Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The 15 January deadline is nearly here. Are you ready for it?

Your application needs to be with us by 18:00 (UK time) on 15 January to guarantee it’ll get equal consideration by the unis or colleges you’re applying to. If you apply after this deadline, the unis you’re applying to don’t have to consider your application.

If you’re a relaxed sort of person who likes to leave things to the last minute, you’re putting your application in danger. Here are the top reasons why leaving it to the last minute is really not a clever idea:

Stress – if you finish your application now, you don’t have to worry about it over the Christmas holidays, and so can relax and have fun without the nagging guilt of an unfinished application.

Technical issues – if you leave it until the last minute, your computer breaks and off-and-on-again doesn’t quite cut it, you’ll be in real trouble.

Research – some unis or colleges might want to see proof of your qualifications, so leave yourself plenty of time to find and dust off those certificates.

You won’t do yourself justice – especially when it comes to the personal statement, it pays to plan, redraft and redraft again. You’ll want to make sure your application is the best it can possibly be, and you won’t be able to do this if you leave it until the last minute.

Read our blog post and follow our five steps to avoid deadline drama.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Why you can afford to be braver in accepting university offers

Mary Curnock Cook,
UCAS' Chief Executive
Our End of Cycle Report spells out how applicants with even quite modest grades have a high chance
of getting offers from universities and colleges. And as the 2015 UCAS cycle gets underway, students will already be receiving offers and starting to think about which ones to accept.

Our report also highlights that applicants can make better use of their insurance choice.

Admissions officers understand what predicted grades mean

Many teachers use predicted grades to indicate what they think is the true potential of a student, rather than trying to predict what the outcome is most likely to be – and admissions officers realise this. This means that applicants might feel that an offer at, or even above, their predicted grades is a bit of stretch – and this is where the insurance choice comes in.

If you receive an offer you know you are unlikely to meet, you can still accept it as your firm choice, using the insurance choice as your ‘safe’ back-up. In the summer, even if you drop a grade against your ambitious firm choice offer, you might still be confirmed there. If not, your insurance offer kicks in and you are home and dry.

If you fail to make even your insurance conditions, there is still Clearing. Recent years have shown that there are usually plenty of courses with vacancies at all levels, including at the higher Tariff universities.

Applying for courses which have indicative requirements above your predicted grades

With five choices to play with, it is also relatively low risk to apply for a course or two which state grade requirements above your predictions. This might be a good option if you feel your school is under-estimating how determined you are to up your performance between now and the summer.   Make sure your personal statement is strong on your commitment though!

Make sure your insurance choice excites you

Using the insurance choice properly does mean that you need to do your research thoroughly, visit at least two universities, and be confident and excited about studying there.

It might even help to think of the insurance choice as your intended destination, with the tantalising and motivating possibility that your more ambitious ‘firm’ choice might turn up trumps in the final straight.

Don’t forget that accepting you at your insurance choice if you meet the conditions is not optional for universities.  If you have missed being confirmed at your firm choice, your insurance choice is contractually obliged to accept you if you have met those grades.

Our End of Cycle Report provides the evidence that students can afford to be bolder in their ambitions.  The insurance choice takes the risk out of dreaming about a university place with an offer that might seem a bit scary at this point, but which might be a real possibility as you work towards your exams and gain confidence in the lead up to the summer.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Meet our bloggers!

We have nine bloggers who’ve volunteered to share their different experiences with you throughout the year. Amongst them are people applying to uni, first year students and parents. Read a little more about them below…….

Anna Whittaker
Anna would like to study journalism and will be blogging about applying to uni. She hasn't had to wait long to hear back from her uni choices and has already attended an interview at one of them. While at the interview, she began to see herself at that university, so give her blog a read and check how she’s getting on. 

Scott Taylor
Scott’s a first year broadcast journalism student who’ll be blogging about his journey through university life. He writes about the importance of getting involved with freshers’ week and studying a subject you’re passionate about. He’ll also reflect on applying to university last year and offering handy tips for anyone with nerves about applying this year. 

