Wednesday, 19 December 2012

5 Essential Things To Know About Your UCAS Application Over Christmas

1. UCAS opening hours over Christmas

Monday 24 December
10:00-16:00 (UK time)
Tuesday 25 December
Closed
Wednesday 26 December
Closed
Thursday 27 December
10:00-16:00
Friday 28 December
10:00-16:00
Saturday 29 December
Closed
Sunday 30 December
Closed
Monday 31 December
10:00-16:00
Tuesday 1 January
Closed

2. Letters will not be sent out by UCAS over the Christmas period

The last day before Christmas that letters will be sent from UCAS will be Thursday 20 December. We'll then resume sending letters on 2 January 2013. Therefore, if you send your application over the Christmas period, the Welcome letter won't be sent out before 2 January.

3. Track will update over Christmas (if updates are made by your uni choices!)

Each year we get asked whether Track will update over the Christmas break. Track will work as usual over this time BUT bear in mind it's only going to update if universities are actually making decisions during this time. As many universities will either be closed or operating with reduced staff over Christmas, it'll mean less decisions get made and as a result Track might be fairly quiet.

4. Schools and colleges will be closed over Christmas

Yep, stating the obvious now but there's good reason to do it! There are some things on your application that only your school can process. These include:

Sending your application to UCAS
Approving your application
Moving you into another tutor's group to write a reference
Returning an application to you for amendments (if it hasn't yet been sent to UCAS)

Therefore, if you need any of these things to be done over Christmas, you'll need to get in touch with your school when they reopen. Also bear in mind, whether you're applying independently or through a school, the reference must be completed before the application can be sent to UCAS.

5. Applications will be processed over Christmas

Any applications sent to UCAS over the Christmas period will be processed as usual, although as mentioned in point 2, a Welcome letter won't be sent until 2 January at the earliest.

Friday, 14 December 2012

15 January deadline: Last minute issues and how to avoid them!


The 15 January deadline is fast approaching. The deadline has probably been seared into your memories by your schools, colleges and advisers so you probably don't need another reminder! Instead I've gathered together the sort of issues that've caused applications to be submitted late in previous years and given some advice on how to prevent them happening to you!

Know your login details for Apply
Make sure you know your login details, as you'll need to log in to Apply to send your application. Use the login reminder service on the Apply page if you're not sure. You can also find guidance on login problems for Apply here

Send it earlier if you can
The deadline is midnight on 15 January (23:59 UK time) but try to send it sooner in case you experience any problems, e.g. internet connection issues, payment problems.

Be prepared for any payment issues
You must pay for your application before it can be sent to UCAS. If you enter invalid payment details five times, you will be locked out from making any more payment attempts - if this happens, you'll need to call us so send your application early just in case. You can get some guidance on payment problems here

If you're applying through a school or college, they'll need time to review your application
Your tutor needs time to complete the reference section and check and approve your application before they send it to UCAS. If they spot any errors, they'll send your application back to you to amend. If this happens, you need to change it and send it back to them, so that they can send it to us. It may not happen, but it's good to allow time for this just in case. Simply sending it to your school or college before the deadline won't count as sending it on time; it has to be received by UCAS.

You need a reference before you can send your application to us
However you request a reference (whether you're applying independently or through a school or college), you still need to have a reference attached to your application before it can be sent to UCAS.

If you're applying independently, allow enough time for your referee to read the instructions, write and attach the reference, and confirm that it has been completed. A red tick will appear next to the 'reference' link in Apply once it's complete. This means you can complete the rest of the application and send it to us.

If you're applying through a school or college, send your application to them early to allow them time to do write the reference and carry out the other checks before the deadline.

If you've agreed with the universities that a reference is not required - check the information on the reference page to see what to do.

Monday, 3 December 2012

8 tips for preparing for your university interview

With interviews becoming an increasingly popular topic of conversation over the next few weeks, we thought it was high time to get a university's perspective on what they're looking for and how best to prepare for the big day. So up stepped the University of Bristol to offer eight valuable tips:

It’s around this time of year that you may have been invited to an interview from one or more of your university choices. Not all courses invite candidates for interviews but they’re often required for popular courses where there are large numbers of high quality applicants and/or where the course requires a high degree of ‘people skills’ for success. The likelihood of an interview being part of the selection process will be reflected in a course’s advice on applying, which will be available on the relevant university’s website.  For example, Bristol’s Undergraduate Admissions Statements are available here

Getting invited to interview is a great achievement in itself – it means that the admissions tutors are impressed with your application and are seriously considering making you an offer. If you have been invited for an interview, or you know that one or more of your course choices uses interviews as part of the selection process, here are some tips on what to expect and how to prepare:
  1. Remember that the interview is not only the university’s opportunity to assess your suitability but also a   chance for you to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Use the interview day as an opportunity to explore the university and surrounding area – can you picture yourself studying and living there?

  2. Interviewers are not there to catch you out or make you nervous – they’ll be genuinely interested in you and your potential to succeed on their course. Research as much as you can about the course content, the department and the university to show the interviewers your interest and commitment. 

  3. Make sure you re-familiarise yourself with your personal statement and prepare for generic questions such as ‘why did you apply to this university?’ and ‘why do you want to study this particular course?’

  4. Interviewers are likely to be seeing several candidates so don’t expect to spend a long time with them. To make a good impression within a limited time, think about the qualities you have to offer that you feel make you stand out from the competition. If you’ve done relevant work experience, read widely around your subject or have won awards or accolades, make sure you use the opportunity to highlight this. 

