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 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 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!