With the Ucas application deadline looming on 15 January, you’re probably knee-deep in prospectuses and writing and rewriting your personal statement, wondering whether you’re making the right choices about where to apply. You have no doubt received a lot of advice from teachers, parents and friends over the past few weeks about what to do when applying for university, but what about what you shouldn’t do?
After reading countless application forms over the years, here are a few tips to hopefully help you avoid making some common mistakes and ensure that the application process is as smooth as it can be.
So, whatever you do, don’t...
Leave it to the last minute
There’s no way around it, drafting your Ucas application form is a time-consuming task, especially if you want to ensure it’s as strong an application as possible, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to do a decent job of it.
Part of the process involves sending your completed form to your school or college to check, but remember – doing this before the deadline doesn’t count as submitting it on time! It has to be with Ucas by the deadline, not your school or college. Your teachers will most likely receive lots of application forms to look at, so will need some time to be able to go through your form properly to make sure you’ve entered everything correctly. As well as that, you’ll need to give yourself time to make any corrections, so make sure you don’t short-change yourself.
Your Ucas application is not the place to be shy and retiring. Universities receive thousands of applications so you need to make sure that yours stands out and that they know why you’re worth making an offer to.
Make sure you include information about any qualifications you have, experience that you might have gained that would help you in terms of your course and examples of any extracurricular activities you take part in. Admissions tutors want to see what you’re like as a person, as well as academically, so use your hobbies and interests to show examples of your skills. For example, being in a football team may have boosted your team-working and communication skills, or running a book club may have helped you develop organisational and writing skills.
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Be afraid of sounding too passionate
Your personal statement is an important part of your overall application. It helps you articulate why you are interested in studying the course and can make the difference for an admissions tutor deciding between you and someone else. Think about what makes you unique. You want your enthusiasm for the course to come through in your form – after all, if you don’t sound passionate about studying the course, you can’t expect someone to feel passionate about selecting you.
Forget to keep up the hard work over the next few months
Once the application deadline is over it might feel like you have overcome a big hurdle, but don’t rest on your laurels just yet. Remember, you need to make the university’s entry requirements to ensure they will take you on to study and that takes some hard work and commitment for the rest of your studies. It will be worth it in the long run though, so knuckle down until exams are over and then you can look forward to the new adventure that lies ahead.
Panic if you miss the Ucas deadline
While it’s not ideal and not recommended, all is not lost if you miss the deadline for some reason. Students can still submit applications after 15 January and a lot of universities will still accept them. It is important that you make the right choice and while you may not be able to apply late to a few highly competitive courses, lots will still have places that you can apply for after the deadline.
Alternative routes such as Ucas Extra and Ucas Clearing are also options available for applicants who don’t, for whatever reason, secure a place earlier in the cycle. Many students get into university via this route, so things can still work out in a positive way. Good luck!
Liz Carlile is head of admissions at the University of Sheffield