  5. Practice doing a ‘mock interview’ with a parent, teacher or careers adviser. The interview situation can seem unnatural and pressurised so to practise talking about yourself and presenting in a confident manner can be really useful. 

  6. Wear something that is smart but also practical – rehearse sitting down and walking in your outfit to make sure that it remains presentable and comfortable throughout. 

  7. Read your invitation letter or email carefully to ensure that you know where you need to be and when. You may have been asked to bring a piece of work or other documentation so make sure you have these prepared. Arrive at the interview venue in plenty of time so that you don’t feel rushed. This will give you the opportunity to relax and go over some key points before you start. 

  8. Be yourself and be confident in your potential to succeed in the interview and on your chosen course. 
More guidance about interviews at Bristol is available here where you can download a factsheet about interviews and see a video of a mock Medicine interview.
Good luck!

Sian Hughes, Assistant Publications Officer, University of Bristol

Monday, 19 November 2012

University offers: what are you waiting for?

Getting your university application into UCAS can seem like a bit of a whirlwind. From pretty much the first moment you pass through the doors of your school/college in September, you get constant reminders to crack on with your application, research your choices, draft your personal statement, redraft your personal statement, meet your tutor to discuss the redraft of your personal statement, redraft it again  - the list can seem endless. Then once you've finally had it signed off by your school and they send it on to UCAS... almost a deafening silence. Apart from your UCAS Welcome pack and a trickle of confirmation emails from universities, nothing much happens at all.

This wait for offers can be an anxious one for many. This is heightened when you can see others getting offers when you're not. The process can sometimes be perceived to move at glacial speed and it's hard to see why it's taking so long to either say 'yes' or 'no'.

To help shed some light on how the process works once your application's with a university, why it might take some time to hear back and why others getting offers before you isn't necessarily something to be worried about, our guest blogger Richard Emborg, Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions at Durham University tells us what goes on behind the scenes:
Richard Emborg

The right decision versus the quick decision

Once you’ve submitted your UCAS application you’ll naturally be anxious about when you’ll hear a decision on your choices. For some of your choices you might hear quite soon after you apply. One university prides itself on making decisions on some applications within an hour! You might not hear from others for some weeks or possibly months, depending on the date when you applied.  No university or college will intentionally make you wait for a decision longer than is necessary but all will prioritise making the right decision over a fast decision. The right decision is one where offers go to the strongest applicants who are most suitable for the programme of study from amongst those who apply by the application deadline.

Although there are no guarantees over when you will hear a decision from a particular university or college, UCAS does set a deadline that if you apply by the 15 January deadline you should hear by 31 March and will definitely hear by 9 May. So you can be sure of that much.

Why it can take some time to hear back

There are a number of reasons that affect how quickly decisions are reached on applications. These include:

When is the deadline for applications?
How many applications are received?
How competitive is entry to the course?
Is more than the UCAS application considered when making a decision; such as interviews, admissions tests or the assessment of portfolios or written pieces of work?
Who makes the admissions decisions: an academic member of staff or an administrator?
Does the university or college adopt a gathered field approach? This is where all or some of the decisions on applications are delayed until all on-time applications have been received and assessed. Sometimes this might also be necessary to manage numbers of undergraduate students to student number controls set externally on universities and colleges.

Typically decisions might take longer for one or more choices if one or more the following are true:

If some of your choices are to courses with a 15 October closing date and some are to courses with a 15 January closing date.
If there are more suitably qualified applications than there are offers available.
If interviews, admissions tests, or assessments of portfolios or pieces of written work are required.
If admissions decisions are made by an academic member of staff who also has teaching and/or research duties.
If the university or college adopts a gathered field approach to making decisions or processing them to UCAS.
The waiting game

No news can be good news

Some universities and colleges will contact you when they receive your application and/or during the period that they are making a decision, to inform you on the progress of the application. Others might provide a portal for you to check yourself. Whether you receive any contact or not, the main thing to remember is keep calm and bear in mind that not hearing quickly might be a good thing.  It might be because the university or college is considering your application very carefully and seriously considering making you an offer. No news can be good news. Remember that offers can be issued throughout the admissions cycle up to any decision deadline. There’s little you can do while you wait except ensure you satisfy any requests from your university or college choices. Better to concentrate on studying hard on any qualifications you are currently taking.

Here at Durham we have a reputation for taking longer than many other universities in making our decisions. Our average time for informing an applicant of our decision is actually within three months from when we receive an application, but some applicants might have to wait longer. The reasons for this are primarily the competition for places on our programmes and, for applicants applying for Medicine, Primary Teaching or our Foundation Programmes, a requirement that applicants are interviewed before an offer is issued.

The journey your application makes

There are full details of our process on our website. In summary, your application is initially processed in the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office (SRAO), where we ensure that it is complete. Then it is passed to our academic departments where an academic admissions selector (and sometimes more than one) assesses your application and makes a decision. It is here that an interview might be held or admissions test results considered. If you apply for a joint honours degree both academic departments will assess your application. For international students our International Office makes the decisions, applying selection criteria defined by our academic departments. The decision on each application is passed to SRAO and we process it to UCAS. We then pass applications successful in receiving an offer to our colleges to be allocated amongst them. Once a college is allocated, that college will contact the applicant informing them of this.

