Monday, 18 May 2015

Take the Spotlight – the winners are…

Our first ever ‘Take the Spotlight’ competition, exclusively for UCAS Conservatoire students, came to a close back in March. We’re really pleased to share the winning entries with you.

To enter, students could either send us a 3,500 character essay or a short video. Amongst other things, they were asked to think about:

who/what inspired them to pursue a music/dance/drama-related course
why they chose to study at a conservatoire over university or HE college
the benefits of studying at a conservatoire

The top prize was £2,500 and a runner up from each category won themselves £1,000.

We received so many truly inspiring entries and… drumroll please, here are the winners…

Winning video entry:
Doug Price from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland raps about life at a conservatoire in his fantastic video, sharing his insight in a really unique way.

Winning essay entry:
Sally Horton from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, writes passionately about how she’s developed both musically and personally at a conservatoire, and what you can learn about yourself as a performer. Read her winning essay here.

The runners up

Alexander Astbury from Birmingham Conservatoire was a runner up with his video, in which he shares more of the performance side of studying at a conservatoire.

Emma Torrens from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was a runner up in the essay category. In her entry she argues the case for changing the meaning of a conservatoire to reveal the truly inspiring and creative nature of this type of study. You can read her essay here.

Feeling inspired to study at a conservatoire? Check out our website for more information on the courses on offer and how to apply. If you’ve got any questions about how to apply then put them to our advisers on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Thinking about apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships offer the chance to earn while you learn and get a qualification at the same time. You’ll also gain valuable work experience, which can help when you come to apply for jobs in the future.

There are over 100,000 employers offering apprenticeships in the UK, and so far this academic year we’ve received over more than 8,500 apprenticeship applications through UCAS Progress - and this figure is increasing every year!

So what does it mean to be an apprentice? Get the inside view from Lucy Ackland from Renishaw, as she shares her journey from GCSEs to award winning engineer.

Lucy Ackland from Renishaw
“When I was 13 I decided I wanted to be an engineer because I enjoyed maths and science, and I liked building and fixing things. I was determined to get good GCSE grades and my school had already pinned their hopes on me continuing on to 6th form, then studying at University.

On the run up to my GCSEs, I started to get itchy feet. I knew what I wanted to do and I just wanted to get started. I looked around at local colleges and sixth form centres to find courses that were more engineering focused than anything my school was offering. I came across an advert in the local newspaper for apprenticeships at Renishaw. Not knowing much about apprenticeships, I started to do some research and it all made sense; learning whilst on the job, gaining real qualifications, earning money and all college fees paid. I sent in my application and successfully made it through the test and interview phases. I completed my GCSEs, achieved the grades I was predicted and started at Renishaw in the summer of 2004.

I have loved every stage of my career since then. I succeeded in every job placement around the company and passed all of my college courses. I continued my studies and in 2012 I achieved a first class honours degree in mechanical and manufacturing engineering.

For the last year I have been leading a team developing the next generation of metal 3D printer. This technology is fantastic and the industry is growing; it’s fast paced, exciting and competitive and I am really, really proud to say that I have been a part of it.

Another big part of my passion is providing experiences and information to young people in the area, to allow them to make some choices about their careers and their futures. I became a STEM ambassador, a Young Engineers volunteer, running after school engineering clubs and giving talks about my experiences. I have continued to participate in these kinds of activities throughout my career. In early 2014 I was asked to be a director and trustee of the charity Young Engineers, and in summer 2014 I was nominated for the Institute of Engineering & Technology’s Young Women Engineer of the year awards. At an awards ceremony in London in December I was announced as the winner of the Women’s Engineering Society prize for all of my work in 3D printing and also my continued support of STEM engagement with young people.”
Has Lucy inspired you to consider an apprenticeship? Check out our website for all the facts you need to get started, then search for apprenticeship opportunities using our search tool.

You can also speak to our advisers on the UCAS Progress Facebook and Twitter pages if you have any questions about how to apply. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Four key things you need to know about student finance

1. First off, we need to make it clear that we are not student finance! We don’t arrange funding, but we can point you in the right direction and help you to understand the process. 

