An outstanding UCAS application is the key to being offered a place on the university course of your choice. Here we offer you top tips to help you write your way to success.
- Meet the selection criteria
All universities have selection criteria. These are guidelines that they use to decide whether to offer you a place on your chosen course.
Most of the time, selection criteria can be found on university’s websites. These will tell you what A level and GCSE subjects you need, how many grade points you will need to have, and any other specific skills they look for.
As an example, if you look at the University of Portsmouth’s Biology page you will find ‘Entry requirements’ and ‘What experience you’ll need’ – these are the selection criteria.
2. Get the best grades you can
Exam grades are the most important selection criteria. It is possible that you could be rejected if your GCSE results are not high enough. If you are yet to sit your A Levels then your teachers will supply predicted grades for your UCAS application form. It is fine to ask your teachers what these grades are likely to be so you can apply for the right courses.
If you do not receive the GCSE grades or A Level grades you were hoping for then it is certainly not the end of the world! Read our blog post, Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start.
3. Make sure your referee is behind you
Your referee is the person who will provide your predicted A Level grades and the person who will persuade the university to offer you a place on your chosen course. Make sure you make a positive impression on your referee. If you don’t turn up to classes, you are often late or you miss coursework deadlines, this will colour their opinion of you.
If your referee plans to predict A Level grades that are lower than you had hoped for then it is worth asking them whether they will raise their predictions if you improve your work from now. Remember to be realistic in your expectations though. If you have been mainly achieving a specific grade all year then this is likely to remain their prediction.
4. Write an outstanding UCAS personal statement
An outstanding UCAS application will always have an outstanding personal statement. In your personal statement you need to say why you want to study your chosen subject, what you’ve achieved in your life and who you are.
The university admissions tutor will need to be convinced that you have the commitment and ability to stick with the course and achieve the best results at the end. University admissions tutors know that students who get involved in interests outside the classroom are more likely to join in with university life and be independent-minded. Students like this tend to find living away from home easier and are more likely to stay the course.
Make sure you know the university’s selection criteria (see above) inside out and that you have read the course description. That way you can link your skills, interests and achievements to what the university are looking for.
Begin by emptying your head of all your ideas and listing them on paper. Consider:
- Your reasons for choosing the course, which you could relate to your A Level subjects and career plans.
- Your achievements, interests and experience and how these are relevant to the course.
- Why you are enthusiastic about the course.
- How you have the skills needed to do well in the course, emphasising any skills mentioned in the selection criteria.
Write as much as you can and get others to help you if you get stuck for ideas. If you are applying for more than one subject area you will need to emphasise one subject over the other. Make the point that you are interested in your second choice subject but at the same time strongly gear your UCAS application towards your first choice. It might be possible to emphasise both equally but beware of making your application too vague and general. If you really can’t decide which subject to emphasise then go back and really study the course descriptions, asking yourself why you want to choose each subject.
Always be honest on your personal statement. Your referee will read your personal statement and the university will expect you to discuss it during an interview.
Once you’ve made your notes, write your personal statement to the best of your ability. Remember you are likely to be judged on the quality of your writing too. If your statement isn’t long enough talk to family, friends and teachers who may be able to help you with ideas or remind you about achievements. If your statement is too long, remove anything repetitive, irrelevant or an achievement from long ago. You can also save space by taking out ‘nothing’ words such as ‘particularly’, ‘very’, ‘really’ and so on.
When you have written your personal statement always read it aloud. Reading aloud will help you to hear anything that doesn’t sound right. Ask another trusted person to read your statement too – choose somebody who knows you well and has good writing skills themselves.
Leave your finished personal statement to ‘rest’ for a few days. It’s surprising how new ideas will come to you in this time and how you will suddenly see how you can make it even better!
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