Whilst this process might seem quite simple, with around 25,000 high quality undergraduate applications it involves hundreds of staff, some really detailed thought and consideration and lots of hard work from a team dedicated to giving applicants as good an experience as possible. Making the right admissions decisions really matters to us!

Will there still be places available by 15 January?

Students sometimes express concerns that if they apply nearer to the January deadline than to September that there will be no offers left. That’s not the case at Durham. We are committed to the principle of equal consideration so that we can make our offers to the very strongest applicants. We proactively spread our offers between October and March to best ensure that there are enough offers left for later applicants. Like all other universities and colleges we also recognise that not every offer will end up in a registered student and so we make more offers than we have places available.

One final thing: when you’ve received decisions from your choices do think carefully about your replies to any offers. Don’t rush the decision and make sure its right for you.  Oh, and if you apply to Durham, good luck in your application; we’ll be giving it a lot of care and attention.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Why can't I see any change to Track?

Have you had an email telling you Track has changed? Have you logged onto Track but can't see any changes? 

If so, it'd be best to check the choice again! A change to the status doesn't necessarily mean a decision has been made. There could have also been a change to the campus code, course code, the start date, point of entry or conditions for example. 

Making changes to your application...

You've spent what seems like a lifetime working on your UCAS application. You've checked it all over, your parents and friends have checked it over, your tutors have checked it over then you've checked it once more to be sure. Finally, your application gets sent and THEN you notice a mistake. Depending on the mistake, you'll either look at it as a mild inconvenience or you'll be wishing the ground would swallow you up!

In reality, most mistakes would fall into the 'mild inconvenience' category and can be quickly remedied. Others may require a bit more work and an understanding university admissions tutor. Either way, I've laid out some of the common requests we've been seeing recently and given a bit of advice on what you can do.

Are you applying through a school/college/centre?
If so, don't forget that when you hit 'pay/send' on your application, it'll be sent to them first. They need to add your reference, check your application and send it on to UCAS. As long as they haven't sent it to UCAS, you can ask them to send it back to you. You'd then be able to correct any mistakes and send it back to them. Simple! If they've already sent it to UCAS or you've sent it and you're applying independently then read on...

Changing qualifications in the Education section
If you've missed some qualifications off your form or need to amend existing details then you should email qualificationssupportteam@ucas.ac.uk with the details of what needs to be changed. You should also include your name and personal ID number so your records can be located. As well as letting us know, you'll also need to contact your university and college choices so they know too. Contact details for the universities can be found here.

NB If you've stated pending qualifications on your application, we can't update it to show your results. We receive exam results for some qualifications which we send on to your university choices. Information on the exam results we handle can be found here


Changing name or date of birth
If you want to change your name or date of birth, you need to email casadmin@ucas.ac.uk with the information plus scanned proof of your name or date of birth (e.g. birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate etc). You also need to state your name as it currently appears on the application and your personal ID number. As before, you should get in touch with your university choices to let them know.

Changing your choices

i) Changing university
You have 7 days from the date of your Welcome letter in which you can substitute a university choice for another one. You can find the option to substitute a choice in the Choices section of Track. If you're outside the 7 days then you won't be able to substitute.

If your course has been discontinued, you'll be able to substitute the choice outside of the 7 days. The university who discontinued the course should provide guidance on how to change this to either another course with them or a different university altogether.

ii) Changing course, campus code, start date or point of entry
If you want to change any of these but want to remain with the same university, you'd speak to them directly about changing this for you.

Changing postal or email address
You can change these in the Personal Details section of Track.

Changing the personal statement
This can't be amended once your application has been sent. If there any changes you want to make, you need to get in touch with your university choices to ask if they'd be willing to accept a new draft sent to them directly. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

10 signs that your UCAS application may have taken over your life


10 signs that your UCAS application may have taken over your life:

1. The UCAS website now shows as one of your most visited sites

2. You've memorised your personal ID number

3. Having filled out details of your school attendance in your application, you now know ‘sandwich’ doesn't necessarily refer to a bread-based snack

4. You've sat down and worked out how many tweets it would take to write a personal statement of 4000 characters (28.57 if you’re wondering!)

5. You've developed a sudden interest in undertaking voluntary work

6. You've started doing a lot more washing up, vacuuming, general tidying ANYTHING other than having to start the personal statement

7. The word ‘track’ will immediately remind you of your UCAS application. All other possible definitions have now lost meaning

8. Every time you get an email, you think it’s a UCAS Track update

9. You’re following @ucas_online on Twitter

10. You see posts like this in your Facebook feed!


Friday, 19 October 2012

GTTR Apply 2013 update

Please read our latest update on the current situation with GTTR Apply 2013:

Testing was completed successfully overnight and we have addressed what we believe were the underlying causes of the performance issues experienced on Tuesday. We will be reopening GTTR Apply 2013 this afternoon (Friday 19 October).

As we stated in yesterday’s blog update, we will not be processing any applications until Tuesday 23 October to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity. This means that if you have already submitted a 2013 application, or you submit a 2013 application this afternoon, Saturday, Sunday or on Monday, it will be held in our system, until applications are released to institutions at the same time on the morning of Tuesday 23 October.

Philip Blaker, Head of Admissions

Thursday, 18 October 2012

GTTR Apply - an update 18.10.12


We have a further update on GTTR Apply 2013, outlined below. We are very grateful for your patience over the last few days and hope that this update will be good news. 

