Published: May 29, 2019
Even though I filled out my UCAS application around two years ago, I can still remember the process and what I did to make it as smooth as possible. Some of these tips may sound extremely obvious, but it’s easy to forget them when you’re in the midst of the A Level preparation and revision.
Carry out some research beforehand
Three years is a long time. There are hundreds of courses out there to choose from, so you don’t want to spend those precious years studying a subject you have no interest in. Before sending off your UCAS form, make sure to attend university open days, explore different cities and ask questions about the courses so that you can find out more about the core and optional modules. Remember, the course content may be different at every university, even if it’s the same subject. At open days, they often have lecturers and current students who will be happy to provide you with all the necessary information regarding the course and the university. Open days are usually advertised on university websites and they occur on specific dates throughout the year – so keep checking as you don’t want to miss them.
Don’t limit your choices, make sure to explore every option out there. It can be difficult choosing your both your university and course, but with enough research you’ll come to a decision eventually.
Keep a note of the UCAS deadline
Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the application form. You could perhaps write the date of the deadline on your calendar or make a special countdown on your phone so you can track how many days you have left to finish and send it. You might make mistakes if you leave it to the last minute. Give yourself time to write numerous drafts of your personal statement to ensure it includes all the information you want the admissions to know about you and why you want a place on the course.
Choose your options wisely
You only have around five choices so make sure you choose realistic and relevant options. For example, if you want to stay at home for university, apply for universities that are within reach (through car or public transport). There’s no point applying for courses or universities you have no intention in studying or attending.
Explore career options
I was quite conflicted on which route to follow at university. I had a number of careers in mind but wasn’t sure what course would suit me or what direction I should take. It’s a big decision at a fairly young age. It wasn’t just the course either, I couldn’t decide whether to move away completely or stay at home. After a lot of decision-making, I decided to apply for a course at a university closer to home.
To receive advice regarding this matter, maybe ask a teacher or a career advisor at your school. They should be able to guide you towards a specific course if you have an idea in mind of what you want to do in the future. Work experience is a great way of understanding what it’s like to work in a specific job. This could influence what you study at university. Furthermore, some courses require relevant work experience in the field (e.g. teaching courses).
On their website, many universities have an ‘employment’ page which provides several examples of the careers many of the course graduates pursue after completion. This may help you decide whether the course is relevant or not to your career interests.
There’s also a number of career advice websites online for you to use, for example the UCAS career search.
Give yourself plenty time
You might work better under pressure, but it’s best to focus fully on your UCAS application and start it early. University is a huge decision that will have a huge impact on your life for the next three years and possibly thereafter. Therefore, it’s best to think through each section of the form carefully. Maybe take it step by step instead of doing it all at once (e.g. one day fill out the education section, then your choices etc). For your personal statement, make a plan before writing. For example, you could write down the key points on paper or make a mind map.
Proofread and review your application
Remember to read through your personal statement at least twice. Sometimes your eyes can mislead you and bypass small mistakes, particularly if you’ve spent a long time writing it. Maybe take a short break before proofreading so you can focus more. Check for issues such as grammar, spelling and sentence flow as these mistakes will stand out to those reading it. Allow a family member, friend or teacher (or all three!) to read through your personal statement as they may pick up on mistakes you may have missed. Lastly, make sure you have kept to the word limit.
Don’t make things up
This might sound fairly obvious but avoid making things up on your personal statement. There’s no point in stating that you have an interest in something or participate in a particular extracurricular activity when you don’t. Remember to avoid plagiarism and overused words and phrases - be original and be yourself! That’s the best way to be.