Applying for anything important can be daunting. The jobs you really want always seem to have the hardest application and interview process, T in The Park tickets just never seem to come to hand and trying to get a season ticket for a top Premier League side is neigh on impossible.
We thought we would provide a simple, honest look at how to apply to university, the decisions you need to make and the established sources for the best information you will need.
A lucky few of you will already know what you want to do, where you want to go and how to get into your dream university, but for many it is a time of indecision and information search. Our guide on how to apply to university helps you sort through the if’s / buts and maybes of undergraduate application.
Choosing a university
How do you decide where to go, which course is right for you and what’s going to benefit you most in the short, medium and long term? The course you choose is down to you, only you know where your talents and interests lie and where you’d like to be in five, ten and twenty years.
It is important to read around in the industry you hope to work in to see what degrees will point you in the right post-uni direction. If you are unsure of what you would like the future to hold, it can be a good idea to figure out what careers are likely to be available with the degree courses being considered - thus helping you decide if they are the ones for you.
Some will use all of the five choices on the UCAS form to try to guarantee a spot on almost any course at the one uni they desire, where as most will cherry pick the institutions from which of them offer the course that fits.
There isn’t a science to choosing and there’s only a certain amount of advice that actually helps (no matter what other sources might suggest); so read around the prospectuses, book onto an open day, compare Universities, figure out the important factors for you (size of uni, employability, nightlife?) and check out our Student Source City Guides to give you a quick overview of what each location can offer you.
Top Tip: follow your preferred University on social media to get a feel for what life is like in and around campus.
Time is of the Essence
To have the best possible chance of getting on the course you want, you’ll need to apply on time. The generic deadline for UCAS applications is the 15th January, so you do have plenty of time to get your head together and pick the best route to your degree-inspired riches. Applications for the forthcoming year courses will open on the October before, so early birds and eager sorts can get themselves sorted way ahead of the masses rushing around come the New Year.
However, it is important to note that certain courses and certain universities demand much earlier application (including many of the medical subjects, and Oxford and Cambridge universities), so check the important dates and decision times for your desired course. For further information on the UCAS process visit their website www.ucas.com
A statement of intent
As you follow the UCAS trail, you’ll be faced with the challenge of writing your own personal statement. Now, depending on course and institution, the way you express yourself may just be the clincher in getting your dream spot. Not all universities and departments attach as much importance to them, but it is always advisable to give a considered representation of yourself.
Writing a personal statement may also help you figure out what it is that is driving your ambition to go to uni, whether it’s life experience, career prospects or just to add a few letters after your name.
The process of presenting yourself to the university admissions department is one that leaves many stumped, but it is much easier than many imagine. Essentially the personal statement is to sell yourself, your motives and your talents. The admissions officer wants you to tell them you are suitable to the course, the workload and the university. If you can do this, you’re looking good!
Wherever you lay your hat...
...is your home, but be picky and you’ll get the best hat stand! As higher education has become more accessible, property magnates have not sat by twiddling their thumbs. The boom in student numbers has been matched in a huge supply of privately-managed student accommodation, open for all from freshers through to final years.
For many, living in the university halls of residence is part of the ritual of being a student, putting up with the traditional student squalor despite supposedly nicer, newer flats and apartments being available. From personal experience we can tell you that the university-owned halls were the best for your 1st year, and it is definitely a lot easier for freshers to go through the university accommodation services when looking for somewhere to live.
No one likes the cost of being a student these days, and no matter what people say about tax-payers’ money, university grants and the (supposedly) increasing student spending, becoming a student these days is likely to severely dent even the thirstiest student pocket.
Those with generous parents might not have to struggle, but part and parcel of the student experience is managing your own funds and affairs, so don’t be ashamed when funds are low and holding a takeaway’s sandwich board is your way of keeping up the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
Applying for student finance is relatively straight forward through Student Finance Direct, (different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) but it’s best to get in early to make sure everything is gone through in time. There is always someone missing out in freshers’ week with barely a penny to their name waiting for the money.
Cleaning up at clearing.
Clearing is often described as, “the final phase of the application cycle, when applicants who have not yet secured a place can apply for courses with vacancies.” Our experience of Clearing is a mad, hectic time in late summer when those without confirmed places at a university clamour (by phone, email and social media) for one of the remaining unfilled spots.
UCAS accept applications right up into September, and those who apply after the January deadline must apply to universities direct through clearing, when all the on-time applicants have been processed, results are in and the universities know which courses have vacancies.
It’s ideal for those who’ve had last minute changes of heart and now want to move into higher education, giving them the opportunity to go straight into university instead of sitting around waiting for the start of the next UCAS application process.
In all honesty, it can get mad, it can be scary, but it’s also the way lots of people sort out university, so don’t be afraid - see it as an adventure into the lesser known! Like many things in life, the unknown might be scary, but it might just bring rewards you never expected!
Click here for more information on Clearing.