Friday, 20 December 2013

Postgraduate teacher training applications: the three top questions

Why can't I send my application?

Your application is not complete until your referees have given their agreement and completed and submitted a reference for you. Once they've done this, you'll be able to access the Pay and Send option. So, first check that you have sent your reference request by going to the reference section and clicking the button to 'Send Reference requests'. Then contact your referees to make sure they have received the email. If they haven’t, check out the 'Why hasn’t my referee received the email' FAQ below for more advice. When each of your referees have submitted their reference, we will email you to let you know and this is when you’ll be able to pay for and send your application.

How do I send a reference request?

After you have completed all sections of the application – including the check form section 
 an option will appear on the reference page to “Send Reference Request”. After you have clicked this button, all but your reference and choices section will be locked down and no longer editable, so be sure to check all the details before doing this. Once you've sent the reference request, it's a good idea to contact your referee to make sure they've received the email from us. When both references are complete and have been submitted, we'll email you to let you know that you can log into your application to make your payment and send it to us.

My referee hasn't received the request, what can I do?

If you've definitely sent your reference request then it’s possible that the email has been blocked by your referee's email account. In this situation you need to ask them to add Uttenquiries@ucas.com to their email address book. Once they've done this you'll need to send them another request, so go to the reference section of your application, click ‘edit’ next to the referee details and save the section as complete again. You will see the option to “Send reference request” appear. After clicking this button, contact your referee to check they've received your request.

For more information about applications for postgraduate teacher training, visit our website.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Let’s trust admissions officers on personal statements

You may have seen that personal statements have been mentioned in the news lately. To address the concerns this might have raised, UCAS’ Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook, has written about the value of this piece of writing and the important part it plays in the admissions process.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Blog for UCAS

Being a UCAS blogger is a great opportunity to showcase your writing skills, plus your posts will help others who are going through the same application process. As a thank you, you’ll have the chance to enter regular competitions and exclusive prize draws.



Last year’s bloggers did a fantastic job, sharing valuable tips and advice throughout the year. Take a look at what they had to say at www.ucasconnect.com/#blogs

If you’re applying to universities or colleges in the UK and you're interested in becoming a UCAS blogger, all you’ve got to do is email socialmedia@ucas.ac.uk with 200 words about your experience of applying to university or college so far. We’ll then get in touch once we’ve chosen the winning entries, to announce our 2014 bloggers.

The closing date for entries is Monday 28 October. Good luck!
   

Monday, 14 October 2013

The five reasons why you can’t log into your application (and how to overcome them)

We receive lots of phone calls and queries on Facebook and Twitter from people who can’t log into their applications. There are a few different reasons why someone might not be able to log in, but here’s how to overcome the most common login issues, in case you find yourself faced with the following message:
1. You've selected the wrong type of application
When you go to the Apply page at www.ucas.com, there are four different types of application you can log into – UCAS undergraduate, UCAS Teacher Training, CUKAS Performing arts and UCAS postgraduate. Make sure you click on the correct option for the type of course you’re applying for. If for example, you’ve started an application for postgrad teacher training, you won’t be able to log in and complete it through the UCAS undergraduate page.

2. You’ve entered the wrong username and/or password 
If you’ve forgotten your username and/or password, click on the 'forgotten login' link to retrieve them. This will send two emails to the address you gave when you registered – one containing your username and the other your password. Remember, your login details are case sensitive so you must type them exactly as they appear in the emails.

If you haven’t verified your email address yet then your email address won’t be recognised – in this situation you’ll need to call us so an adviser can give you your login details after some security checks.

3. You’re locked out after too many invalid attempts
If this is the case you’ll need to call us so we can unlock your account after some security checks.

4. You’re trying to log into Track by mistake
To log in to complete your application, you have to go to the ‘Apply’ login page and not the ‘Track your application’ page. You’ll know if you’ve gone to Track by mistake because you’ll be asked to enter a Personal ID instead of a username.



5. You haven’t registered to apply for courses this year
If you’ve applied in a previous year and decided to reapply for courses for another year, you must register again. The username and password you had when you applied before won’t be valid this year.

For more help with logging into your application, check out our 'Problems logging in' playlist on YouTube 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

How to choose a course

There are over 37,000 courses listed in our search tool. Quite a daunting statement if you haven’t made your mind up yet about what you want to apply for, right? It doesn’t have to be though, after all every year there are hundreds of thousands of people in exactly the same situation as you’re in now, and they all manage to choose. So wouldn’t it be great if you could ask how they did it? How they narrowed down 37,000 to five course choices, and then ultimately just one? Well that’s exactly what we did.

We asked those of you on Facebook who already know what you’re going to study, or what you plan to apply for, how you decided that your course was right for you. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories, we had heaps of responses. Reading through them all, I could see that most people chose their course through one of five ways, so here they are in a nutshell.


Some people just know
There’s a group of people out there who, for one reason or other, have always known what they wanted to study. Perhaps they were inspired at a young age by their favourite TV character or by a family member they looked up to. However it came about, they’ve been focussed for as long as they can remember on a particular career, and this is guiding their studies. You might think they’re a lucky bunch, because for them the decision never really had to be made – but spare a thought for those who were inspired by Bananaman...

Start with your heart
Looking at what you enjoy – what makes you tick – is a good way to kick-off your research. If you love writing for example, courses with plenty of written assessments are a good starting point. Moving on to your broader interest, you might be able to find courses that reflect your hobbies and extracurricular activities, as well as subjects you know you’re good at. If you can do this then you’ll probably find writing your personal statement a piece of a cake, as you’ve got heaps of evidence to support why you’re genuinely interested in the course you’re applying for.


