University

6 steps you need to take to apply to university

Applying to university is a big step, but it doesn’t have to feel like a daunting one. Make sure you’re fully prepared for making your uni application with these six key steps adapted from The Uni Guide.

  

Step 1. Choose where you want to go and what you want to study

University is a big investment, so you’ll want to make sure you choose the right place and course. When you’re deciding which course to take, there are a few things you can consider to make your decision a bit easier. These include: the type of subject you want to study; how the course will be taught; how the course will be assessed; and whether the course has any particular grade requirements.

You can find information to help you with this here:

UCAS

What Uni

The Uni Guide

This article goes into more detail on tips for choosing which course to take, and should help you narrow down what you’d like to study at university.

When you’re settling on a university, you might want to consider factors such as its location, how much it costs to live there and what kind of environment it has – a campus university or a city one, for example.

It’s also really useful to go to open days – or virtual open days – to get more of a feel for what a university is really like.

OpenDays.com

Virtual Open Days

Look at how good the student support services are as you never know when you might need them – and if you need them, you might really need them. And it’s worth speaking to current students to get their honest opinions on everything from the course content to the accommodation.UnibuddyTake a look at The Student Room forum for your chosen university to see what current students have to say, and to ask them any burning questions.

This article on choosing which university is right for you has loads of advice for anyone struggling to decide where they want to study.

Expert advice: In this video from The Student Room, uni admissions experts give their advice on applying to uni, including how to choose a course and a university.

 

Step 2. Make sure you know all the deadlines and key dates

Get those key dates down in your diary, so you can make sure you’re not missing any deadlines. Here’s the full list of Ucas deadlines and key application dates.

Everyone who applies by the deadline dates will be considered equally, whether they send their application in early or wait until the last minute.  

If you miss this deadline you can still apply – the only difference will be that universities and colleges don’t have to consider your application if, for example, they’ve already got plenty of great applicants for their course. 


Step 3. Check the entry requirements

Entry requirements are the criteria set by the individual universities that students need to meet to be considered for a place on the course. These will vary depending on the university and course you’re applying to, with some having much tougher entry requirements than others.

You should be able to easily find each course’s entry requirements on the university’s website.

Entry requirements could include: certain qualifications such as GCSEs, A-levels, Highers and Btecs; portfolios of work; admissions tests; and Ucas points.

Ucas points are points assigned to different grades for post-16 qualifications. For example, an A* at A-level is worth 56 Ucas points, and an A is worth 48.You can find information about the UCAS tariff here: UCAS TariffUCAS Tariff calculator

Here’s a bit more information about university entry requirements, including your options if you don’t have post-16 qualifications and what you can expect from admissions tests. 

 

Step 4. Get your application started

Once you’ve chosen your dream course and university, it’s time to get started on your application.

First of all, you’ll need to register with Ucas here. You’ll be able to choose up to five universities to apply to, and you’ll be asked to fill in your personal details, including your education history and all your qualifications.

Completing your UCAS application
 

Step 5. Write your personal statement

The personal statement is an important part of your UCAS application. It’s your chance to describe your ambitions, skills, and experience to university and college admissions staff.
A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It’s a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.

What to write about in your personal statement

You.

You’re telling admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college. It’s important to remember you can only write one personal statement – it’s the same for each course you apply for. So, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name.If you’ve chosen similar subjects, talk about the subject in general, and try not to mention courses titles. If you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, just write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Look at course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experience it requires – you can use these to help you decide what to write about.

  • Tell the reader why you’re applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.

  • Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you’ve gained from education, work, or other activities.

  • Include any clubs or societies you belong to – sporting, creative, or musical.

  • Mention any relevant employment experience or volunteering you’ve done, such as vInspired AwardsStep Together, or Project Trust. With the current restrictions on our lives, carrying this out in-person can be difficult. Don’t worry, unis and colleges understand this and will take it into consideration – read our advice to find out lots of other ways you can gain useful experience.

  • If you’ve developed skills through Duke of EdinburghASDANNational Citizen Service, the Crest Awards scheme, or young enterprise, tell them.

  • If you took part in a higher education taster course, placement, or summer school, or something similar, include it.

Personal circumstances

  • If there are any personal circumstances which have affected your educational performance, outline them in your personal statement. For example, this might be something that caused you to miss school  - such as a physical or mental health condition, or caring for a family member.
  • If your personal circumstances have affected your qualification choices, you can mention this in your personal statement. For example, a change of school which did not offer the same options, or having gained non-different qualifications, skills and experience to many other people (e.g. through the Armed Forces).
  • If you have suffered financial hardship during your studies (e.g. received a bursary to cover the costs of your education), you can let the university know about that here.

If you have a question about writing your personal statement, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are some useful blogs to help:

How to write your personal statement

Your personal statement should be unique, so there’s no definite format for you to follow here – just take your time. Here are some guidelines for you to follow, but remember your personal statement needs to be ‘personal’.

  • Write in an enthusiastic, concise, and natural style – nothing too complex.

  • Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes, or anything unusual – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.

  • Structure your info to reflect the skills and qualities the unis and colleges value most – use the course descriptions to help you.

  • Check the character and line limit – you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines. Some word processors get different values if they don’t count tabs and paragraph spacing as individual characters.

  • Proofread aloud, and get your teachers, advisers, and family to check. Then redraft it until you’re happy with it, and the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.

We recommend you write your personal statement first, then copy and paste it into your online application once you're happy with it. Make sure you save it regularly, as it times out after 35 minutes of inactivity.

Here are some useful resources to get you started:

Personal statement mind map

UCAS Personal Statement Advice

UCAS Personal Statement Worksheet

UCAS Personal Statement Tool

These teacher secrets for writing a great personal statement should also come in handy, as well as these personal statement FAQs.Example Personal Statements from Studential

Expert advice: Uni admissions experts give their tips for writing your personal statement in this video from The Student Room.

Step 6. Wait to start getting your offers!

Find out about the different decisions universities and colleges can make on your application.

How do unis make their decisions?
Each university has different entry requirements. You should check you meet the course and university entry requirements before you apply. However, there are other factors university admissions teams consider when making their decisions.

  • What academic and non-academic achievements do you have?

  • Have you met the required grades for the course, and what is the likelihood of you achieving the course entry requirements for any qualifications you haven't yet sat exams for?

  • Do you have the experience and skills to succeed at university?

  • Do you have a passion for the subject area, and does this enthusiasm come across in your application?

  • Who are your references and what have they said about you?

  • Is the course and uni you've applied for the right course and university for you?

  • Have you included your individual circumstances? For example, have you been in care? Do you have a disability, such as a mental health condition?

  • Admissions staff will want to consider your achievements in context. This is called ‘contextualised admissions’, and the aim is to form a more complete picture of you as an individual.

Ultimately, it's the job of the university admissions team to determine whether you can succeed on the course you have applied for.

When are you likely to hear back from unis?
The wait for decisions on your application can be agonising. It’s a good idea to use this time effectively by familiarising yourself with the decisions the unis you’ve applied to could make, so you know what to expect and what to do when the time comes.

Each university and college will make their decisions at different times, meaning you might hear back before your friends do, or vice versa. However, there are deadlines by which they will need to have decided: UCAS Deadline Information

Decisions universities and colleges can make

  • Either a conditional or unconditional offer is good news.

  • A conditional offer means you still need to meet the requirements – usually exam results.

  • An unconditional offer means you've got a place, although there might still be a few things to arrange.

  • An unsuccessful or withdrawn choice removes that option, but you could add more.

You can find more information here: UCAS Offers