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Going Through UCAS This Year?

Posted by dirty from Cardiff - Published on 17/09/2012 at 18:31
0 comments » - Tagged as Education

  • Silly Q?

UCAS can be a hugely daunting process. There are many things to do, so much to sort out, and so many universities to sift through to find your 'ideal university'. On top of that, there are actual A-Levels to study for, so here are four tips to make the UCAS application a bit easier to navigate at this early stage of the academic year.

1. Do Lots Of Research

Think about what subjects you would like to study, and why. When you've thought of the reasons, write them down in a brief list. This will be very useful for when you put together your personal statement, a short essay that everybody writes to go with their UCAS application. This is a chance to really communicate your personality and achievements, so make the most of it. You can search for courses on the 'search' part of the UCAS website, and it also lists the entry requirements needed and a profile of the university.

You can order university prospectuses to be delivered for your door for free, and don't be afraid of getting as many as possible to compare and contrast. If you're doing a language, some departments have different strengths to others. For example, if you wanted to do Spanish, Bristol has a fantastic Hispanic Studies department. This would provide you with opportunities to take modules on things such as Latin American history and would allow you to have your mandatory year abroad in Latin America as opposed to Spain. However, while Bristol might have the fantastic reputation, it might be too close to home for some of the more adventurous students. The University of Leicester offers fully funded language Summer Schools in France, Germany and Spain that would really allow you to maximise the summer months in language immersion, and has a very high employment rate after graduation with specifically tailored courses. You can apply to up to five universities.

Courses differ like this everywhere. English degrees have different components that will look at different books, or if you're interested in linguistics, it might be worth checking out linguistic departments on The Guardian's Subject Tables. Remember that you can also go and visit the universities on open days and ask professors and lecturers questions that you may have.

2. Look Into Student Finance

Some universities will offer bigger financial incentives for students than others. This is worth looking into, along with finding out your eligibility from student finance. Look into the price of halls and accommodation and start to have a rough budget in mind so you know how much you're looking at for university. Some offer bursaries for students from worse-off backgrounds, too. With the fee rise, going to university is very expensive, but if universities put their fees up to nine thousand pounds, they have to clearly demonstrate that they student support for students from certain low economic backgrounds, so don't be deterred. The earlier you apply for student finance the better, as the loans can be delayed if the application is submitted late.

Look at employment rates after graduation from the universities; what is the likelihood you will get a job within six months of leaving the university compared to another? What is the average salary for someone starting off in a job after studying certain subjects? What are the options after graduation? It's not unusual for an university to boast of "contacts in the industry" and these experiences may prove to be very valuable. For example, if you studied pharmacology, your university might have an agreement with say, GlaxoSmithKline, where you could do a work placement and really get to know the industry and gain contacts for after graduation.

3. Start Your Personal Statement As Early As Possible

This will be written and rewritten. Mine was rewritten seven times before I had it just the way I wanted it.

While Welsh Baccalaureate teachers prove extremely helpful with personal statements, the best thing is to show your subject teachers your early drafts of your statement. If you want to study history, show your statement to your history teacher. They applied through the same system many years ago and know what does and doesn't work with their specialist knowledge of the subject. It may also be worth showing your statement to an English teacher to double check the grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Your personal statement isn't just about why you want to study the subject; you sell yourself as a potential student. It makes you stand out. If you apply for something such as maths, it's certain that other people will be studying the same subjects as you. Include any volunteering work that you may have done, or personal achievements like the Duke of Edinburgh. Show universities what makes you special as an applicant. I spoke about theSprout in my personal statement and I was asked about my volunteering work with theSprout when I went for my interview at Manchester University, who later gave me an unconditional offer. As part of the Welsh Bacc you have to do volunteer work, why not mention the work you did for that?

4. Any Extra Entry Requirements

If you want to study teaching, you have to get a certain amount of work experience in a school. The same goes for medicine and veterinary sciences. Look into these to make sure you have them, or enough time to gain work experience before you submit your application.

These are just a few tips, but I hope to write more on the university application process in the future. I went through the UCAS system last year and I now have a place studying Arabic and Study of Religions at SOAS, a college in the University of London. Is there anything specific that you would like me to write about? What to wear to a university interview, how to prepare for interviews? Ask me whatever you like and I will answer all the questions to the best of my ability.

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