Nicola Maclean
Nicola is a year 13 student applying to study English literature and she’s been lucky enough to receive offers fairly quickly after sending in her application. She’ll be blogging about her application and how she and her friends are dealing with the excitement of receiving university decisions.

Julie Ricketts
Julie is the parent of a first year student, and she’ll be blogging about the mixture of emotions any parent will go through when seeing their child go to university. She’ll also be sharing any helpful tips she comes across to other parents in a similar position. 

Martin Taylor
Martin will share the experience of having his youngest daughter make the transition from teenager to ‘responsible adult’ while at university. His daughter took a gap year before starting university and, among other things, he’ll be blogging about why he feels this has served her well in the long-run.

Henriette Stoll
Henriette is a first year student from Germany who is studying PR and advertising. She’ll be sharing the cultural differences between being a student in Germany and moving to England, as well as her experiences of meeting new people, being away from her family and adapting to the language. Check out how she’s dealing with life in London in her blog

Lauren Vipond
Lauren is a first year student studying physiotherapy at Keele University. She’ll be updating her fresher’s diary to share her journey through fresher-dom, joining societies and juggling her busy social life with her course. She’ll be looking back on her UCAS application from last year and also updating her blog with the various things she’s experienced so far while at uni. 

Megan Fitzsimons
Megan will be blogging as a first year student, sharing her hectic experience of life as a fresher, including the infamous ‘freshers’ flu’ and adapting quickly to her housemates. She’ll also touch on the amount of people you meet in a short time and how to keep yourself busy away from lectures.

Lily Fisher
Lily is applying to start university. She’ll be sharing her journey and offering helpful advice to anyone else going through the same process in her blog.

Enjoy the blogs, they’ll give you a better insight into applying to uni and student life from different perspectives. Feel free to leave them a comment on their blog posts if you have any questions for them. 

This month we have the first Blogger of the Month competition, you can vote for your favourite here.

If you have any questions about your application send us a message on Facebook or Twitter. Did you know we have a game? Download Uni Leap for iOS http://ow.ly/DRWWB or Android http://ow.ly/DRWWC now. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

How to prepare for interviews, auditions and tests

Depending on the kind of courses you apply for, your chosen unis and colleges may invite you for an interview or audition – in fact they’re compulsory for some courses, such as teaching and nursing.

They’re a way for both students and course tutors to find out if they’re mutually suitable. If invited, your chosen uni will make sure you have all the details so you know where to go and when. The interviewers may want to see work examples – such as an essay or piece of coursework – but they’ll let you know this in advance.

Here are some quick tips from us:

  1. Plan ahead – check where you’ve got to go, when you’ve got to be there and try to sleep well the night before so you’re in the best possible position on the day.
  2. Make a good first impression – show up on time, dress appropriately, remember your manners and be in control of your body language. Interviewers see hundreds (sometimes thousands) of students so make sure you stand out for all the right reasons.
  3. Try your best to relax – although interviews are a daunting experience, try to enjoy it once you’re there. If the unexpected happens and they ask a question you’re not prepared for, don’t panic – ask your interviewer to rephrase or repeat the question and give it your best shot. They won’t be trying to catch you out.
  4. Read your personal statement – your interviewer will have your application fresh in their mind, so make sure you can remember what you wrote and be prepared to talk about it.
  5. Shout about your achievements – well don’t literally shout, but be prepared to talk passionately about things you’ve done which you’re proud of – for example coursework, charity work or a social event you might have organised. If it demonstrates key skills that are linked to your chosen course, mention it.
  6. Ask questions – you need to convince your interviewer that you’ve got a real passion for your subject, so come prepared with questions to show that you’ve really thought about studying the subject at your chosen uni.
  7. Reflect on it afterwards – when you come out of the interview room, allow time to make notes on how it went. If you’ve got more than one interview, this will give you something to work on for the next one.
For more interview tips, take a look at our how to prepare for interviews video guide.
Instead of an interview you may be asked to submit a portfolio or take an admissions test. In this case, the university will let you know what you need to do and when by. If for any reason you can’t meet their requirements you must let them know as early as possible.