Work experience works
Work experience, both paid and unpaid, can help you narrow down what you like doing, and – as importantly – what you don’t. If you’ve already got some experience then think about the tasks involved and also the industry it was in, to determine whether these are areas you can see yourself learning more about. If you haven’t got any work experience, then arranging to work shadow someone in a career you’re interested in is a great opportunity to find out whether you want to study a course which could lead to something similar. Although having your sights set on a job isn’t the only reason you’d choose to go to uni (this video explains lots of other motivations) it’s one that we know is important to some people.

Speak to those in the know
Although no one knows you quite as well as you know yourself, there are other people who can help you choose a course. Current and past teachers can give you insight in to where your strengths lie academically, and therefore what types of course you could be well suited to. If you have a particular career in mind then speak to people who work in that profession already – it’s a great way to find out which courses might help you to pursue it.


No idea? No boundaries!
Sometimes not knowing what you want to study can seem like you’re in the dark, but try to see it instead as having an open mind. Look at as many different avenues as possible, and do as much research as you can. Attending open days and UCAS conventions gives you the chance to find out about lots of different courses, some of which you might never have considered (or heard of). Take the opportunity to speak to staff from universities and colleges on these days – they’ll be able to give you far more information than could possibly be crammed in to a prospectus!

Watch our UCAStv video guide to choosing courses for even more great advice.

                                         

Monday, 2 September 2013

Have you checked...?

So you’ve worked away at your UCAS application for weeks, adding fact after fact about yourself. You’ve trawled through GCSE certificates and alike to find the precise details needed for each section, not to mention the hours you’ve spent writing and re-writing your personal statement, only to scrap it all and start again from scratch with a completely different approach.

At last you feel ready to hit send, but don't be too hasty in completing this final step. It’s really important that you check and double check your application, to make sure it’s all tip-top and typo-free. Here’s our checklist of what to look out for:





Have you definitely completed everything? Lots of people think they’re done and dusted with their application, and then they find they can’t click ‘pay/send’. This is usually because one or more of the sections are still in progress. When your application’s ready to go, the checklist on the left-hand side will look like this.

If you’re applying through your school or college, the reference box won’t be displayed. Your tutor will complete it after you send it to them.

Have you included all your qualifications? Remember, you’ve got to add all those you’re taking in the coming year, which includes English proficiency tests, aptitude and admissions tests such as UKCAT and LNAT, as well as A levels (read our blog on how to add these correctly), BTECs and anything else you’re studying for. Make sure all the grades you’ve already got are included and that the dates and results are the same as on your certificates.


Proofread your personal statement! This is where mistakes are most likely to lurk. You might think you’ve read through it hundreds of times, but it always pays to check it again. Tim Wiltshire is Web Editor at UCAS, and with responsibility for everything that’s written on ucas.com, he knows a thing or two about proofreading. Here are his three top tips:
Tim Wiltshire, Web Editor
"Make sure you have time to 
proofread it a few times. It won’t be nearly as good if you’ve 
forgotten to correct any errors.


When you’re checking through, read it out loud or ask someone else to read it to you. It might seem a weird thing to do, but it makes it much easier to hear bad punctuation, overlong sentences or messy wording.

Then see if you can get your family, teachers or advisers to check it too – they might notice something you’ve missed."


Are your contact details correct? We rely on the information in the personal details section when we send your welcome letter, as well as emails about the status of your application. The universities and colleges will also use it to get in touch with you about interviews, offers and so on, so take a few moments to make sure they’re up-to-date and error-free. If you’re applying independently, remember to check your referee’s contact details too – a wrong phone number or email address here could hold your application up if admissions staff have to get in touch with you to get the correct info.

Have you selected the right course and institution codes in the choices section? It seems simple but make sure this section definitely reflects what you want to apply for. Easy-to-make mistakes include selecting the wrong institution where there are two in a particular town or city, and adding the wrong degree type where there’s a choice, i.e. BA and BSc etc.
Once you’ve been through each section carefully, ask someone you trust to read through it for you too. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes will spot. And don't forget to send your application before the deadline for your course!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

GCSE results – what next?

The Exam Results Helpline 0808 100 8000
Nick Hynes, Exam Results Helpline adviser
By Nick Hynes, Exam Results Helpline careers adviser.

Congratulations in advance to all of you who receive the GCSE results you want on Thursday, and also to those of you who do even better than expected – well done!

We are here at the Exam Results Helpline to offer free, impartial and expert advice about your options and next steps. Simply call us on 0808 100 8000 to speak to a careers adviser. Lines are open daily until Saturday 24 August and calls are free from a landline. But in the meantime, here are our top tips to help you with your next steps:

Stay calm!
First off, if you don’t get the grades you want or need for university or college – don’t panic. You have LOTS of options so stay calm and seek advice.

Contact the university or college directly
If your grades are lower than you needed for university or college, take a few deep breaths and contact them to explain your situation. There’s still a chance that they’ll be willing to accept you or offer you a different course. Make sure you have a list of reasons to hand about why you would be a good candidate for the course.

Clearing
If you’re unsuccessful, take some time to think about your next steps. You could try Clearing to find a course somewhere else – that’s what Ollie did, you can hear his story in our previous blog post.

Re-sits
Core subjects such as maths, English and science are important, and universities and colleges often require at least a grade ‘C’ in each.  If you haven’t reached this grade in these subjects, you may want to look at why and explore re-sitting your exams with your school or college, so that you can reapply to university or college next year.

Gap years
If you decide that re-sits are for you, waiting another year before starting a course may seem like a set-back but it is also a fantastic opportunity for you to gain extra skills and confidence to help you when you do reach higher education or employment. This is how Tanya approached her gap year and she didn’t regret it – hear what she has to say.

If you would like to speak to someone about the above options, plus anything else that might be worrying you about your future and next steps, call the Exam Results Helpline for free independent and expert careers advice on 0808 100 8000.

