Don’t panic! How to plan your UCAS application

14 October, 2020

It is never too early to start planning your UCAS application.

Let’s face it, university is a tough choice and with so many options of course and university to choose from, the process can be a little daunting. If you need UCAS application help, you have come to the right place.

Each year in May, UCAS announces the courses available at universities nationwide. You can start working on your application from then and submit applications from September. This allows for plenty of time to plan your UCAS application beforehand.

  1. What research to do beforehand
  2. How to choose courses
  3. What university admission teams want in a UCAS application
  4. Your next steps
  5. How to finish your application
  6. Deadline for UCAS applications


What research to do beforehand

Before your application, we advise you do your research. The first step is to think about what type of course you might enjoy and where you would like to study, as well as finding out your predicted grades.

With a few options in mind, you can begin to search for courses and providers on the UCAS website. Here, you can filter options using the left-hand sidebar and confirm entry requirements on each course via the UCAS course search.

Do be aware, the UCAS Tariff was amended in 2017, so many universities may have new entry requirements. Be sure to check these UCAS tariff points against your predicted grades before applying and be realistic about your choices. You can work out how many UCAS points your qualifications are worth using the UCAS tariff points calculator.

You may also want to check the league tables for your chosen subject and university; these are published each year online and/or in print by The Times, The Guardian and The Complete University Guide, to name a few.

After this research, you should have a few universities in mind. If so, it is time to start signing up and attending open days. Once there, you can get a feel for university life, learn more about your course and explore the local area. After all, you will be living and studying here for three to four years!


How to choose courses

Regarding your course options, be sure to look at the various modules in detail and ensure that you are happy with the content within. You may also want to check that your course is properly accredited by the correct governing body (if they have one).

Once you’ve made up your mind (or have almost done so), it is time to get working on application. In college, there will be a lot of support with this. Be it with your own personal tutor or with the advice you receive from UCAS Takeover Week which we hold every year in the autumn term.


What university admission teams want in a UCAS application

Be wary that university admission teams will look at the following when reviewing your UCAS application:

  • Your qualifications and predicted grades
  • The quality of your personal statement – is it passionate and enthusiastic?
  • Your skills and experience – do you have what it takes to thrive in your chosen subject area?
  • Your knowledge and commitment to your chosen subject
  • Your attitude to learning and your personal development
  • Your ability to articulate yourself within your writing and application
  • The quality of your reference
  • Your next steps

You will need to register at UCAS Apply with a unique college buzzword. Once logged in with the provided username, you can fill in some personal details and begin the application process. Be sure to note down your Personal ID somewhere safe!

Your UCAS application will consist of seven sections listed on the left-hand side of the screen. These include: personal details, additional information, course choices, education so far, employment details, personal statement and your reference.

The personal details section often proves the most straightforward. Here, you will fill in name, postal address, contact information and note down any financial support you may need at university.

For those living in the UK, under the additional information section, you can note down further background information including ethnicity, national identify and occupation. There are also optional questions regarding religion, sexual orientation and whether you identify as transgender. You may also input extra-curricular activities and personal circumstances within this section.

Next, course choices. In this section you can choose up to five university courses. This is filtered easily with clickable links to ensure you select the right university and course. If you apply to different universities, they will not be able to see your other choices.

For those applying to either University of Oxford or University of Cambridge (you can only apply to one), your application will need to be in by 15 October. This deadline also applies to dentistry, medicine, veterinary medicine or veterinary science. With these courses, you may only apply for a maximum of four courses in any one of these subjects.


How to finish your application

In the Education so far section, you will list all your schools and qualifications to date, including current qualifications, those that were ungraded and your predicted grades (ensure your referee adds these). Once you get all your qualifications, you will have to forward copies of these to your chosen university.

Employment details will enquire about any jobs you may have had, be it full or part-time roles. When it comes to work experience, be sure to mention this in your personal statement, not here.

Your written personal statement will be paired with your tutor’s reference (you will be lucky to get a glimpse of this and other teachers may contribute), alongside your predicted grades.

Your personal statement is a fantastic opportunity to showcase yourself. Here, you can explain your suitability to your chosen course and highlight why you would be a great student. Before submitting your personal statement, be sure to get it checked over by your tutor, friends and family.

As you go through each section, they will be marked as not started, in progress or complete. All sections need to be completed (and checked over) before submitting your application. Be sure to read and tick the View all details section, sign the declaration and then pay the application fee.


Deadline for UCAS applications

Applications can be submitted online from 5 September and the UCAS undergraduate deadline for most courses is 15 January. This excludes Oxford, Cambridge and dentistry, medicine, veterinary medicine or veterinary science as detailed above, which is the 15 October. Please note, art and design courses may have alternative submission dates, so do clarify this with your tutors and UCAS.

The UCAS application fee for 2021 entry is £20 for a single choice, or £26 for more than one choice.

Remember, drafting up a UCAS application plan will make the process a lot smoother and less stressful. Especially when combined with your studies over the year. Preparation is key here.

Once your application is submitted, keep an eye on UCAS Track for updates from your chosen universities and best of luck with your potential offers interviews and future studies – you can do it!

However, if things do not go quite to plan, or go better than planned, UCAS Extra, UCAS Clearing and UCAS Adjustment is on hand to secure you the best place for you. We also have Activate Learning careers advisers available to speak to at college for further advice.