If you're applying to university, you'll almost certainly be doing it through UCAS. But there's more to it than just filling in a form – you've got to choose your courses and university options, make sure you meet all the deadlines, and submit a flawless application as well. Never fear – here are five tips that will help you succeed...
First of all, make sure you're familiar with the process:
1. Choose your courses and universities wisely
You have five university choices (or 4 medical courses plus one other course if you are applying to uni for medicine) – so use them wisely. You should be aiming to go to the best university possible for your course, but you also want to pick a couple of less competitive courses, so that you have some back-up options if you don’t get into your first choice.
Use the UCAS course search to help you create a shortlist that appeals to you. You should aim for one or two universities asking for slightly better grades than those you are predicted (as long as you are being realistic!), two with the same grades and one or two which are asking for lower grades than the ones you are expecting. Hopefully you’ll then get an offer from a good uni, but by picking a course asking for lower grades, you will have an insurance option should you miss your final grades in the summer.
To help you choose your university courses, take a look at the UCAS course search.
2. Go to the open days
You’re making a decision about where you are going to spend the next three or four years of your life, so make sure you take the time to visit the uni's you are interested in. You may not have time to do this before you apply – instead relying on prospectuses and Good University guides to make the decision – but before you accept any offers, make sure you have visited and spoken to some current students and faculty staff.
3. Double check your UCAS application
The UCAS application form is long, and contains a lot of tick boxes and drop down menus – don’t make the same mistake as one applicant we know made - accidentally clicking ‘Chinese’ instead of ‘chemistry’ on her list of A levels. It was a bit of a shock when she was asked to tell the tutor about her Chinese coursework in an interview!
'Double check your UCAS application – don't be the student who selects Chinese not chemistry'
Luckily it was all sorted out, but your UCAS application form is a legal document, where you have to declare all your qualifications – this means you can’t leave out that dodgy GCSE result or the AS you decided to drop. Double check with your teacher if you are unsure of anything – but always read through one final time before you send it off!
Make sure you know how to put together a strong personal statement as this could have a decisive impact on your applications:
4. Don’t delay on submitting your application form
The UCAS deadline for applications to UK universities through UCAS may be 15th January (Oxford, Cambridge and Medicine courses have the earlier UCAS deadline of 15th October), but many uni's start giving out offers before Christmas, so you should aim to get your application in before the end of November at the latest – otherwise you may be reducing your chances of success.
5. Stay on the ball even after you’ve accepted your offers
In the balmy post-exam, post-school, post-exam stress summer sun, it’s possible to forget that you’re going to be off to university soon. It’s all too easy to miss the letter or email from your uni asking about your preferences for accommodation – and then finding yourself without anywhere to live in September.
Living in halls with your fellow students is one of the best bits about heading off to university for the first time, so keep an eye on your inbox and letter box to make sure you are on top of the first year logistics. You’ll also need to sort out your student loan, insurance and student bank account – all of which you should research properly as it could save you money and hassle later on down the line.
And don't forget that you can still apply to university through UCAS clearing. For more information on this, take a look at our post A-Level Results Day: Applying to Uni Through UCAS Clearing.