We are happy to speak to students and families!

www.ucas.com/examresultshelpline 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Clearing: making the call

If you’re reading this blog, chances are your status in Track says “You are in Clearing”. If not then maybe you’re preparing for every eventuality. Whether you’re expecting to use Clearing or not, the steps you need to follow to get a place on a course are the same: use the Clearing vacancy search at ucas.com to find courses, contact unis to ask if they’ll consider your application and then if you’re offered a place, add it as your Clearing choice in Track.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? I mean, if you find a course that’s right for you on results day, and you make a good impression on the phone, then the uni offers you a place, you could be done with Clearing by mid-afternoon. But that depends on a few ifs, a few unknowns. So right now we’re going to tackle how you can make a good impression, and the key to this is being prepared.

Here, six universities and colleges tell you what you can expect from your conversations with them in Clearing – what they’ll want you to know, the types of questions they’ll ask, and equally as important – what you should ask them. Use their advice to make notes to keep with you before you pick up the phone and dial, and you’ll feel more confident when you come to tell them why you’d make a great student for their course.

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


Alix Delany, University of East Anglia
I’ve taken part in many results days whilst working in admissions at the University of East Anglia.  I get a huge sense of satisfaction when a student secures a place through clearing. I enjoy getting to talk to the student on the phone and I know that I will be meeting them in a month’s time, when they join the university.

If you are in clearing on results day, start with a positive attitude.

Most universities will have vacancies showing on ucas.com and on their own websites. Check both to see what’s on offer and how the university wants to be contacted. For us, it’s best to call.

Remember, the people at the end of the phone line want to help you. Typically you will be asked for your UCAS Personal ID and your results.  You may also be asked for certain GCSE subjects and grades, so it’s worth having details of them to hand.  The person you are talking to will take you through some questions about the subjects you studied and the grades achieved. If you need something repeated or you have questions don’t be rushed, take your time.

If you are offered a place, ask how long the offer is guaranteed for and what happens next.   For example, at UEA we send an email confirming our offer with accommodation details and how you can visit if you want to see us before you make your final decision.

If you put the phone down and realise you forgot to ask something, don’t panic, call back.
 

Emma Dermott – Social Media Officer, University for the Creative Arts

    
Emma Dermott,
University for the Creative Arts
Don’t be afraid to speak to university admissions teams in advance, they are there to help you and are the best source of information. Introduce yourself and talk through your individual circumstances. There is a lot they can do to help students leading up to results day.

We recommend you ask as many questions as you need to, including concerns with your grades, whether you’ve changed your mind about a course, student loans, entry requirements or fees. The bottom line is: don’t be afraid to ask.

When you call, have your UCAS ID, your Clearing number, the codes of the courses you’re interested in as well as your email address and telephone number close to hand.

Admissions teams will ask you what you want to do, what grades you received and what expectations you have of university. This is to ensure they give you the best possible advice.

Top tips we firmly believe in are:
  1. Don’t wait! If you’ve already received your results then call us now – we are ready to speak to you about your options.
  2. Prepare and research your options – be proactive and identify your interests in advance.
  3. Have details of your qualifications in front of you when you call. 
  4. And finally, we’re happy to speak to your mum/dad/guardian afterwards, but we need to speak to you first! 
Our short video about the Clearing process also contains lots of advice to help you.

Bernard Strutt - Head of UK/EU Recruitment at The University of Manchester

    
Bernard Strutt,
The University of Manchester
Information you should have to hand 
If you're exploring opportunities though clearing you should have your clearing number and exam results to hand. Remember to check UCAS Track - your eligibility for Clearing and your designated Clearing number will be shown in your account. It's also a good idea to have a pen and paper to hand to take down any details. If you’ve already signed up to have email updates about potential Clearing vacancies at Manchester then make sure you’ve noted down the course you’re interested in
  
Making the most of your phone call
We recognise that clearing can be a little daunting and we encourage you to call on the support of parents, teachers and advisors. But don't be afraid to pick up the phone yourself. Our team at The University of Manchester need to speak to you, not your parents or teachers. We want to understand your motivations and your aspirations and to make an assessment about whether you'll be a good fit for the course. 

Whilst some students forget to keep essential information to hand, the most common mistake I see is students being too quick to pick up the phone. We appreciate you'll be keen to speak to universities to avoid missing out on the best places, but don't rush. Even a couple of minutes preparation can make all the difference in helping make a good first impression and demonstrating that you're a credible candidate. Take the time to understand your options and research the right university for you. 
  
Questions you can expect to be asked
Whilst admissions staff can see your full application, expect to be asked to confirm the qualifications you've taken and the results you've received. Remember you may be speaking directly to an academic admissions tutor, so it's important that you convey some understanding of the subject and express your motivations clearly. You may also be asked about extracurricular activities and experiences. Think back to your personal statement and how your skills and experiences relate to the course that you're applying to.
  
Questions you should ask
Think about the questions you asked when you first made your application. What and how will you be taught, and how will you be assessed? Ask about course variants –  re you interested in studying abroad or gaining some industry experience as part of the course?

Stacy Lloyd – Admissions Manager, York St John University

   
York St John University
Here at York St John University we understand how daunting the Clearing process can be, however, if you fully prepare, we can make it as stress-free as possible! Here are our top tips to help you:

First of all, we can’t speak to family members on your behalf – we need to speak to you as it’s you who will be applying to the university.

Make sure you have your Personal ID and your Clearing number ready – we can’t log you on to our systems without it and you will be flustered trying to find it whilst on the phone to us. 

Remember to have your results close by – sounds simple but this helps speed the process up.

There are several standard questions that we will ask:  what recent study do you have and does it meet the minimum institution requirements (A Levels and GCSE)? Do you need accommodation? Do you need to speak to someone in disability services?

You can ask questions too! Write some key questions down before you call us and use them as a prompt throughout the conversation. Good questions are: what support is available? Will I get accommodation? What financial support will I receive? If you are given an offer, don’t be side-tracked!  If you still have questions, make sure you ask them.