We have identified and fixed what we believe were the underlying causes of the performance issues experienced on Tuesday with GTTR Apply 2013.

We have started testing and this will continue throughout the night until tomorrow, but early indications are positive.

If testing is completed successfully, we expect to be able to reopen GTTR Apply 2013 tomorrow afternoon (Friday 19 October). This is earlier than we anticipated.

We mentioned in our previous updates that we expected GTTR Apply 2013 to be offline until after the weekend at the very earliest. Therefore, if we are able to open it earlier, we will not be processing any applications until the morning of Tuesday 23 October. This is to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to register and submit their application.

This means that if you have already submitted a 2013 application, or you submit a 2013 application tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, Sunday or on Monday, it will be held in our system, until all applications are released to institutions at the same time on the morning of Tuesday 23 October.

When testing has been completed tomorrow we will be able to give a firmer indication of the expected reopening time, but we wanted to give you as much information as we can now to provide reassurance and enable you to prepare.

Ian Leitch, Head of Information Technology
Philip Blaker, Head of Admissions


Getting admissions test results to your universities

At this time of year we get a lot of questions about university admissions tests and English language tests. There seems to be some confusion as to how the results of the tests get sent to your university choices. So we’ve picked out some of the main admissions and language tests which we're getting questions on and explained how the results find their way to your university choices. Click on the relevant test to see full information on their official website.

A statement of results will be issued to each candidate on 21st November 2012.  Candidates and centres will be able to download their results using the BMAT online results sites:
Results Online - Centres

Results will be passed automatically by them to any BMAT university to which a candidate has applied.

Results become available late November 2012. Candidates will receive an email notification of when their results become available.

GAMSAT scores from UK sittings will be passed on to your university choices by UCAS.

Your Test Report Form (TRF) will be posted to you 13 days after the test. All test centres will post your Test Report Form to you.

You need to have stated your university choices on your IELTS application form. You can then have copies of your TRF automatically sent by IELTS to five universities free of charge.

At the time of registering for LNAT, you need to enter the UCAS personal ID number. The result of the test and the essay will then be sent to the university choices stated on your UCAS application form.
Candidates taking the LNAT before 15 January 2013 will have their results emailed to them in early February 2013. Candidates taking the test after 15 January 2013 will get them in early July 2013.

The fee that you pay for your TOEFL test includes four free official TOEFL score reports. These can be automatically sent to your universities by mail. You’d notify TOEFL of what ones before the test.

Official score reports will be sent to your designated recipients approximately 13 days after you take the test.

You will have been given a copy of your test results before you left the test centre.

After the 15 October UCAS application deadline Pearson Vue, who run the UKCAT test, contact UCAS to get details regarding the Consortium Universities you’ve applied to.  Your results are then passed on by Pearson Vue to your university choices. They can’t pass your mark onto any universities outside the Consortium.
  
More details of other admissions tests can be found here


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

GTTR Apply 2013 - an update


Further to the issues we have experienced with GTTR Apply, here is an update on the current situation. We really appreciate your patience with this and are sorry for the inconvenience: 

Following technical issues experienced shortly after the original launch last Wednesday, GTTR Apply 2013 was taken offline whilst we carried out essential maintenance. Our technical team implemented a number of fixes which were successfully tested, in both test and live environments. Testing confirmed that GTTR Apply 2013 was performing as we would expect and it was agreed that we would reopen the application system, which we then made available on Tuesday 16 October at 17:45 (UK time).

Shortly after reopening GTTR Apply 2013, a different technical issue was experienced that made it very difficult – and sometimes impossible – for people to log in. When they did manage to get into it, the connection was often terminated partway through their application. We took GTTR Apply 2013 offline because it makes it easier to resolve the technical issues, and also because it makes the application process fairer if we do it this way.

Initial analysis of this issue has found that it is not related to the number of users at any one time.

Our technical experts have been working 24/7 on this problem, which has now been escalated to experts from the suppliers. They are working hard to diagnose the issues and propose solutions, so it will take time for us to fully understand the root cause and implement a suitable fix. It will then require a minimum of a day to test thoroughly.

We will keep you updated here and on the GTTR website.

Philip Blaker, Head of Admissions

GTTR Apply 2013 Update


Last night GTTR Apply 2013 was taken offline for essential maintenance.

We apologise for the inconvenience these ongoing technical issues with GTTR Apply 2013 have caused and we're grateful for the patience you've shown while we've investigated them.

We currently expect GTTR Apply 2013 to be unavailable until after the weekend at the very earliest and we'll provide further information as the situation changes.

Please note, we're working closely with GTTR providers to ensure all applicants have the same opportunity and no-one is disadvantaged by the technical issues we've been experiencing.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

15 October deadline: Last minutes issues and how to avoid them!


The 15 October deadline for Oxbridge applications and applications for medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science is almost upon us! As I’m sure your tutors and advisers will have mentioned more than a couple of times, this is an important deadline and late applications are rarely considered by the universities. So, to make sure there’s no last-minute drama, I’ve gathered together the sort of issues that usually cause applications to be submitted late and given some advice on how to prevent them happening to you!

Know your login details for Apply
Make sure you know your login details, as you'll need to log in to Apply to send your application. Use the login reminder service on the Apply page if you're not sure. You can also find guidance on login problems for Apply here

Send it earlier if you can
The deadline is midnight on 15 October (23:59 UK time) but try to send it sooner in case you experience any problems, eg internet connection issues, payment problems.

