‘Personal Statement is key, but when you get an opportunity to go to a visit or interview, be unique and vibrant and enthusiastic so they remember you. If you get the grades, you're in... JOB DONE! But if for what any reason something doesn't quite go to plan, remembering you for all the right reasons from these contact days can sometimes be a good thing’.
Stonewall Talent Programme 2011 participant
Applications for undergraduate full-time courses are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It’s web-based, and you can register either through your school or college or as an individual. UCAS has its own guidance suggestions, but here are a few points to help you get started:
• Give UCAS your most up to date contact details and keep them informed if these change. They’ll send all offers and confirmation of places to your contact address.
• Universities will usually communicate via email, so make sure that you have a sensible professional email address (even if you have to set up a new one). Joe.Bloggs95@hotmail.com is much more appropriate than firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Record your examination entries and results accurately, because mistakes can delay your application. UCAS is able to spot fraudulent applications so don’t be tempted to lie about your results.
• UCAS allows you to apply for up to five courses, but you can apply for fewer. For medicine, veterinary science and dentistry your choices are limited to four.
• You should try to pick similar courses because you’re only allowed one personal statement and one reference. Admissions tutors want to see commitment to that specific subject.
The Personal Statement
This is your opportunity to persuade admissions tutors that they should give you a place at your chosen university. Be yourself and explain in an interesting, confident way why you’re suited to that particular course. Tutors receive hundreds and hundreds of applications so make sure yours stands out without being too strange. Everything you write should be made relevant to you wanting to do that particular course.
• Explain why you want to study the specific subject, what suits you in the course, and what your academic areas of interest are. Universities want to see enthusiasm and evidence of wider reading.
• Name any extra-curricular or voluntary activities you take part in.
• Name any awards or achievements.
• Universities aren’t allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, so if, for example, you’re a Stonewall Youth Volunteer don’t be afraid to say so.
• Say what you want to get out of the course, including why you’ve chosen that one over others which cover the same subject. Say how you want to use your degree later on.
• Don’t say things about yourself which could apply to anyone. ‘I enjoy socialising with friends,’ for example, will appear on endless personal statements.
• Ask someone to proof read it several times. Nothing looks worse than spelling or grammatical mistakes, and you can never be sure that one look through will pick up everything.
Keep the application deadline in mind and try to apply as early as possible.
• April – September: Research universities and attend open days. Start to think about your personal statement and ask an appropriate person to be your referee.
• 15 Oct: Deadline for applying to Cambridge or Oxford or for courses in medicine, dentistry or veterinary science/medicine.
• 15 Jan: Deadline for most other applications from the UK or the EU.
• 24 Mar: Extended deadline for some art and design courses.
• 30 Jun: Late applications may still be considered up to this point.
• 26 Feb-7 Jul: UCAS Extra.
• 1 Jul onwards: Applications go into the Clearing procedure.
Once you’ve submitted your application, UCAS will send a letter of confirmation - make sure they haven’t made any mistakes! It will also give you a password for Track, so you can check responses from universities.
Some universities might invite you for an interview. In order to prepare, do some practice interviews if possible, read any information that the university has sent you, and make sure you can talk about anything mentioned on your personal statement. Don’t waffle or give one-word answers, think carefully about what the interviewer is actually asking you, and be yourself! Make a point of waiting a couple of seconds between the interviewer asking you the question and you replying. Not only will this give your brain time to fully absorb the question, but it will help you appear less nervous than if you rush in. Interviewers want you to do well, and they invited you for an interview for a reason, so don’t be intimidated.
Once you’ve received all your responses you’ll need to pick one university as your firm acceptance and one as your insurance (pick an offer with lower grades as your insurance in case you miss your firm offer). You can always decline all your offers and try again with UCAS Extra or Clearing later on.
If you don’t get any offers or want to decline all your offers, you can apply through UCAS Extra which gives you a sixth choice of university. If you’re eligible, UCAS will send you details. You won’t be allowed to submit a new personal statement through UCAS but you can prepare one (as well as asking your referee to write a new reference) to send directly to the university.
If you don’t get any offers (or decline all the ones you do get) you can still make an application through Clearing on results day. Universities will publish information on any vacancies they have, and you can make applications for these places. Official clearing lists are available on UCAS, in the Independent, and on the websites of individual universities. As soon as you identify a vacancy, call the university immediately. Clearing is an intensely competitive process and places fill up quickly so don’t wait around to make the call.
Remember that a university might still be prepared to admit you even if your results were below their offer. Telephone them as soon as you have your results.