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UCAS deadline: The Dos and Don’ts

With the UCAS deadline for 2020 courses just a week away (Wednesday 15th January), we've got some last-minute application tips.

Choosing the right university is a big deal, so it’s natural to worry about your UCAS application – especially as the 15th January deadline looms. Does your personal statement reflect who you really are? Have you chosen the right course? The right university? Here's what to bear in mind as you put the finishing touches to your application.

1. DO: Play to your strengths when choosing a course

With so many courses to choose from, narrowing down your choices can seem overwhelming. If you have a dream job in mind, think about what course(s) will help you get there. If you don’t know just yet exactly what direction you want your career to take you (which is fine, btw), think about what subjects you are good at. You’ll be deep diving into your chosen subject for the next three years, at least, so make sure it’s something that can hold your attention. 

2. DON'T: Forget to consider life outside the lecture theatre

University rankings are a good starting point for narrowing down your choices, but also think about what student life is like at your chosen university. Do your research and get under the skin of the universities you’ve applied for. You need to know that, outside the lecture theatre, you will be happy living there for the next three or four years.

3. DO: Think about your future

What and where you study is only part of the puzzle. What work experience is offered as part of your degree? What companies offer placements to students on your course? A university’s employability rates are a good way of researching where your degree can take you.

4. DON'T: Leave it up to the wire to submit your application



We know there is a lot to consider before you press submit on your UCAS application, but bear in mind that the deadline is 6pm on Wednesday 15th January. Resist the urge to leave it to the last minute as patchy Wi-Fi, lost passwords and last-minute technical glitches can conspire against you, leaving you pulling your hair out at 5.55pm!

Make sure you leave enough time to spell-check your application and double-check that everything – including a completed reference and personal statement – are in order.

Keep your UCAS passwords and email logins safe – you don’t want to get locked out on the crucial deadline day. You’ll also need the UCAS codes and numbers for the universities that you are applying.

Visit UCAS 

5. DO: Get a glowing reference

Perhaps more important that the dreaded Personal Statement is a reference. If you are still in school or college, this should be from a tutor, teacher or principle; if you are coming back to uni from work, then an employer or supervisor can act as a referee. Friends and family members are not permitted to act as referees.

The reference should include any relevant work experience, your career goals, predicted grades (if your referee is your teacher) and any circumstances that might affect your academic work, for example, personal problem, illness or any individual needs you have.

6. DON'T: Overthink your personal statement

With 4,000 characters to fill, the Personal Statement section of a UCAS application can be a major stumbling block for a lot of students. It’s tempting to overthink your Personal Statement and get a serious case of writer’s block as you try to craft the perfect passage of prose.

Stop searching the internet for the ‘ideal’ Personal Statement format (and definitely don’t use someone else’s words) and go back to basics. All your Personal Statement needs to do is tell the university you are applying to why their course is a good fit for you.

Try not to get side-tracked writing down all your extra-curricular activities: it’s great that you can play 'London’s Burning' on the recorder, but not that relevant to a Finance degree. Apply the ‘so what?’ principle to everything you write in your Personal Statement: if it doesn’t say something about what makes you a strong university candidate, delete it. A good starting point is to jot down everything you want to say, regardless of word count, then edit it afterwards. Pay attention to spelling and grammar and make sure you break up the text with paragraphs to make it readable. It’s a good idea to get someone else to proof-read it too.

More top tips from UCAS

7. DO: Think about funding

UCAS charge an application fee (£20 for a single choice or £25 for multiple courses), which can either be paid by you when you apply or your school or college may supply UCAS with a lump sum and ask for your payment. However, this is not the only cash you need to factor into your budget when it comes to applying for university.

You need to think about how you’ll pay your course fees and how you’ll fund your student life in the future. You might want to consider a student loan and research any scholarships that you might be eligible for. 

8. DON'T: Panic if you don't hear back immediately

Once you have submitted your application, your details will be sent to all your chosen universities. Their admissions department will consider your application and check if you fit the entry criteria for your chosen course(s), then UCAS will let you know in due course via UCAS Track when they have made a decision.

The absolute deadline for universities to get back to you with a decision is 5th May, though UCAS encourage universities to make all their decisions by 31 March 2020. Keep an eye on your UCAS Track as your deadline for making your decision will depend on when you get your decisions back from your selected universities.

After that, it’s time for you to make your big decision on your firm choice. Use the time to do more research on your chosen universities so that you’ve got all the information you need to make your firm choice. 

UCAS key dates

Staff Writer