Be prepared for any payment issues
You must pay for your application before it can be sent to UCAS. If you enter invalid payment details five times, you will be locked out from making any more payment attempts - if this happens, you'll need to call us so send your application early just in case. You can get some guidance on payment problems here

If you're applying through a school or college, they'll need time to review your application
Your tutor needs time to complete the reference section and check and approve your application before they send it to UCAS. If they spot any errors, they'll send your application back to you to amend. If this happens, you need to change it and send it back to them, so that they can send it to us. It may not happen, but it's good to allow time for this just in case. Simply sending it to your school or college before the deadline won't count as sending it on time; it has to be received by UCAS.

You need a reference before you can send your application to us
However you request a reference (whether you're applying independently or through a school or college), you still need to have a reference attached to your application before it can be sent to UCAS.

If you're applying independently, allow enough time for your referee to read the instructions, write and attach the reference, and confirm that it has been completed. A red tick will appear next to the 'reference' link in Apply once it's complete. This means you can complete the rest of the application and send it to us.

If you're applying through a school or college, send your application to them early to allow them time to do write the reference and carry out the other checks before the deadline.

If you've agreed with the universities that a reference is not required - check the information on the reference page to see what to do.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Payment issues for 2013 applicants

**UPDATE - 11:00 (UK time) 28 September** All applications which were affected by the system problems detailed below have now been amended to show that they've been paid for. We will shortly be emailing all affected applicants with further instructions regarding submitting their applications. 

If you're currently locked out from making a payment, then call us and an adviser can quickly unlock it for you. 

If you had more than one payment debited from your bank account, we're currently in the middle of processing refunds. We envisage that all refunds will be completed by tomorrow. Again, we will email confirmation when this has been done to affected applicants. Remember, the refund may take 3-4 days to show in your bank account.


Over the last 24-36 hours there have been some reported technical issues with making card payments for 2013 applications. As the issue isn't affecting everyone and because 'technical issues' can be quite a vague term at the best of times, I thought it might help to clarify what's happening and give you some tips on what to do if you've been affected.

You - UCAS - Third party payment processing company - Our bank
That's basically the journey your application fee takes when you hit pay/send on your application form for a debit/credit card payment.

When you hit pay/send, our internal systems will take your payment. These funds then need to be processed and transferred to our bank account by a third-party company who provide those processing systems and transfer the funds to our bank. Alternatively, as a very crude illustration, imagine you're at a shop paying for your goods: we're the shop and the third-party company are the card machine you're using to pay for those goods.

Late on Monday/early Tuesday, the processing company had some system problems which affected people trying to pay for applications. These continued for most of the day on Tuesday but they've now been resolved. However, we still seem to have some residual issues which might be related to our own systems. This is causing a delay in our systems communicating with their systems. Again, these aren't affecting everyone but we're looking into it as a matter of urgency.

What's happening and what should we do?
The problem seems to be this. If you've clicked pay/send and entered your card details in the 'Verified by Visa' or 'Mastercard Securecode' pop-up box, the screen then freezes but eventually goes through to an error page which will look something like this (click on the image to enlarge):

















This is basically what you see as a result of the communication problems between UCAS and the other company. If this has happened to you then call your bank and check whether the payment has been debited. If it has been taken then you don't need to do anything else. Just wait and the application will eventually refresh to show that the payment has been taken.

If your bank says that no payment has been debited, then you should call us so an adviser can look into it further for you. It is strongly advised that you don't keep trying to pay if the error page comes up on the first attempt.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Personal statements: Universities tell you what they want

The personal statement. Three words that get uttered, muttered and give one cause to shudder more than any other part of the UCAS application form. Admittedly, a blank screen and the job of selling yourself to your university and college choices in no more than 4,000 characters and 47 lines can seem a daunting one but it should also be an exciting one.

This is your opportunity to make your application stand out. In amongst all the dates, grades and contact details is a massive chunk of the application that you can dedicate to showing your character, your passion, your interests and personality. In short, you can show them what makes you such a good candidate for your chosen course and why you should be offered a place. Some students will find it hard to talk positively and glowingly about themselves - that's natural - but it's something that should be overcome and then embraced.

But what's my view worth? Hopefully five years' experience of working at UCAS will be of some value but there's no escaping that my views will be but a few more drops into the vast ocean of advice and offers of assistance (some useful, some not so much) you'll be getting from various parties right now. And all this advice, especially when some of it can be conflicting, can be confusing when you're setting out. In the end though, you have to ask yourself who'll be reading the personal statements. The answer, quite obviously, is your universities.

So, to help provide some clarity on this, we thought it best to go direct to them and ask what they're looking for! Bear in mind that each writer will have their own individual preferences just as much as they'll share some of the same views. Ultimately though, remember that it should be your own personal work. You will find countless good tips and advice from here on in but you need to decide what works best for you by the time you start writing it.

Dr Roseanna Cross - Head of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Bristol

At Bristol, we pay a great deal of attention to the personal statement, as it provides important indications of ability, motivation and potential.  We will look for evidence of your interest in the subject and make sure that this aligns with the kind of programme we offer. We will also take account of your extra-curricular interests and achievements, where these provide evidence of skills that will be relevant to the programme.
The detailed criteria for each of our programmes are published on our website in our Admissions Statements.