Friday, 28 November 2014

How to avoid deadline drama....

The 15 January deadline isn't too far away so we’d like to share some tips with you to make sure you don’t miss it! The deadline for most courses is 18:00 UK time on 15 January, but if you’re not sure you can check the details for your courses in our search tool. Your entire application, including a reference, must be sent to us by this time to be classified as on time.

To apply on time and be in with the best chance of being accepted follow these five steps.

1. Know your login details for Apply

First of all, we’ll start with the basics. Make sure you know your login details. If you can’t log into Apply then try and resolve the issue online. If you’re still having problems you’ll need to give us a call so we can reset your password.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your personal statement

You don’t want to be rushing your personal statement at the last minute and risk missing out vital information. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to draft a version offline, ready to put in your application. If you’re struggling for ideas of what to include then this blog post has lots of advice to help you along the way. We also have some top tips from Jane Marshall, who reads personal statements for a university.

3. Make sure the reference is complete

When someone misses the deadline it’s often to do with confusion about the reference section. Your referee must complete a reference before your application can be sent. You can check the status by logging in and checking the message on the home screen.

i) If you’re applying through your school or college:

After you've sent your application to your school or college, you should see a message on the ‘Welcome page.’ It’ll either say your application has been sent or that we are waiting for your centre to finish your reference or send your application.

If your centre hasn't completed a reference or sent your application then it’s best to check with them that they’ll be able to complete this for you before the deadline.

ii) If you’re applying independently:

Does the reference section have a red tick against it? If so then it’s been completed by your referee and you’ll be able to send us your application once you've completed all the other sections. If the reference box has three green dots then it means it’s still incomplete. Speak to your referee to make sure they’re happy to provide you with a reference before the deadline.

4. You’ll need to pay before you can send your application

When you come to make your payment, wait for the transaction to go through. As soon as it’s been processed the ‘Pay/Send’ section will be marked with a red tick.

It’s worth leaving plenty of time to make a payment in case you encounter any problems. If you’re applying through a centre then your school or college won’t be able to process your application until you've made a payment so try not to leave it until the last day!

If you’re applying independently then the payment will be the last thing you need to do.

5. Be prepared, your school or college may send your application back to you

Sometimes your centre may return your application if they feel you've entered any information incorrectly or missed off important details. You’ll receive an email when this happens but to be sure you can check this when you log in.

Once you've made the necessary changes you need to go through the ‘Pay/Send’ option. If you've made a payment already then you won’t be asked to do this again, you’ll only need to send your application back to your centre.

Once we've received your application you’ll get an email within 48 hours to confirm your application has been processed. Add enquiries@ucas.ac.uk as a contact in your address book to make sure the email doesn't fall into any junk folders.

And finally…… Good luck with your application!

If you have any questions about your application send us a message on Facebook or Twitter. If you've already applied and have some spare time on your hands, download our game Uni Leap for iOS http://ow.ly/DRWWB or Android http://ow.ly/DRWWC while you’re waiting for the universities’ decisions!

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)'.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Personal statements: quick-fire questions answered!

Got a question about writing your personal statement? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re often asked about this section of the application, and chances are your question will be one we’ve heard from other students. Check out the answers to five of the most frequently asked questions below they're all from admissions staff at universities and colleges (the people who spend their time reading personal statements!)

1. When should I start?
  • "As soon as you can! Give yourself time to write it properly. Your first draft alone could take you a whole day to write." Amy Smith, Nottingham Trent University. 
  • "Set yourself a schedule. It will take longer than you think to write your personal statement and it is important that you allow time to review your work several times." Emily Bell, the University of Liverpool.