Finally, we know it is a lot to take in but it is really important that you pay attention to what you are told on the phone. There may be things you need to do and you need to be aware of what they are.
  

Lydia Wakefield – Senior Partnership & Recruitment Officer, Kaplan Holborn College

If you didn’t quite get the results you were hoping for, DON’T panic. If you’re going to use Clearing, the list of courses is available in The Telegraph, at www.ucas.com and on university and college websites. 55,700 students accepted places through clearing in 2012, so you certainly won’t be alone!


Lydia Wakefield,
Kaplan Holborn College
Here’s our advice to help you before and during your phone calls in Clearing.

Before you pick up the phone, remember…
  • Have your UCAS ID number ready, it will be one of the first things you are asked for.
  • Make sure your phone is charged and call from a quiet place (you don’t want it to cut out just as you’re about to be made an offer!).
  • Ask admissions staff lots of questions about the university and courses. 
  • Make notes – this will help you make an informed decision if you are offered a place. 

What questions do we ask?
  • “What is your UCAS ID?”
  • “Are you already holding an offer?” If you are you will not be eligible to apply through Clearing – if you know you haven’t met the conditions of your offer you’ll become eligible if this changes to unsuccessful.
  • Personal details – so have your contact info close by.
  • "What are your qualifications?” Have these on hand when you call. 
  • “Why are you interested in the university and course?”

You don’t need to accept the first offer you get – most institutions will hold a place for you for an agreed period. But when you are accepted on to a course that is right for you, the university or college will issue you with an unconditional offer. Your university or college will send you details on what you need to do next. Read it carefully in case there is anything you need to do before your start.

Check out Kaplan Holborn College’s website for more advice from us about Clearing.

Bhavesh Varsani – Admissions Process Adviser, University of Westminster

  
Don't panic
If you do need to call, getting through to universities on results day can be quite stressful. Persist and eventually you will get through. At the University of Westminster we have 70 team members in our Clearing Enquiry Team to assist you. 

University of Westminster
Be prepared
Make sure you have enough credit and battery on your phone. Our 0800 027 9777 number can save you from a huge phone bill, however some mobile phone operators will charge.

Keep your UCAS Personal ID to hand. Some universities will also give you a reference number specific to them – we give applicants an eight digit Westminster ID number, so if you get one of these make sure you write it down. Often we will ask you to speak to the admissions office or an academic for a final decision.  It’s a good idea to take their name and number before you are put through, just in case you get cut off and you need to call them back.

If you have retaken your GCSEs you may be asked to wait for your results before a final offer can be made to you. It’s still worth calling on the day, as we’d still be happy to talk to you.

If you got your results last year we may ask you what you have been doing since then, so be prepared to answer such questions.

Be available
Some of our courses, such as Electronic Engineering, will want to interview applicants before making an offer. Other universities and colleges may differ, and it’s a good idea to ask about this in case you need to change your plans so that you’re available.

You should be contactable all day on results day, so make sure you have access to your emails, as we will email you to confirm any offers we make to you. Remember to regularly check your junk email folders too and add westminster.ac.uk to your safe senders domain list. If you can, provide us with two telephone numbers just in case we need to call you. Good luck!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

BTEC results and what happens with them...

It's that time of year again when results for the different BTEC qualifications start rolling in. There can sometimes be confusion about who handles your results and what happens with them, so this should make things a bit clearer!

Each week we receive a batch of results from the exam board EDEXCEL, right up until September. We match your results to your application and send them to your uni choices. Once they've got them, we'd expect the unis to update your application with their decisions within a few days. Your Track status will change when this has happened – if you're unsure what your status means you can find out on our 'What your results mean' page. 

If you get your results before the university receives them from us, you could get in touch with them to ask if you can pass them on yourself. The uni might ask you to send a copy of your transcript by post or email, or they might say they'll wait until they receive your grades from UCAS before they update your application.

Providing you've got the grades the university set out in the conditions of your offer, you can assume you've got in and your place will be confirmed once they've received your results from us. That said, remember there might be additional requirements you need to complete, such as health checks or sending proof of your past qualifications, so make sure read all the conditions carefully. 

If you know you haven't met the conditions for your firm and insurance choice, but they're waiting for your results to be confirmed or for the results of other qualifications to be published before they make a decision, it's a good idea to be prepared and look in to Clearing

Get advice on the next steps after results.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

UCAS Track – update

As you’ll be aware, Track is unavailable again today. If you’ve seen the updates on our social media channels you’ll know that unfortunately the technical issues are going to take longer to overcome than we had first thought. Some of you have been particularly concerned about replying to your offers, as today was the deadline for doing this if you received all your university decisions by 9 May. To help to clarify the situation, I’ve put the questions you're asking to Philip Blaker, our Head of Admissions Services.

"When will I be able to log in to Track again?"
We expect it to be early next week but we can’t give you a specific date or time at the moment. It’s our top priority and we’re doing all we can to resolve the issue so you can log in to Track as soon as possible. We'll let you know when it's available again. 

"So the 6 June reply deadline has been extended, when will I have to reply to my offers now?"
Again, we can’t tell you just yet because we don’t know when Track will be available. We want to make sure you have plenty of time to reply to your offers, so we won’t decide your reply deadline until the technical issue has been resolved. As soon as the new date has been decided, we'll contact you to let you know. We will also post information on our website and social media channels.

"Do I need to contact the universities to let them know I can’t reply to my offers?"
No – we’ve contacted every university and college to let them know that the reply deadline will be extended, so you don’t need to get in touch with them about this.

"How can I keep up to date with the situation?"
We will regularly update our website with information about Track, plus we’ll be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.
 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

UCAS Track - update

You may be aware that Track has been unavailable since last night. Here’s an update on the situation from Philip Blaker, our Head of Admissions Services

“Engineers are currently working to fix the technical issue we’ve encountered, however we expect that Track will be unavailable for the rest of the day.