We also explain the selection process in our Entry Profiles.  When it comes to writing your personal statement, you should make sure that it aligns with the selection criteria for the programme.  Everything in your personal statement should aim to show that you have the skills and qualities we are looking for, and convince us to offer you a place on the programme.  If it doesn't do this, then leave it out.

Before you write your statement, it's essential to understand why you want to study a particular subject. Whatever the reason, make sure your passion and enthusiasm comes across. Don't just tell us that you like something, show us that you do. What is it that interests you specifically? Why does it interest you? What have you done to pursue that interest?

Similarly, when writing about relevant experience and achievements, make sure that you give concrete examples of the skills and qualities that they demonstrate. Don't be tempted to expand the truth, as it will catch you out in the long run!

Finally, make sure that you have allowed enough time to check your work before you submit your application.  It's useful to ask friends and family to help check the statement, but be careful that they don't try and force you to write it in the way they think it should be written.  It is important that you write it in your own style rather than trying to conform to what someone else thinks is right, as there is no model way to write a personal statement.  When it comes to spelling, however, there is only one 'right' way.

Sean Threlfall - Student Recruitment and International Development Division, University of Manchester

You should consider your personal statement as important as gaining the relevant entry qualifications for your chosen course. It’s the only chance you get to express your personality alongside your academic abilities.
A successful personal statement usually opens with positive intent and demonstrates a clear enthusiasm for the course in question. A common query from students is often on what to include in their personal statement. The answer is a simple one, if it’s relevant to your chosen course then include it and if it’s not then leave it out. 

Quotes can be a useful way of demonstrating what has inspired you, whether that’s an author of a book you’ve read or a famous philosopher.  However, ensure the quote is relevant to a certain aspect of your particular course.  It’s also a good idea to write in the first person, this provides evidence of an individual personal statement and helps once again to portray your enthusiasm for the course you’re applying for.

If there’s one key point to remember when writing your personal statement, remember the letters ABC! Activity, Benefit, Course!  Universities want to see examples of the transferable skills you have obtained and how you plan to develop these skills at university.  So, this is where ABC comes into play:

Activity
Maybe you’ve volunteered in your local charity shop or played in a sports team 

Benefit
What are the transferable skills you’ve acquired by doing this activity? For example, leadership, communication or self-motivation skills.

Course
So you’ve done the activity and reaped the benefits, how does this relate to the course you’re applying for?
      Good communication skills are vital for many university courses especially during group work. You also need a lot of self-motivation in order to succeed on any undergraduate degree programme.

Equally as important is a strong conclusion. Bear in mind, this is the last couple of lines in which you have to impress the admissions tutor. So make it count! Try to summarise your personal statement in a few lines and finish with a positive outlook on your future.

So remember, when writing your personal statement keep the writing style personal and use ABC where relevant!

Richard Emborg - Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions, Durham University

A personal statement is an opportunity for you to demonstrate why you think you would be a good student for the programme you’re applying to, what you can contribute to the university and why the university should select your application over other equally excellent candidates. With many students applying to the University with very strong academic results and predictions, the personal statement is crucial in helping admissions tutors identify students with the greatest merit and potential.

Personal statements are used to help make a number of admissions decisions: including whether to invite an applicant to an interview, make an offer, accept an applicant who’s narrowly missed the conditions of their offer, and at Durham even what college an applicant made an offer will be allocated to.  Investing time into making sure your personal statement is as strong as it can be is therefore time well spent.

Whilst there's no template we can give you for your personal statement – it should be personal to you -we do recommend that you answer three main questions in your personal statement in the following order and priority:

1)         Why do you want to study this subject?
2)         What makes you someone particularly suitable to study the subject?
3)         How will you contribute to the course and the university community and what makes you an       interesting and unique individual?

At Durham University we particularly value personal statements that combine both an academic focus and consideration of your non-academic attributes and achievements. Other universities may be more interested purely in your academic achievements and potential.

Stating any paid or voluntary work that you have done is a good idea if you can relate it to the programme you’re applying for and/or to show your potential to contribute to the University community as a whole. The same is true for achievements in sport, music and the arts and involvement in any national or international competitions, including academic ones. Extra-curricular activities can provide proof of successful time management skills and a strong work ethic.

Remember to draft and re-draft your personal statement. Watch out for spelling mistakes (spellcheckers are not a guarantee) and missing or repeated words: doing this shows your commitment to the application and attention to detail. An admissions tutor will be impressed by the use of good English; a personal statement needs to be well written, in straightforward English, and laid out carefully. If you try too hard to impress with clever language you’ll normally make your statement harder to read and your reasons for wanting to study a particular programme less clear.

It can help to have someone else to look over your statement, to provide another opinion and to look for anything you may have missed, but don’t lose your uniqueness by allowing others to write the statement for you or by copying what others have written. UCAS run similarity detection checks and report to universities if any similarities between personal statements are identified, which could result in an offer not being made.

Make sure the personal statement is accurate. It is an academic statement for an academic programme of study so choose an appropriate tone. Attempts at humour are best avoided, as it doesn’t always translate well in writing. Be enthusiastic and promote yourself. Do your research about the courses you want to apply to so you use your five UCAS choices wisely and your personal statement is tailored towards them.

Alix Delany - Assistant Head of Admissions, University of East Anglia

After many years of reading personal statements and writing one myself (a long time ago) I know that this can seem daunting so here are my 3 tips to writing a good statement. 

