Friday, 6 February 2015

Applied for teacher training programmes? You may be able to use Apply 2...

So, to start with what is Apply 2? Well, it’s an opportunity for you to add a new training programme if you’ve been unsuccessful or declined your original choices. It starts on 2 January and runs until 9 October. You can add one additional programme from any that have vacancies.

Where can I find vacancies?
You can check what courses are available in our search tool - the vacancy status will indicate whether there are places. It’s also a good idea to double check with the training providers, just to make sure they’ll consider your application through Apply 2. To do this, just give them a quick call – you’ll find their contact details also in the search tool.

How do I add a choice through Apply 2?
If you’re eligible, you’ll have the ‘Add Apply 2 Choice’ option under your original choices in Track. We’ve got more advice on how to add a choice here.

When will I hear back from the provider?
The providers have 40 working days to make a decision. If you have a change of heart and want to apply elsewhere, you can add a new programme in place of your current one. But be aware, this will cancel your original choice which means they’ll no longer be able to offer you a place.

As soon as you’ve changed your Apply 2 choice, the 40 day reply period will start again, so make sure it’s something you want to wait for. It’s always worth speaking to the training provider first to find out when they’re likely to make a decision and to make sure you’re not losing any valuable time by choosing a different provider!

When do I reply to an offer?
If you receive an offer, you’ll have 10 working days to accept it. The place will be declined automatically if you don’t reply so make sure you keep an eye on Track! If this happens, you’d need to speak to the provider straight away to ask if they can still offer you the place. 

If they can, they’ll ask you to add them as your Apply 2 choice again, then they can make another offer for you to accept.

If you have any questions about Apply 2 then have a look on our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Some Extra advice...

You may have heard your teachers or friends talk about something called Extra. This blog post will answer all your questions about what it is, who it’s for and whether it’s the right choice for you!

What is Extra?

Extra begins on 25 February and is an opportunity for you to apply for another course if you’ve used all five choices and don’t hold any offers. You can add one choice at a time, and if you’re unsuccessful or you decline an offer you receive then you can add another choice up until 2 July.

Is Extra for me?

Extra is available to anyone who has used all five choices and not accepted a place – it could be because they were unsuccessful with all five or they received offers but had a change of heart and decided the courses weren’t right for them. Either way, Extra is another opportunity to find a place on a course.

It’s worth keeping in mind that you can’t change your personal statement or reference on your UCAS application, so if you decide to apply for a completely different course, speak to the uni first to check if they’d like a different personal statement from you. If that’s the case, they’ll ask you to send it straight to them.

Where can I apply?

Not all universities will have places in Extra, so you need to do some research into what’s available in our search tool. If you select the option ‘Show courses in Extra’ from the filter, your search results will show only courses with vacancies.

Once you’ve found a course you like, add it in Track by clicking on the ‘Add an Extra choice’ option on the ‘Your choices’ page.

When will I hear back from the universities?
If you’ve not heard back from the university after 21 days of adding your choice, you can add another one in its place up until 2 July. By doing this however, you’ll cancel the one you originally applied for, so make sure it’s definitely what you want to do! If you want to wait to see if the uni will offer you a place (they have until midnight on 16 July to make a decision) you can do this – it never hurts to ring the uni if you want to check how long you’re likely to wait for their decision!

If you get an offer from the uni, you’ll need to reply by the date shown in Track. If you don’t then your place will be declined automatically – so pay close attention!

Have any further questions about Extra? Have a look at our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Accepting an unconditional offer

You might have heard stories about unconditional offers, and how a friend-of-a-friend’s next-door neighbour’s cousin received one before they got their exam results. In the past this would probably have been an urban myth or at most, not the whole story. However, some universities are now making unconditional offers to exceptional applicants who don’t have their results yet.

Mark Newman, UCAS Adviser, explains what you need to consider if you’re thinking about accepting one of these offers, which remain relatively rare.

