Friday, 19 December 2014

Why you can afford to be braver in accepting university offers

Mary Curnock Cook,
UCAS' Chief Executive
Our End of Cycle Report spells out how applicants with even quite modest grades have a high chance
of getting offers from universities and colleges. And as the 2015 UCAS cycle gets underway, students will already be receiving offers and starting to think about which ones to accept.

Our report also highlights that applicants can make better use of their insurance choice.

Admissions officers understand what predicted grades mean

Many teachers use predicted grades to indicate what they think is the true potential of a student, rather than trying to predict what the outcome is most likely to be – and admissions officers realise this. This means that applicants might feel that an offer at, or even above, their predicted grades is a bit of stretch – and this is where the insurance choice comes in.

If you receive an offer you know you are unlikely to meet, you can still accept it as your firm choice, using the insurance choice as your ‘safe’ back-up. In the summer, even if you drop a grade against your ambitious firm choice offer, you might still be confirmed there. If not, your insurance offer kicks in and you are home and dry.

If you fail to make even your insurance conditions, there is still Clearing. Recent years have shown that there are usually plenty of courses with vacancies at all levels, including at the higher Tariff universities.

Applying for courses which have indicative requirements above your predicted grades

With five choices to play with, it is also relatively low risk to apply for a course or two which state grade requirements above your predictions. This might be a good option if you feel your school is under-estimating how determined you are to up your performance between now and the summer.   Make sure your personal statement is strong on your commitment though!

Make sure your insurance choice excites you

Using the insurance choice properly does mean that you need to do your research thoroughly, visit at least two universities, and be confident and excited about studying there.

It might even help to think of the insurance choice as your intended destination, with the tantalising and motivating possibility that your more ambitious ‘firm’ choice might turn up trumps in the final straight.

Don’t forget that accepting you at your insurance choice if you meet the conditions is not optional for universities.  If you have missed being confirmed at your firm choice, your insurance choice is contractually obliged to accept you if you have met those grades.

Our End of Cycle Report provides the evidence that students can afford to be bolder in their ambitions.  The insurance choice takes the risk out of dreaming about a university place with an offer that might seem a bit scary at this point, but which might be a real possibility as you work towards your exams and gain confidence in the lead up to the summer.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Meet our bloggers!

We have nine bloggers who’ve volunteered to share their different experiences with you throughout the year. Amongst them are people applying to uni, first year students and parents. Read a little more about them below…….

Anna Whittaker
Anna would like to study journalism and will be blogging about applying to uni. She hasn't had to wait long to hear back from her uni choices and has already attended an interview at one of them. While at the interview, she began to see herself at that university, so give her blog a read and check how she’s getting on. 

Scott Taylor
Scott’s a first year broadcast journalism student who’ll be blogging about his journey through university life. He writes about the importance of getting involved with freshers’ week and studying a subject you’re passionate about. He’ll also reflect on applying to university last year and offering handy tips for anyone with nerves about applying this year. 

Nicola Maclean
Nicola is a year 13 student applying to study English literature and she’s been lucky enough to receive offers fairly quickly after sending in her application. She’ll be blogging about her application and how she and her friends are dealing with the excitement of receiving university decisions.

Julie Ricketts
Julie is the parent of a first year student, and she’ll be blogging about the mixture of emotions any parent will go through when seeing their child go to university. She’ll also be sharing any helpful tips she comes across to other parents in a similar position. 

Martin Taylor
Martin will share the experience of having his youngest daughter make the transition from teenager to ‘responsible adult’ while at university. His daughter took a gap year before starting university and, among other things, he’ll be blogging about why he feels this has served her well in the long-run.

Henriette Stoll
Henriette is a first year student from Germany who is studying PR and advertising. She’ll be sharing the cultural differences between being a student in Germany and moving to England, as well as her experiences of meeting new people, being away from her family and adapting to the language. Check out how she’s dealing with life in London in her blog

Lauren Vipond
Lauren is a first year student studying physiotherapy at Keele University. She’ll be updating her fresher’s diary to share her journey through fresher-dom, joining societies and juggling her busy social life with her course. She’ll be looking back on her UCAS application from last year and also updating her blog with the various things she’s experienced so far while at uni. 

Megan Fitzsimons
Megan will be blogging as a first year student, sharing her hectic experience of life as a fresher, including the infamous ‘freshers’ flu’ and adapting quickly to her housemates. She’ll also touch on the amount of people you meet in a short time and how to keep yourself busy away from lectures.

Lily Fisher
Lily is applying to start university. She’ll be sharing her journey and offering helpful advice to anyone else going through the same process in her blog.

Enjoy the blogs, they’ll give you a better insight into applying to uni and student life from different perspectives. Feel free to leave them a comment on their blog posts if you have any questions for them. 

This month we have the first Blogger of the Month competition, you can vote for your favourite here.

If you have any questions about your application send us a message on Facebook or Twitter. Did you know we have a game? Download Uni Leap for iOS or Android now. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

How to prepare for interviews, auditions and tests

Depending on the kind of courses you apply for, your chosen unis and colleges may invite you for an interview or audition – in fact they’re compulsory for some courses, such as teaching and nursing.

They’re a way for both students and course tutors to find out if they’re mutually suitable. If invited, your chosen uni will make sure you have all the details so you know where to go and when. The interviewers may want to see work examples – such as an essay or piece of coursework – but they’ll let you know this in advance.