Please be assured that if you have a reply deadline of 6 June, you will be able to accept your offers once the technical issue has been resolved.

We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause you.”

We’ll continue to update you on the situation on our website and through our social media channels – that’s @ucas_online on Twitter and www.facebook.com/ucasonline.

   

Thursday, 16 May 2013

An Extra opportunity...

Not holding any offers, either because you’ve been unsuccessful with all five choices or because you’ve declined all the offers you received, is likely to leave you feeling anxious about your application. Take heart, however, in the fact that each year there are many students in exactly the same position who go on to accept offers – even before Clearing.  Want to know how? In a word: Extra. Our guest blogger Amy Smith, Admissions Co-ordinator at Nottingham Trent University, explains how you can make the most of this valuable opportunity...

Amy Smith, Admissions Co-ordinator at
Nottingham Trent  University
UCAS Extra. One of the best kept secrets. Extra is an opportunity for those applicants whose initial 5 choices did not go entirely to plan, be that because they were unsuccessful, had a change of heart about the institutions they applied for (it’s amazing what you can find out about a place following an open day, check out the blog entry from Sarah at LSBU) or just want an entirely new direction from their university education (fancy going from a Science background to Art and Design?). As long as you don’t hold any offers elsewhere, Extra is your chance to get one!

Here are a few tips for applying through Extra:

Find vacancies

Courses that are open in Extra are advertised on the UCAS website through Course Search, as long as they have spaces available. For example, if you search for courses at Nottingham Trent University, you can tick the box to search for ‘Extra courses only’ to exclude all the courses that are full. Time is short though, as places will fill up and once they are gone, they are gone.

Be prepared

Do your research and see what’s out there. Check vacancies on Course Search, but don’t be afraid to look at institutions' websites, or contact the universities and colleges directly to get even more information about the courses you are interested in. You don’t get many second chances in life, but with Extra you can submit a new personal statement directly to your chosen institution if you wish. You’d need to check whether they’re happy to consider it first, but if they are then use it to your advantage - show you have done your research and explain why you are interested in your new choice. 

You don’t have to wait until August

Those eligible for Extra have the advantage of not having to wait until Clearing to secure themselves an offer or a place at university. You have access to a wide variety of courses and have until the 3rd July 2013 to make a choice through Extra. Courses may fill up in the meantime though!


Hit the button

If you’re eligible for Extra then an ‘add Extra choice’ button will appear in Track.  This allows you to enter your chosen institution and course details, and then your application will be sent for consideration. You can only choose one Extra choice at a time, so make it a good one!



It’s still not the end!

If you are unsuccessful in your first Extra choice, or decline an offer made to you, you can add another choice within the Extra timeline (25th February-3rd July 2013). 

Obviously, Extra is not without its risks. Remember:
  • If you have chosen to decline all of your previous offers to enter Extra, you will not be able to go back to them at a later date, so think carefully about your decision! 
  • You cannot change your Extra choice until a decision has been made or 21 days have passed.
  • Not all courses at all institutions will be open through Extra, so if you are determined to apply for a particular institution or course and have been unsuccessful, you may have to wait until you have your results and apply again next year. 
Your university experience should be one that you remember for the rest of your life, so make the most of the opportunity and take advantage of what is available to you. 

Thank you to Amy Smith from Nottingham Trent University for sharing her advice on Extra.

You’ll find more information on using Extra on the UCAS website and in our UCAStv video guide below.


 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The deadline for university decisions


Although it might sometimes feel like a never ending wait for decisions from your university choices, there are in fact fixed deadlines for them to respond. These are in place so you’re not waiting forever for offers to come through in Track, and so you can proceed with your application.

So it’s these two entries in our list of important dates that we’re referring to:

9 May 2013 If you applied by 15 January and are waiting for decisions, universities and colleges must send us their decisions by this date. If they don't, we will make any outstanding choices unsuccessful on their behalf.

18 July 2013 If you applied by 30 June and are still waiting for decisions, universities and colleges must send us their decisions by 18 July. If they don't, we will make any outstanding choices unsuccessful on their behalf.

In a nutshell, depending on when you sent your application, the universities either have until 9 May or 18 July to make offers. However if you applied by 15 January with, say four choices, and then added another choice after this date, all of your choices would have until 18 July to make their decisions.

If you’re still waiting to hear from one or more of your choices when the deadline for decisions passes, they will automatically update to ‘unsuccessful’ so that you’re able to either:

or
  • use Extra if you’ve already added five choices and they were all unsuccessful. This is available until 3 July.

If you’ve been told by a university or college that they are offering you a place – perhaps they sent you a letter or told you at an interview – and you think an ‘unsuccessful’ decision has appeared because they missed the deadline, the best thing to do is get in touch with them straight away (you’ll find all their contact details on the UCAS website). If it’s a mistake then they’ll be able to contact us to change their decision, but only if you haven’t replied to any other offers you received or added an Extra choice.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Student Finance: your questions answered

Last week we asked you on Twitter and Facebook what questions you wanted us to put to Student Finance England. We've now picked a selection of your responses to try and represent as wide a range of your concerns and situations as possible and put them to Mark-Lee Kelly their Communications & Social Media Assistant.

“What does approved mean? Have you paid the uni or not?”
The approved application status means that your application has been processed and that payments are ready to be made.

You can check whether your university has been paid from your online account.  To do this you should log in to your online account then go to My Account > View Payments at www.gov.uk/studentfinance.
Student Finance England expert
Mark-Lee Kelly

“When is the deadline for 'evidence'?”
There’s no specific deadline date for evidence to be received, however we would advise you to send it in ASAP! The sooner you send the evidence that’s been requested, the sooner we’ll be able to get your application fully processed and let you know what you’ll be receiving.

When evidence is required this means that we cannot process your application until it has been received.