Mark Newman, UCAS Adviser
Having an unconditional offer from your favourite university at an early stage of your application can be very reassuring. It means that if you select them as your firm choice, you will definitely be accepted on to the course, regardless of what grades you get in the summer.

But there can be a bit of confusion about accepting unconditional offers, so before you select one as your firm choice, make sure you know the facts.

If you accept an unconditional offer as your firm choice:

1. your exam results won’t affect whether or not you get accepted but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Here’s why:
  • When you apply for work placements and jobs, you will be asked about your qualifications. Often there are requirements from pre-university qualifications.
  • When you start at uni you’ll be straight into assignments, coursework and for many courses, exams. The qualifications you’re studying for at the moment are essential preparation for this and are the foundations of your future studies.
  • Your new course mates at uni are likely to have completed relevant qualifications before they’ve started the course, so you’d have to play catch-up from the moment you arrive if you chose not to finish your A levels or equivalent. That’s not easy when you already have so many new things to learn. 
  • Sometimes things don’t go to plan. If you arrive at your chosen uni and decide it’s not right for you, you may choose to reapply for other unis or look for jobs instead. Leaving gaps where your education is concerned could have a negative impact.
2. you cannot have an insurance choice. Because ‘unconditional’ means you’ll definitely get a place on the course, you don’t need the option of another choice. If instead you accept a conditional offer as your firm choice then it’s OK to accept an unconditional offer as your insurance choice. That said, a university may stipulate that their offer is only unconditional if you make them your firm choice, so be sure to check any terms attached to their offer before you reply.

3. you can’t just go into Clearing to accept a different university if you decide on results day that you no longer want the place. By accepting the offer you’re entering into a commitment with the university, so it’s really important to make sure you pick your favourite choice to be your firm choice. If your insurance choice is unconditional, you also need to be prepared to be accepted by that university if you are unsuccessful with your conditional firm choice.

If you need help deciding which offer to accept as your firm choice, speak to your tutors and careers advisers. Family and friends can also offer alternative perspectives you might not have considered, and reading blogs from current students already at your university choices can provide a valuable insight into what it’s like to be part of their student community.      

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Get a taste of university life with free courses from FutureLearn

Kathryn Skelton is Head of Strategy and Insight at Here, she explains how courses on FutureLearn can help you choose the right degree and get ready for university.

When you’re at school, it can be tough to get your head around what university will be like as well as understanding the wealth of different degrees available and the careers they could lead to. Taking a course with FutureLearn - a website that offers short, free online courses from top UK and international universities - can help with both these problems.

You’ve done your UCAS application. Now what?
If you’ve already completed your UCAS application, there are three things you could do next: 

1. Get ready for interviews
“Why do you want to study with us?” That’s just one of the questions you’re likely to be asked at a university interview, and you’d be surprised at how many people it will trip up. Being prepared and understanding what universities are looking for in their applicants will help you to make a great impression. The University of Sheffield’s How to Succeed at: Interviews has all the advice you’ll need.

2. Learn to think critically
Critical thinking is an essential skill and one you’ll have to demonstrate when you start your course. In a nutshell, it means creating an argument by weighing up and using the data and information available to you. The University of East Anglia’s Preparing for Uni course will help you develop key skills like this one. 

3. Improve your English
If you’re coming to study in the UK from overseas, you’ll need to learn to write using academic English. There are some features to this style of writing that you might not have used before, in particular the stages of writing an essay. You can master the basics in A Beginner's Guide to Writing in English for University Study from the University of Reading.

Not sure what you want to do?
If you’re still choosing which degree to do, our courses can offer a taste of what studying and working in a field will be like – beyond the traditional subjects you’ll have experienced at school.

For example, you could find out what working in filmmaking, nursing, forensic science or overseas aid is like; explore areas such as mobile app development or cultural studies; or understand complex maths required for careers in engineering and science.

Talk about courses in your interview or application
Because our courses are developed by universities, you’ll get a real sense of what university-level study is like, and find out answers to questions such as: what materials will I be using at university, and what sort of work will I be doing?

