Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Help and advice for care leavers

Ben Jordan is the Senior Policy Executive at UCAS. Here he writes about why you’re asked whether you’re a care leaver on your application to university, and where you can find support if you have been in care.

Ben Jordan, Senior Policy Executive,
We aim to help people make informed choices that best suit their aspirations and abilities, and give them the best opportunity to succeed. We provide information and advice to around 670,000 university applicants each year, and of those there are people with a range of individual needs, including care leavers.

We know that there are a number of challenges faced by care leavers when progressing to university or college, so offering the chance to state whether you’re a care leaver on your application helps universities and colleges to offer support in a number of ways. 
Asking the question
To begin with, the question we ask in the personal details section is; 'Have you ever been in care?' If you respond 'Yes', we’ll ask how long you’ve been in care for. We’ve avoided using the statutory definition of a care leaver because we feel that by leaving it open we’re able to help all those who may need support. The question acts as a flag to universities and colleges, letting them know you have personal circumstances that may require extra support while you’re studying. They will often contact you to discuss the type of support you may need after they receive your application.

You also have the opportunity to provide information about your situation in the personal statement section of your application, although you can send details to the university or colleges separately if you prefer. 

For the 2015 application we have updated the help text for the 'in care' question to make it as clear as possible why you’re being asked, and to explain how universities and colleges may use this information.

Getting help
If you’re a care leaver or you’re helping someone who is, you’ll find lots of information and advice on our website to help you get support.

  • Information about the type of support offered by universities and colleges.
  • Details of the financial support available to care leavers.
  • Links to organisations that can offer further information, such as Buttle UK and The Who Cares? Trust, as well as a link to the Who Cares? Trust HE handbook.
  • A list of universities and colleges that have the quality mark for care leavers. 
  • A video with first-hand accounts from students who are care leavers.   

What do you think?
We will continue to support all applicants as they progress to higher education, including care leavers. If you have any ideas or suggestions about how we can best achieve this, please leave a comment below. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

15 October deadline: applying on time

To begin with, let’s just clarify exactly what this deadline is for. The 15 October deadline is only for applications to most medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine/science courses, as well as all courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Meeting the deadline means that your application will receive equal consideration from your chosen universities and colleges. You can still apply after the deadline, but your application won't be guaranteed to get equal consideration.

So what counts as meeting the deadline? Well it’s pretty straightforward – we must receive your completed application before 18:00 (UK time) on 15 October. That means you must have completed every section, and paid for and sent your application by this time. If you’re applying through your school or college, they must have sent it to us before this time too.

Don't wait until the last minute!
As with any kind of deadline, it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute. Aim to send your application as soon as you can, that way you have enough time to overcome any issues you face.

Prepare to pay
If you’re applying independently you’ll have to pay for your application before you can send it. If you’re applying with your school then this is true for you too unless your school has agreed to let us bill them instead (you’ll know if this is the case because you won’t be asked to make a payment before you send your application to your referee).

So for the majority of you who will need to pay with a credit or debit card – make sure you know which card you’re going to use, and check there’s enough money in the account. You’ll need to pay either £12 (for one course) or £23 (for multiple courses).

A word of warning...If you enter invalid payment details five times you’ll be locked out from making any more attempts, and for security reasons you’d need to call us to unlock your account.

Give school enough time to review your application 
(This bit’s only for those of you applying with a school or college, so independent applicants can skip ahead.)

When you send your application to your school or college, the tutor assigned to you will read through your application and make sure you’ve entered everything correctly. If they spot a mistake, for example you’ve forgotten to add one of the subjects you’re taking; they might send it back to you to make changes.

Even if your application is completely error free, your school still needs more than a few minutes to get your application sent off. It’s unlikely that yours is the only application they need to approve and send, plus it’s possible they’ll only be looking to see which applications are ready during school hours. If you think you’re going to be sending your application to them close to the deadline, speak to your tutor about this in advance.

Remember: 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.

Remember your reference
However you request a reference (whether you're applying independently or through a school or college), you must have a reference included in your application before it can be sent to UCAS.

If you're applying independently and you’ve agreed with the universities that a reference is not required – read the information on the reference page of your application to see what to do. Only do this if you have definitely spoken to the universities you’re applying to and had confirmation that they don’t need to see a reference for you.

Know your login details 
To log into your application you’ll need your username and password, so if you’re going to be sending your application close to the deadline, make sure you definitely know your login details.

If you have problems logging in, read our blog post 'The five reasons why you can't log into your application (and how to overcome them)'.