“Why can’t I register for a new account?”
A student finance account is linked to the account holder’s National Insurance Number.  This means that each person holds one account for the length of their study and their repayment period. 

You may be able to find out your login details to the account you hold by using our ‘forgotten your login details’ link on the login page at www.gov.uk/studentfinance. If this isn’t possible then one of our telephone advisers will be able confirm your Customer Reference Number over the phone on 0845 300 5090, and then they’ll email a new password and secret answer to you.

“Why has the finance application not taken into account that there is no NHS bursary for the first year for Social Work BA students?”
Social work students are able to apply for full support from SFE including tuition fee loan, maintenance loan and maintenance grant based on household income, regardless of which year of their course they are in. 

It sounds as though you might not have applied for a grant when you were completing your application.  On the ‘Your estimate’ page of the application there’s a link that says ‘continue based on household income’ which needs to have been clicked to make sure that household income is taken into account.

Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten to do this as you can still request for household income to be considered. 
To make the change you’ll need to complete and send us this form.

Your parents or partner can supply financial details to support your application by completing this form too (please note that we’ll need separate copies for each parent in your household!)

“Mum doesn't have the P60 that they ask for. What else can I do?”
There are a few alternatives that your mum may be able to send us if she doesn’t have her P60:

  • a copy of a Statement of Earnings for the relevant tax year that can be requested from HMRC
  • a copy of the month 12 payslip showing the full tax year’s earnings on it (this is the last payslip from the tax year, usually issued in March)
  • copies of the full tax year’s payslips from April to the following March

Why do they need to know my mum’s P60 from 2009? We were in Spain and don't know it!”
It sounds as though we need proof of your mum’s earning level for your grant application from the 2009 tax year. 
If your mum had an income from the UK in 2009 there are a few alternatives that she may be able to send us if she doesn’t have her P60:
  • a copy of a Statement of Earnings for the relevant tax year that can be requested from HMRC
  • a copy of the month 12 payslip showing the full tax year’s earnings on it (this is the last payslip from the tax year, usually issued in March)
  • copies of the full tax year’s payslips from April to the following March

If your mum had an income from Spain in 2009 she will need to provide the Spanish equivalent of a P60 to prove her income amount.

“Do I need to give bank details if I'm only applying for tuition fee loan?”
Tuition fee loan instalments are paid directly to your university so you don’t need to supply bank details if you are only receiving this type of finance.

“Does the passport you need for identification purposes need to be in date or can it have expired? With the sending of our birth certificate I presume they will send it back to us as you only want originals?”
Yes, passports need to be in date to be used as proof of identity. 

Birth certificates will be sent back to you once they have been processed.  It’s worth noting that if you are sending your birth certificate you will need to send a Birth Certificate Form along with it.

“When can we start applying? Can I apply before I'll accept an offer (still waiting for the last response)?”
Applications for full time student finance are now open. The deadline for new students is 31 May, so it’s a good idea to apply as soon as possible. 

You should include the details of the course you’re most likely to attend on your application. You can update this later if your course changes.

“Are there are any plans to introduce a fourth payment for health science students due to the fact we are in university/on placement for several more weeks than other courses and this prevents us from being able to find work when other students can during the summer holidays?”
The payment dates for each course are given to us by the university or college where the course is being studied.

Students whose academic year exceeds 30 weeks and 3 days in length receive an 'extra weeks' portion of Maintenance Loan.  To qualify for this your application must also be based on household income.  The amount that’s awarded for each extra week will depend on where you are studying, which year of study you are in and whether you live at home or away.

“In relation to the four year cap on support, why is it that even if I have funded one year myself, it still counts as one of those four years? (I took two part-time Cert HE courses, the first was funded by PTG1 and the second was funded by myself - but I’m now in a situation where I can't do a degree because only years 2 and 3 will be covered.”

There isn’t specifically a four-year cap on student finance as students are entitled to receive funding for the length of their course plus one extra year that can be used for a false start or resit year. 
We have to take any previous studying into account when calculating your entitlement for student finance.  This includes self-funded study and study at course providers outside the UK too.

“Why are full-time mature students assumed to have the same financial commitments as younger students. The current method of computer-generated payments by instalments does not meet the needs of mature students whose financial commitments are completely different. Mature students operate larger budgets often with dependent children and/or relatives. The appeal process is also humiliating.”

Regardless of whether a student is mature or not, if they have children or adult dependants they’re able to apply for extra non-repayable support to help with these additional costs.
Extra support includes:

  • Parent’s Learning Allowance,
  • Adult Dependent Grant;  and
  • Childcare Grant

There’s lots of information on eligibility, entitlement and how to apply for these types of funding here.

“I am a first-time applicant. I want to know the deadline for 2013/2014 applications. Someone told me that it’s 31st March 2013. Is this correct?”
The deadline for new students in the 13/14 academic year is 31 May 2013. The deadline is in place to encourage you to apply as soon as possible to help ensure that your funding is in place when you start university.

“Can EU students apply for student loans online, through the website or do they have to fill in the paper form and send it via post?”
EU students can apply online for student finance if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years or more prior to 1 September 2013.

EU students who don’t meet the above criteria need to apply using a paper application form that will be available to download from www.gov.uk/studentfinance soon.

“Why does Student Finance England not take into account how many dependants my parents have as this greatly decreases how much financial support they can give me at uni?”
Student Finance England does take dependants into account when calculating your parents’ household income.

On the parents’ part of the application they are asked to provide the details of any other dependants that they are financially responsible for.

“I've applied for student finance already but purposefully left my bank details out because I want to do some shopping about for the best deal (which at the minute I doubt is my current bank). When will I definitely have to finalise my bank details?”
You’ll need to update your online account with your bank details at least five working days before your first payment is due. 

