever since I visited my grandma in the hospital when I was little and was inspired by how hardworking and caring the nurses were.”
6. Talk about extra-curricular stuff
Talking about extra-curricular activities is your chance to reveal more about yourself beyond your academic abilities and can benefit your UCAS application in various ways. For starters, it shows admissions tutors that you’re independent minded and have made time to get involved in challenges outside of the classroom.
Extracurricular activities could be anything from a sports team you’re a part of to a volunteer project you’re involved in. The most important thing is that you explain how the skills you’ve learned are transferable to a degree course and make you a strong applicant.
7. Choose a referee
As part of your UCAS application, you’ll need to submit a reference. This is usually written by one of your teachers. To avoid delays, you should choose your referee in good time and check that they’re happy to write one for you.
Your reference is just as important as the other parts of your application, so make sure that your referee is someone who you’ve built up a positive relationship with and who knows you well enough to provide the information needed to make your application stand out.
8. Check it over
Once you’ve completed your UCAS application, don’t go thinking the work is over just yet. It’s a long document with lots of tick boxes and drop-down menus, so it’s likely that you’ll have made errors along the way. So give yourself a bit of distance from it, a week or so, then prepare to do some editing.
Getting someone else such as a friend, family member or teacher to look over your application is a good idea. They’ll be able to spot errors that you as the writer might fail to pick up on. Getting them to read your personal statement aloud is useful too, as you’re both more likely to spot any issues when you’re actually hearing the words being spoken.
9. Attend open days
Attending open days is one of the best ways to get a feel for a university because they give you the opportunity to visit the campus, check out the facilities, meet staff and students and see the town/city.
Participating in other university events such as course taster sessions and applicant days is another great way to get a clearer insight into university life. Plus, it gives you examples you can use in your application to show that you’re serious about higher education.
10. Don’t delay starting
A UCAS application is a massive undertaking, however, you mustn’t be afraid to dive in and get started. The sooner you do, the more time you’ll have to perfect it.
The UCAS application deadline for most other undergraduate courses is January, however, some courses (mainly medical ones) have an October deadline. Also, universities offer places on a rolling basis, prior to deadlines, so you should aim to submit your application as soon as you can.
The UCAS Apply 2021 system is now live and it’s a lengthy application, so although you won’t be able to send off your application until 8 September, it’s worth registering, getting familiar with the online portal and starting work on it.
So what are you waiting for? Take the first exciting step towards your university education and start your UCAS application today.