2. There are two types of loans:
  • A Tuition Fee Loan – this covers the cost of course fees. Your university or college will charge the tuition fee and your loan is paid directly to them. The amount unis charge varies – it can be up to £9,000 per year for a full-time course. Use our search tool to find courses and then use the ‘Fees and finance’ tab to check out how much they cost.
  • A Maintenance Loan – this helps cover living costs while you’re studying. How much you’ll get depends on your household income, where you’ll be studying, where you currently live and how long you’ve lived there for.
3. You can apply for your Maintenance Loan and Tuition Fee Loan at the same time, through your regional funding agency (not UCAS). How much you’ll get will vary depending on where you live. Check out the image below to find your regional funding organisation.

4. You’ll repay your loans once you’ve left university or college, and are earning over the income threshold. The amount you’ll pay back each month will depend on how much you’re earning. 

For more information, take a look at the student finance advice on our website and watch our video to get to grips with the basics.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

FutureLearn Choices

Looking to bridge the gap between school and higher education? FutureLearn Choices provides a collection of free online courses designed to do just that – available to anyone around the world. These are delivered one step at a time and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop to fit around your life.

Want to know more? Neil Harvey, Head of Marketing for FutureLearn, has taken some time to share more information about how some of these courses can help you choose the right degree and get ready for university.

What are FutureLearn Choices?
Making your uni and subject choices can be one of the most important decisions you make. To help you with these decisions, we’ve put together a collection of free online courses designed to help with the transition between school and uni.

The courses are provided by top UK unis and can be taken anywhere, anytime on mobile, tablet or PC. They will run for three to eight weeks during June and July to help you make the most of post-exam term time and the start of your summer. You’ll then be prepared for the important decisions you’ll need to make in the new academic year.

Why would I need to take a course? 
Because it’s hard to know what university study will be like and to understand the wealth of different degree subjects available, many of which you won’t have experienced at school – the courses cover a broad range of areas.

Prepare for uni – get an insight into the skills you’ll need to study and work, like:

preparing for uni or developing a research project
numeracy skills required for many subjects
advanced maths that’s needed for science and engineering courses, like calculus or mechanics

Try out new subjects – get a taste of what studying will be like in:

computer science

Or find out what dentists, doctors, historians or environmental scientists really do all day.

How will the courses help with my UCAS application?
Many of our uni partners say that completing a FutureLearn course is evidence that students are interested in the subject and can learn successfully on their own. So, if you take a course through FutureLearn Choices, you can use it to show your enthusiasm for a subject in your personal statement. We also have two courses that will help you with your UCAS application and ace the interview process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts with tips on how to get the most out of FutureLearn Choices – when you’re making decisions about uni, writing applications and attending interviews.

To view all of the FutureLearn Choices courses visit its website.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Advice for parents…

Applying to university can cause a fair amount of anxiety, but not just for your son or daughter – we know that as parents you want to do whatever you can to help them through this important stage of their lives. For some, the process can seem quite unfamiliar – but rest assured we’ve created useful resources especially for you, to help you give the best advice and support.

Monthly newsletters

Every month we send an email newsletter with timely information about what’ll be happening with your son or daughter’s application. These newsletters have valuable reminders of what your son or daughter needs to do throughout the year. Make sure you’re kept in the loop and sign up now.

Video guide for parents

Learn about the application process from start to finish with our video guide for parents. It explains how your son or daughter can search for courses, apply, and track their progress. It also gives advice on how you can help them along the way.


The UCAS website

There’s a whole section on our website dedicated to parents and guardians. It covers everything, from helping your son or daughter decide what they want to study, to the financial support available.

Parent guide

Download our PDF guide (it’s also available in Welsh) to help you navigate through the UCAS process. It has a glossary of all the terminology you’ll see on our website and also offers advice on preparing for results day and starting university.

Parent information tool

This interactive tool offers advice, hints and tips to guide you through the entire application process. It covers everything from starting the application, to confirming a place, as well as valuable information about other aspects of university life, like accommodation and student finance.

Parent bloggers

We have two parent bloggers who have been sharing their experiences as their daughters begin university. Have a read of Martin’s and Julie’s blog posts to get an inside view of what to expect from your own journey. Julie has offered some great advice on how to keep in touch with your son or daughter at university and Martin reflects on the benefits of a year out.

Social media channels
Finally, we regularly post useful advice and updates on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus pages, so get following!

If you have any further questions or concerns about your son or daughter’s application you can ask our social media team on these channels, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.