“If I'm an English student applying for a nursing degree in Scotland, is it correct that I get tuition fees paid by NHS and a bursary from SAAS? And am I entitled to a maintenance loan from SFE on top of this?”
English students studying nursing in Scotland will be have their tuition fees paid by the NHS and a non-repayable bursary supplied by Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) too.  Unfortunately they won’t receive any financial support from Student Finance England.

“If a British citizen living in an EU country, can we apply for maintenance grants as well as finance as a 'home' student would? I was told ‘yes’ as I have the right to roam around EU countries but have also heard conflicting information. Thanks.”
British students do have the ‘right to roam’ around the EU, meaning that as long as they’ve been resident within EU countries for 3 years prior to 1 September 2013 they can still apply for same student finance as home students.

The application is made in the same way online at www.gov.uk/studentfinance.

If you are a Scottish student with a place at an English uni, do we apply for our loan through SAAS or through the English system?”
If you’re a Scottish student who ordinarily lives in Scotland then you should apply for your student finance from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Friday, 15 March 2013

Student finance: Essential advice on completing your application

As UCAS applications are in that strange period of limbo where people are either patiently waiting for university offers or they've already replied to offers, thoughts are increasingly turning towards student finance and how and when to make the application.

In the first of two student finance blogs this month, Mark-Lee Kelly, Communications & Social Media Assistant at Student Finance England gives us an overview of how to make an application, what additional support you may be entitled to and what happens in terms of repayments:

Mark-Lee Kelly
Mark-Lee Kelly
What’s available?
Universities and colleges in the UK are able to charge different fees for their different courses, up to a maximum amount of £9,000 for a full time course.

Tuition fee loans are available to cover the costs of university fees and these are paid directly to the university or college, while maintenance loans are paid directly to you to help with living costs while you’re studying.  You may also be eligible to receive a non repayable maintenance grant if your household income was below £42,875 in the 11/12 tax year.

If you are a student with children, dependent adults or if you have a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you may qualify for extra help on top of your main student finance package, depending on your circumstances. 

When should I apply?
Applications are open now and should be completed online as soon as possible at
www.gov.uk/studentfinance
 
You don’t need to have a confirmed university place to apply for student finance as you can enter your first choice of course which can be updated easily at a later date.

The deadline for new students is 31 May 2013 and 28 June for returning students.

What do I need to start applying?
 Before completing your application you’ll need to have the following to hand:

• UK passport number
• Bank account details
• National Insurance Number
• The university or college course details

There is a section for parents or partners to complete and it may help to have their National Insurance number to hand, if you’re applying for student finance based on the household income.

Should any evidence be requested we would advise sending it in straight away!

How does repayment work?
Repayments are only made once you have left university or college and are earning over the threshold. The amount that is paid is dependent on your income and not the amount that has been borrowed, each month you would pay back 9% of your income over the threshold.

The repayment of loans is administered through the tax system and the responsibility of administering repayments is shared between the Student Loans Company and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The Student Loans Company undertakes the account maintenance and communication with borrowers who are repaying their loans. 

Collection is taken through the PAYE system with HMRC liaising with employers or the account holder (if self-employed) who will take repayments from taxable earnings and then allocate the amount to the loan account.

There is more information available about repaying a student loan at www.slc.co.uk

Where can I find more info?
There’s lots of additional help and information about all aspects of student finance available.
You can use our Student Finance Calculator to get an estimate of the type of student finance you might be entitled to.  Don’t forget the more accurate the info you enter the more realistic the estimate we’ll give you.

There’s also lots of quick guides and information available on our dedicated Student Finance Zone at The Student Room as well as a live Q&A surgery every Wednesday where one of our expert advisers will answer your questions.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

January A level and AS level results: your next steps

Many of you will have recently received or will be receiving your A level/AS level results from the exams you sat in January. If you're not sure what to do with them and how to let your university choices know what you got, then this post should help you. But first this:

If your January results won't be cashed in by your school/college until the summer, then you don't need to take any further action. What you've done in January will be sent on to your unis with your summer results in August. If you have any doubts about when and how your results are cashed in then speak to your school.

If your winter results are being cashed in now, read on:

"I stated on my application that I would be sitting the exams in January."
UCAS will receive official confirmation of the results from your exam boards and process them over the next few weeks. However, we won't release them to your university choices until May. This allows for any re-marks or late cash-ins to be taken into account.

You don't really need to do anything with your results. However, if you want to, you can contact your unis and ask them if you can send them your results directly. It's then at their discretion as to whether they accept them from you or would prefer to wait for official notification from UCAS in May.

"I didn't mention that I would be sitting the January exams on my application."
If you didn't mention them on your application, then it's not that much of a problem. From the details we get from your exam boards, we should still be able to match up the results with your UCAS application and then send the results to your universities. However, to make certain that there are no problems with matching it all up you might want to email our qualifications team who can then update your application to show you sat the exams. Please note that they won't enter the results on your application just the fact you sat the exam.

If you've any other questions about it all then get in touch with our advisers on the UCAS Facebook page or on Twitter and they'll be happy to help.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

University open days: getting the most out of them!

Beyond the prospectuses and pretty pictures lies the eye-opening experience of an open day. Sarah Gordon, Senior Events Manager at London South Bank University (LSBU) offers applicants her tips for test driving their university choices before making a final decision:

It’s that time of year. Offers from universities you shortlisted are flooding in and now you need to make your big decision as to which university will be your first choice offer and which will end up in second place. But how do you decide?

sss
Sarah Gordon,
Senior Events Manager at LSBU
There’s probably a huge stack of prospectuses in your room gathering dust. You’ve probably spent hours trawling university websites, looking at blogs and going through league tables online. You’ve probably spent time talking to your friends and family about their opinions on the universities you’ve shortlisted. But have you been for a visit?

So many students find going to an open day a hassle: taking time out from work or social activities to make a long journey to see a university they’ve looked at online a hundred times. Do you really need to visit as well?