Be Bold
More often than not we’re modest about our achievements.  Don’t be!  You don’t necessarily have to pack the personal statement full of them.  What I like to see is some well thought out examples and most importantly how they might relate to the subject you’d like to read at university.  Ensure that you have clearly reflected on the skills and knowledge gained from the chosen experiences.  Concrete examples rather than a ‘wish’ or a ‘dream’ to study a subject will get you noticed. 

Structure
Universities are reading a lot of personal statements and so I really like the first few lines to clearly outline the intended area of study and the reason why.  The end of your personal statement should also reinforce this.  Although you are working in a restricted space I find it helpful when students use paragraphs so that the statement flows well and it’s easy to identify key points.  If you’re going to be interviewed for a course, the interviewer will read the statement beforehand and may even refer to it during the interview so a well-structured statement is imperative.

Audience
It’s very difficult to know who’s going to read your personal statement.  Indeed it’s likely that a number of people in each university will and they’ll have their own interpretation of what you’re saying.  Show your personal statement to as many people as you can and ask them if the key messages are coming through loud and clear.  See if they can ‘paint a picture’ of you from the words written down and use their feedback to refine the statement.

In my view a personal statement is your chance to promote yourself and the contribution you can make to a university.  Look on it as a positive experience, giving you the opportunity to talk about the next steps in your life and career.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Are you still waiting for Track to update?

While most of you will have heard from your university and college choices by now, there will be some who are still yet to have their place confirmed on Track. There's always a certain degree of confusion as to why this might be and when Track will change. I've put together a few points to help clarify matters if you find yourself in this situation.

Why haven't the university confirmed my place on Track yet?
 
The reason will normally be one of the following:

  • You didn't meet the conditions but they still want to consider you. If you’ve narrowly missed meeting the conditions of the offer, they may be waiting to see what the general trend is with the rest of their applicants before deciding. If a significant amount didn't meet the conditions they were set they may then offer places to those who were just below getting the required grades
  • The university hasn't got your exam results. You should check the exam results that we handle and pass on to your university choices. If your exam isn't included in the list then you'll need to make sure you pass the results on to your university choices yourself. Remember, that if the conditions of your offer included getting a certain grade at GCSE, the results for GCSEs won't be out until 23 August. You'll need to give your results to your university choices once you have them
  • They've made their decision on Track but it hasn't updated yet. For the majority of universities, if they make a decision on Track it will update instantly. However, if they're using their own internal systems to update Track there can sometimes be a delay of around 24 hours (maximum) before it updates. Usually it will update sooner than that though
  • They're still trying to process your decisions. Very simply it could be the case that they haven't yet managed to process all their decisions and they're working through the backlog
In any of the above cases, if you've got a query about the delay then you'd need to contact the university to ask them for more information on it. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Your questions about Clearing answered!

The Contact Centre at UCAS
Being the seasoned Clearing veterans that we are on the social media team, we've put together some answers to the questions that get asked a lot each year and which will most definitely be being asked right now.

Take a look over them and if your question isn't answered, don't forget we're all only a few keystrokes away on Facebook and Twitter to help you out! You can also get comprehensive information in the Clearing section of our website.

Why doesn't the 'Add Clearing choice' button work on Track?
It will usually be for one of the following reasons:
  • You've already got a confirmed place with a university. If that's the case, you’ll need to ask them whether they’d be willing to allow you into Clearing. Any decision to do so would be at their discretion. If they allow you into Clearing, you’ll then be able to add a choice on Track. If allowed into Clearing, Track will usually update immediately with their decision. However, if they're using their own internal systems there can sometimes be a delay of up to 24 hours before it appears on Track
  • You've been unsuccessful with one of your original choices but they've given you a 'changed course' offer rather than saying you're unsuccessful. In this instance, you’ll need to make the appropriate reply before being allowed into Clearing.  As your reply depends on the status of your application, it’d be best to check our guidance on replying to changed course offers. 
  • You've already added a Clearing choice. If you've done this and don’t want that choice any longer, you’ll need to contact the university to ask if they can put you back into Clearing.
Where can I find my Clearing number?
You'll only see a Clearing number if you're eligible for Clearing. This can be found on the Welcome page and Choices page in Track. However, if you've already added a Clearing choice, the number will be removed. 

What's a changed course offer? 
This will appear as 'UCC' on Track. This means that you haven’t been successful for your original course choice but that the university are making you an alternative offer.  This could be an offer for a different course or it could be a change to the start date or point of entry. Once we’ve had decisions from both your firm and insurance choice, you’d then have five days in which to reply. As your response depends on the status of your application, it’d be best to check our guidance on replying to changed course offers.

Why hasn't Track changed? It still shows I have a conditional offer!
This will usually mean that the university hasn’t yet made a decision.  If you’ve narrowly missed meeting the conditions of the offer, they may be waiting to see what the general trend is with the rest of their applicants before deciding. If a significant amount failed to meet the conditions they may then offer places to those who were just below getting the required grades. You may also want to check that the university has definitely received your results and that there are no other conditions that you need to meet - for example, a GCSE result which won't be available until the Thursday after A Level results day. Also bear in mind that if universities are using their own internal systems there may be a delay to decisions appearing on Track. *UPDATE: On 16 August the systems were running slower than usual at certain points which will have caused a delay to some decisions being made*

I don't want my university place any more. Can I go into Clearing?
Whether you've been accepted at your original firm choice or been accepted by your insurance choice, you need to ask the university if they’d be willing to allow you into Clearing. As you’ve got a confirmed place with them you’d be expected to go there, in much the same way that they’d be expected to honour their agreement in giving you the place. Any decision to allow you into Clearing would be at their discretion and they’d be under no obligation to do this.