Many of our university partners say that completing a course is evidence that applicants are interested in the subject and can learn successfully on their own. So, once you complete a FutureLearn course, use it to demonstrate your commitment and skills when you come to write your UCAS personal statement or attend an interview. 

To see all of the courses we have coming up, visit Or to find out how other sixth formers are using FutureLearn, read about the students of Buller’s Wood School.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Behind the scenes of Uni Leap

In 2014 we launched our first ever mobile game, Uni Leap (if you haven’t already played it you can download it for free for Android devices here and iOS here). The object is to jump your way through the levels to reach the end goal – university. But there are plenty of hazards to avoid along the way.

Lots of development and illustration work took place behind the scenes to get Uni Leap off the ground, and with thousands of new mobile apps and games being launched every day, there’s an incredible amount of this work going on! This got us thinking about the different careers in the world of mobile apps, so we caught up with Rory and Keiron from Koko, the agency that developed Uni Leap, to find out how they came to work on projects like ours.

Rory, Multimedia Developer

1. What is your job title and what does it involve?
I’m a multimedia developer – that means I get involved in the development of projects of all kinds from websites to mobile apps and games. I code in languages such as AS3, JavaScript and HTML5 and I am constantly expanding my knowledge of these languages. 

2. How did you get to where you are now? 
Before I finished school I had a part-time job at Koko, albeit my main role was making brews! But from there I was always interested in what was going on in the studio and I started to try and make websites and games in my own time. Since then I’ve proved myself a worthy programmer and have worked on some cool projects for big brands and KoKo has helped me build my skill set. 

3. When did you become interested in games development?
I had always been interested in playing games, but never really considered that I could be making them! Once I started testing the games at KoKo I started to get really interested in understanding how they were developed and wanted to have a try myself.

4. What’s the best part of your job?
That feeling of satisfaction when I fix a bug that I’ve spent hours (sometimes days) trying to find. Also knowing that something I helped create will be played by lots of people from around the world.

5. What advice do you have for anyone who’s interested in game development?
You should keep a close eye on the industry and the technologies you are using, everything is constantly progressing and it doesn’t take long to fall behind! I never switch off and am constantly thinking of innovative ideas that could be brought into the games I develop.

6. What’s your highest score on Uni Leap?
I don’t know my exact score but I know I spent a long time testing it whilst developing it and I’ve completed all 30 levels!

Keiron, Games Artist

1. What is your job title and what does it involve?
I’m a games artist and that basically involves anything to do with character designs and animations, in-game artwork, and concept art for the games.

2. How did you get to where you are now? 
I studied animation at university. During the final year, the directors at Koko were looking for animators to join them since the company was still rather new at the time. They’d seen my work and took interest, and once I had graduated I had a job waiting for me. I’ve now been with them for seven years and I’ve developed my skills considerably.

As for qualifications, I have a BA Honours degree in Animation – but for art-based jobs there’s a lot of emphasis on your portfolio and having good quality work that you can show to potential employers.

3. When did you become interested in games design?
I’d say from around sixth form, though it was more of a general interest in animation as a whole. I’d always enjoyed animation and how it’s made, but it was around that time that I started to seriously consider a career in it. 

The games development and design industry had also been of interest to me. Games need animators and artists, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to consider that as an option. 

4. What’s the best part of your job?
Getting to see the final product come together, and getting the validation that all the effort that went into it is paying off visually.

5. What advice do you have for anyone who’s interested in game design?
Take an interest in what’s going on in the industry and keep an eye out for cool concept art and animation. Also anything from games, TV shows, cartoons and anime, and various internet artists might trigger an idea or help solve a visual or animation problem you’re having, so keep a wide range of interests to take in a lot of good ideas.

6. What’s your highest score on Uni Leap? 
Honestly? I’m terrible at it! I don’t have any scores to hand, but I’m sure they weren’t that high, ha-ha!