With the UCAS deadline for 2017 courses only a few weeks away (Sunday 15th January), you may be starting to worry about your application. Is your personal statement good enough? Are you sure you’ll be happy at that university? Does your application effectively show what kind of student you are?
It’s natural to worry about these things. Going to university is one of the biggest events in your life, so you want to make sure you get the course and location you’re happy with. To help ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible, we’ve come up with a few top tips for your UCAS application.
1. Make sure you’ve picked the right course
With so many different courses to choose from, narrowing down your choice to just one can be daunting. Do you want a course that will help you get a specific job, or one that will open up options for you after graduation? Do you go with something you’re good at, or do you want to focus more on what interests you? The two aren’t always related – you might be outstanding at maths and science, but will that help your dream of being a song and dance man? (other dreams are available)
By this point you’ve probably already decided which course you want, but it’s never too late to change your mind. It’s important that you spend the next 3 years (at least) of your life working on the right course for you. Remember, what might seem a fun topic now may not be so exciting after years of study, so choose a course that you won’t get bored of halfway through.
Think about what you can do with a degree in this course. Take a look at the modules and check if they’re subjects that interest you. Read testimonials from students currently taking that course and see what they say. Get to know more about the universities you’ve applied for, and think about if you’d be happy living there. Take your time before submitting your application to choose the course and universities that you’re definitely happy with.
2. Take care of the basics
It may seem obvious, but make sure you go over your submission with a fine tooth comb (not literally). You don’t want to let a little mistake effect how universities judge your application. For example, that last sentence had a mistake in it – can you spot it? If you’re not sure, then you might want to look at some writing tips before submitting to UCAS. This site has some useful information that might help you with your statement.
Spellcheckers are getting better at working out problems with writing, but they’re not perfect. The best way to find mistakes is to read over everything, and then read over it again. Get a parent, teacher or friend to read over your application as well – a fresh pair of eyes may spot something yours don’t. By the time you send off your application you’ll be sick of reading it, but at least you’ll know it’s right.
3. Sort out your finances
No matter how amazing your statement is, it won’t be any good if you can’t actually afford to go to university. Check the course fees before you apply and make sure you know how you’ll pay them. If you’re reading this blog whilst sipping champagne on a yacht in the Bahamas, you’re probably able to fund your own way, but most people will need to take out a student loan and/or a maintenance loan. You’re advised to start applying for these around May/June, but it’s good to get an idea of what to expect now so you’re fully prepared-our Finance pages have lots of useful information that might help.
Depending on your circumstances, you might qualify for additional funding. Many universities offer scholarships and bursaries to students who meet the right criteria. If you’re applying for a health-related course, you can make arrangements for NHS funding. Students with kids can apply for childcare grants or a parent’s learning allowance, depending on the age of their children. Make sure you know how much extra funding you could receive-you don’t want to miss out on the help.
4. Give yourself enough time
Applications must be sent in no later than 6pm on the 15th January. That doesn’t mean you can hold off finishing your application until 5pm though. If your school/college hasn’t given you a deadline, then make sure you give your tutor enough time to review your application. Remember that they’ll have lots of applications to read through, so be generous with how long you give them, even if it means giving yourself less time to procrastinate.
Keep an eye on your emails after you send your application to your tutor. If they think it needs work, you’ll be contacted by UCAS telling you that amendments need to be made. Make sure you’ve factored in enough time to make these changes if you have to.
Make sure your reference has been completed – get in touch with your referee and ask them to let you know once they’ve finished. If you don’t hear from them, you may need to sort out an alternative reference, so keep someone in mind just in case. You can keep an eye on your application’s progress via UCAS Track, so keep checking on it in case something should go wrong.
5. Don’t worry if things go wrong
Obviously we recommend that you keep to the January 15th deadline, but if something does go wrong and your application is late, don’t get stressed. Applications will still be accepted up until the 30th of June, but universities will no longer be obliged to consider you for an interview. Get in touch with your choices directly to see if they will accept late applications, and keep an eye on the UCAS Key Dates to plan accordingly.
If the worst should happen and none of your universities accept your application, then you can use UCAS Extra from February to find an alternative university or course that you might be better suited for. You can also wait for the university clearing period in August to try and get on a course you like – universities will be trying to fill as many positions as possible, so if you get the right A levels, you’re highly likely to get your place. Remember that you have alternatives should anything go wrong with your application in January, so don’t let yourself get too worried. Don’t get too relaxed either. Maintain a healthy balance of worried and relaxed.
These are some of our top tips for ensuring your UCAS application is a success. Now it’s up to you. Best of luck with your applications, and we hope to see you in the next academic year.