But things have changed so much in recent years, both in the way universities teach and in the cost of higher education. If you were spending a similar amount of money on purchasing something for yourself, perhaps a car or a home, you wouldn’t just go by the online advert and pictures in a sales brochure. You’d take a test drive or visit so you knew exactly what you were investing your money in.  Why not employ the same tactic when choosing your university?  

There is only so much insight you can get from looking at a prospectus or online course guide. The only way you can get a true feel for whether a university is the right one for you is to hop on a train or jump in the car and actually experience it for yourself; the good, the bad and the ugly.

So here are my top tips on getting the most out of a visit to a university open day:

Get out there
Visit as many open days as you can; at least two and ideally three, including one wildcard option. The more universities you visit and view, the more you will get an idea of what is and isn’t important to you.  

Don’t go it alone
Do take friends and family with you if you can. Having someone else with you to help take it all in is invaluable, and everything is always more fun with company. They’re going to remember the stuff that you don’t and will think of things to ask that you won’t.

Capture the experience
Make notes as you go and take photos to remind you of the day afterwards. It may look a little weird but if you’re visiting a few different places, they can soon all merge into one.

Be prepared
Buzz: a busy LSBU open day in 2012
Plan ahead, not only on a practical level (how you will travel there? Is parking available? Are there places for lunch?) but also be prepared to be both disappointed and pleasantly surprised at what you may find when you get there.

I speak to many students who were very clear about their first choice university, until they went to visit. They realised that, despite the pretty pictures in the prospectus and the high ranking in the university guides, it really wasn’t somewhere they could see themselves. Remember, you are not just joining a course, but a university community. You need to know you’ll be happy with the course but also the tutors, your fellow students, the campus facilities and its location. I have also spoken to students who’ve accompanied friends on open day visits, to universities they hadn’t considered themselves and have fallen in love with them.

Let open days open your mind
Be open-minded. Think before you go about what your wish list would be for the perfect university and then think about what you may be prepared to compromise on as you visit.

Get past the gloss
Don’t be afraid to speak to any student guides or ambassadors that are there. Although many of them will be paid to work, they will also happily give you a warts and all view of student life. That’s what they’re there for and they will all be keen to talk to you about the course they are doing and why they chose that particular university.

Sit back and relax
Take time out during your visit to head to the coffee shop or refectory, grab something to eat or drink and sit back and take it all in.  Can you see yourself here for the next two to three years?

Grill the tutors
Finally, talk to the tutors too and ask about the course you’re interested in. Find out how it’s assessed, which building it’s taught in (and visit that building if you can), what a usual week’s timetable looks like. This will help you to start building up a picture of what you’re signing up for.

Open days offer a great opportunity to double check that the universities you’ve chosen really are the right ones for you. It’s not just a course you’re buying, but three years of your life and you need to make sure that you’re going to be happy in your new home.  And nothing will beat that feeling of leaving an open day happy and confident that you have chosen the right place for the next chapter of your life.  

Friday, 15 February 2013

Top tips for interview success on creative arts courses

With letters for university interviews being delivered in the coming weeks, questions over how to prepare for them are at the forefront of the minds of many applicants. Is interview preparation a one-size-fits-all process? Should you approach an interview for a creative arts qualification as you would for one in humanities for example? Falmouth University offers courses in art, design, media, performance and writing and here Dr Andrew Upton, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching), gives his insight with six easy tips on interview success for courses in the creative arts - essential reading with the 24 March application deadline for some art and design course coming up!

The basics
University interviews are your chance to sell yourself to course leaders and there are some universal things you should get right, regardless of course choice, in order to get your place. You must be presentable, punctual, show enthusiasm, convey your desire to learn and be able to express why you have chosen your course. Check the interview letter and course web page carefully and make sure you have met every requirement and brought everything with you that you've been asked to.

Portfolio
Falmouth University students during a
BA (Hons) Film degree course session
This is the chance for you to present yourself and talk through your creative work with course leaders and admissions tutors. These are required for a range of creative subjects and a great portfolio can really make the difference between securing a place on your course or not. Portfolios must be well presented, selective and well edited with only your best work which is most relevant to your desired course. A portfolio provides evidence of your creativity to date and offers a chance for you to demonstrate skills in project development and research and proves you have the ability to communicate the concept behind your work clearly and are well organised. 

Auditions
A big difference for interviews in the creative arts courses compared to others is the use of auditions. Used for dance, choreography and theatre courses, this is the chance you have to impress course leaders doing what you love and to show off your technique. Make sure you have everything you will need for the audition. Courses in choreography and dance will offer you the opportunity to develop dance moves in small groups. Potential theatre students are asked to memorise a piece of text from published work that interests them, or of their own work to be used in a group improvisation workshop.

Inspiration
What influences you and who your favourite person, or style icon, is in your chosen field of study is important in the creative industries. There are some big and famous names out there in this sector and if you want to work in it you must know a thing or two about the leaders in your field.  Taking some time to really narrow down who you admire and why their work touches you will make a world of difference to the interviewers who will decide if you get onto your dream course.

Subject knowledge
All interviews for university places give you the opportunity to show that you have a strong interest in the subject and are therefore committed to the course. Showing evidence of long term interest can take the form of reading the latest books and journals in the subject field and being able to discuss them in your interview. You don’t need to be an expert but showing you know the subject speaks volumes about you and your commitment to it.

Written work
It may come as a surprise but evidence of research and writing skills are required for many interviews for creative arts courses. Interior design, fine art, photography and textile design all require recent essays you have written to be brought to your interview. Other courses may require a new piece to be written, for example, potential theatre students are asked to write a short review of recent contemporary theatre performance.

Above all, make sure you take the time to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your future is in your hands and you are taking the first steps toward a glittering career. If you make sure you take time to prepare properly then success is much more likely. Good luck!