Here are some quick tips from us:

  1. Plan ahead – check where you’ve got to go, when you’ve got to be there and try to sleep well the night before so you’re in the best possible position on the day.
  2. Make a good first impression – show up on time, dress appropriately, remember your manners and be in control of your body language. Interviewers see hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students so make sure you stand out for all the right reasons.
  3. Try your best to relax – although interviews are a daunting experience, try to enjoy it once you’re there. If the unexpected happens and they ask a question you’re not prepared for, don’t panic – ask your interviewer to rephrase or repeat the question and give it your best shot. They won’t be trying to catch you out.
  4. Read your personal statement – your interviewer will have your application fresh in their mind, so make sure you can remember what you wrote and be prepared to talk about it.
  5. Shout about your achievements – well don’t literally shout, but be prepared to talk passionately about things you’ve done which you’re proud of – for example coursework, charity work or a social event you might have organised. If it demonstrates key skills that are linked to your chosen course, mention it.
  6. Ask questions – you need to convince your interviewer that you’ve got a real passion for your subject, so come prepared with questions to show that you’ve really thought about studying the subject at your chosen uni.
  7. Reflect on it afterwards – when you come out of the interview room, allow time to make notes on how it went. If you’ve got more than one interview, this will give you something to work on for the next one.
For more interview tips, take a look at our how to prepare for interviews video guide.
Instead of an interview you may be asked to submit a portfolio or take an admissions test. In this case, the university will let you know what you need to do and when by. If for any reason you can’t meet their requirements you must let them know as early as possible.

Friday, 28 November 2014

How to avoid deadline drama....

The 15 January deadline isn't too far away so we’d like to share some tips with you to make sure you don’t miss it! The deadline for most courses is 18:00 UK time on 15 January, but if you’re not sure you can check the details for your courses in our search tool. Your entire application, including a reference, must be sent to us by this time to be classified as on time.

To apply on time and be in with the best chance of being accepted follow these five steps.

1. Know your login details for Apply

First of all, we’ll start with the basics. Make sure you know your login details. If you can’t log into Apply then try and resolve the issue online. If you’re still having problems you’ll need to give us a call so we can reset your password.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your personal statement

You don’t want to be rushing your personal statement at the last minute and risk missing out vital information. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to draft a version offline, ready to put in your application. If you’re struggling for ideas of what to include then this blog post has lots of advice to help you along the way. We also have some top tips from Jane Marshall, who reads personal statements for a university.

3. Make sure the reference is complete

When someone misses the deadline it’s often to do with confusion about the reference section. Your referee must complete a reference before your application can be sent. You can check the status by logging in and checking the message on the home screen.

i) If you’re applying through your school or college:

After you've sent your application to your school or college, you should see a message on the ‘Welcome page.’ It’ll either say your application has been sent or that we are waiting for your centre to finish your reference or send your application.

If your centre hasn't completed a reference or sent your application then it’s best to check with them that they’ll be able to complete this for you before the deadline.

ii) If you’re applying independently:

Does the reference section have a red tick against it? If so then it’s been completed by your referee and you’ll be able to send us your application once you've completed all the other sections. If the reference box has three green dots then it means it’s still incomplete. Speak to your referee to make sure they’re happy to provide you with a reference before the deadline.

4. You’ll need to pay before you can send your application

When you come to make your payment, wait for the transaction to go through. As soon as it’s been processed the ‘Pay/Send’ section will be marked with a red tick.

It’s worth leaving plenty of time to make a payment in case you encounter any problems. If you’re applying through a centre then your school or college won’t be able to process your application until you've made a payment so try not to leave it until the last day!

If you’re applying independently then the payment will be the last thing you need to do.

5. Be prepared, your school or college may send your application back to you

Sometimes your centre may return your application if they feel you've entered any information incorrectly or missed off important details. You’ll receive an email when this happens but to be sure you can check this when you log in.

Once you've made the necessary changes you need to go through the ‘Pay/Send’ option. If you've made a payment already then you won’t be asked to do this again, you’ll only need to send your application back to your centre.

Once we've received your application you’ll get an email within 48 hours to confirm your application has been processed. Add as a contact in your address book to make sure the email doesn't fall into any junk folders.

And finally…… Good luck with your application!

If you have any questions about your application send us a message on Facebook or Twitter. If you've already applied and have some spare time on your hands, download our game Uni Leap for iOS or Android while you’re waiting for the universities’ decisions!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Teacher Training: three things you need to know.....

Recently we asked all those who started graduate teacher training programmes in 2013 what advice they had for anyone thinking about taking up a career in teaching. Here’s some of the advice and tips they shared:

1. Research the different types of programmes

The most frequent response we received really hammered home the need to do research into what kinds of teaching programmes would be suitable for you.

If you’re unsure about the different teacher training routes, try our interactive quiz to get a better idea of the opportunities on offer.

When you think you know what kind of programme you’re interested in, find where to study it in our search tool.

2. Be organised

Get as much information about the training programme as possible by speaking to admissions tutors and careers advisers, and take advantage of any open days and events that are going on.

Make sure you know what the entry requirements are for the programme you’re applying for – some providers require you to pass a professional skills test before you apply so be sure to check this first.

Training providers usually conduct interviews before offering places, so be aware that you may need to attend one shortly after applying.

3. “It’s hard work but a rewarding experience”

One of the most frequent responses we had was that teacher training is hard work but ultimately a very rewarding experience. Although the application process and training may appear daunting to some, a high percentage of the responses we received highlighted just how rewarding they found the experience.

“It is the most challenging, rewarding, unpredictable job in the world. There is nothing I'd rather be doing.”

“It's the most rewarding job out there and you really can make a difference!”

Everything you need to know about applying for teacher training programmes is on our website at You can also download our free UCAS Teacher Training pack now.

If you have any questions then send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and we'll get right back to you!