I've got into my firm choice but I want my insurance choice instead. Can I do that?
When your place was confirmed at the firm choice, the insurance choice would've been made aware of this. Therefore, they'd no longer be expected to hold a place for you. If you want to go to the insurance choice, you'll need to call them to ask if there's still a vacancy and whether they'd be willing to offer you it through Clearing. If they can, you'll then need to ask the firm choice whether they'd be happy to allow you into Clearing. This would be at their discretion and they’d be under no obligation to do it.

If that all gets agreed and processed, you'll then be able to add them as a Clearing choice on Track.


How do I reply to a Clearing offer?
You wouldn’t need to reply to a Clearing offer. If a university has provisionally offered you a place which you want to accept, you’ll need to go to the ‘Choices’ section of Track, click on the 'Add Clearing choice' button and the enter the details of your course. It’ll then be up to the university to confirm your place on Track. When they've confirmed your place it will say 'Clearing Accept' next to the choice.

I got better results than expected. Can I use Adjustment?

To be eligible to use Adjustment:

  • your results must have met and exceeded the conditions of your conditional firm (CF) choice;
and
  • you need to have paid the full application fee (£22 for 2012).

If you have paid the single application fee (£11 for 2012) and want to use Adjustment, you need to pay an additional £11.

You are not eligible to use Adjustment if:
  • you are confirmed (UF) at your firm choice but did not exceed the conditions of the offer
  • you have a confirmed place on a changed course offer






  • your original offer was unconditional.

  • Why am I unable to register for Adjustment?
    The option to register will be displayed on Track for all applicants whose firm choice has gone from being 'conditional firm' to 'unconditional firm'. However, it is then up to the universities you contact to make sure you're eligible to use Adjustment. In order to be eligible, you need to have met and exceeded the conditions of your original firm choice's offer. So you'd need to make sure you meet this requirement.

    Also, Adjustment is available from 16 August until 31 August, with your individual Adjustment period beginning on 16 August or when your conditional firm choice changes to unconditional (whichever is later). So you need to make sure you're trying to register within that date range.

    You should visit our website for full details of how Adjustment works.

    Wednesday, 15 August 2012

    5 things you need to know about A Level results day!

    As you can imagine there are lots of questions and comments flying around right now about A level results day and Clearing.We'll be sending out advice based on your queries in the run-up to results day, as indeed we've done for the past few weeks. We've also got a handy video to help you prepare for getting those all-important grades. However, many students often have concerns and expectations that go unnoticed because they never ask us a question about them. Fortunately we're a vigilant lot, so with all this in mind, here are 5 things you need to know about A Level results day!

    1. Track doesn't go live at midnight! It'll start updating at 08:00 (UK time) on 15 August. So from that time you'll be able to check the decisions made by your university choices.

    2.  The vast majority of universities will update their decisions on Track on results day... but not all of them will. We've got lots of information about this on our 'Still Waiting' page, but in a nutshell it'll usually be for one of the following reasons:

    • You've narrowly missed meeting the conditions of the offer and the university are still giving your application consideration. They'll usually wait to see how other applicants for the course have done and then make a decision then.
    • They've not got your exam results. If their conditions included a qualification for which we don't pass on the results then they'll need you to send them the results. Details of exam results we handle can be found here
    • If you've been asked to achieve a certain grade in a GCSE, the university won't be able to confirm your place until the results for those are out on 23 August. You'd need to pass the results to them.
    3. Track has had some BIG improvements since last year. All of our technology has been through thorough testing to make sure that all our attention can be focused on helping students through the Clearing process on results day.

    4. We'll be sending emails to you to let you know the universities' decisions.These won't be the standard Track updates you usually get telling you that there's been a change to the status. These emails will be telling you whether or not you've got into your chosen university. 

    5. You won't be able to add a Clearing choice until the afternoon on 15 August. This gives you time to research your options and make informed decisions before potentially adding a choice. Check our Clearing guidance for what to do if you're using Clearing.

    Thursday, 9 August 2012

    Emails we'll send you on A Level results day and beyond!

    There's been quite a lot of interest in the fact that this year we'll be emailing students with news on whether or not they've got into their chosen university or college. However, in almost equal measure, there's been confusion as to when we'll send them and who we'll send them to! Hopefully this will clear things up a bit:

    When will the email be sent?
    Emails were sent out on 7 August for anyone whose university place had been confirmed between 1-7 August. As Scottish exam results were published on 7 August, the emails were mainly sent to Scottish students although some BTEC students also got an email.

    No further emails will be sent now until 16 August when A Level results are published. They'll then be sent at regular intervals every day up until 31 August

    Who will get sent an email?
    You'd be sent an email if:
    • you've been accepted by either your firm or insurance choice university on Track
    • you're eligible for Clearing because you've not been successful in meeting the conditions of your firm and/or insurance choice university

    What does it mean if I don't receive an email?
    Try not to worry as not everyone is going to be sent one. You won't be sent an email if:
    • Your place was already unconditional
    • Your chosen university hasn't yet made a decision
    • Your chosen university are making you an offer on a different course or different start date
    If in doubt about the status of your application, remember you can check Track for the latest updates!