2. What are unis looking for?
  • "Don’t forget about the obvious! Why do you want to study your chosen course?  Hopefully it’s something you know the answer to and have taken a lot of time to think about so make sure you include it." Emma Powell, Edge Hotel School.
  • "Enthusiasm, motivation and focus about the subject you’re applying to. Mention extra- curricular activities, transferable skills and include what your future career plans are after your degree." Maxine Charlton, the University of York.
  • "Unis aren’t looking for a dictionary definition of a subject. They know what their degrees are about; they want to know what you understand and enjoy about the subject. Emily Bell, University of Liverpool.

  •  "The best personal statements effectively link examples of the student's extra-curricular activities with the university's entry requirements." Amy Smith, Nottingham Trent University.

3. How should I structure my personal statement?
  • "Put your notes in order according to what the course you're interested in is looking for. If you have any skills and experience relevant to the entry requirements, make sure you say so at the start of your personal statement." Amy Smith, Nottingham Trent University.
  • "First impressions aren’t everything – yes, a lot of personal statements start in the same way. However, don’t put so much prominence on writing a witty first line – having a good overall personal statement will make a much better impression." Emma Powell, Edge Hotel School.

4. What should I do when I've written it?
  • "Check it carefully! Get your teachers, friends, partner, work colleagues or someone else you trust to read it - out loud - to you. It's a great way to spot errors and make sure it makes sense." Amy Smith, Nottingham Trent University.
  • "Don’t forget to save an up-to-date copy somewhere.  If you are invited for an interview your personal statement is likely to be read by the person interviewing you and may be used as a starting point for questions.  Make sure you can remember what you wrote and back it all up if you are asked." Emma Powell, Edge Hotel School.

5. What other advice do you have?
  • "Do not mention a specific university. Unless you reveal otherwise, we will think that you really only want to come to us!" Emily Bell, the University of Liverpool. 
  • "Remember you have a lot to offer – you just have to write about yourself in a positive way and sell all the skills and experience that you have." Amy Smith, Nottingham Trent University.

Need more personal statement help? Visit www.ucas.com/personal-statements and if you’re looking for somewhere to start, check out these 10 places to get personal statements pointers.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Become a UCAS Blogger!

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 things as you. As a thank you, you’ll have the chance to enter regular competitions and exclusive prize draws.

If one of the following describes you and you’re interested in being a UCAS blogger, we want to hear from you!
  • You’re applying to universities or colleges in the UK
  • You’re a parent of someone who’s applying to universities or colleges in the UK
  • You’re about to start your first year at university or college in the UK
To register your interest, please complete this short questionnaire.

The closing date for entries is Wednesday 10 September. Good luck!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Clearing experiences

In 2013 there were 57,100 students who were accepted at universities and colleges through Clearing. Each year there are students throughout the UK who are succeeding in their studies and careers after using Clearing to get a place on their chosen course – let us introduce you to four of them...

Jaz’s story
BBB were the grades Jaz needed to study the engineering course she’d chosen, but on results day things didn’t go to plan. She had a big decision to make: re-take her exams, change direction altogether or look for a place in Clearing. She chose Clearing, and she’s glad that she did because she now has a first class degree with honours in mechanical engineering from City University. And not only that, she has a successful career in retail energy management. Read her inspirational story here.

Riccardo’s story
Riccardo hadn’t applied to university when he got his exam results, but that didn’t stop him. He researched the Clearing vacancies for London Metropolitan University where he wanted to study, and found a course that was right for him. After speaking to their admissions team and sitting the English language test they required, he got a place. He’s now not only graduated but he’s gone on to study for a master's, with a view to go on to get a PhD. Hear about his experiences here. 

Charlotte’s story
Charlotte’s results weren’t what she was expecting, and she felt that should re-think her choice of course and university. She did her research and knew that early primary education at Northumbria University was what she wanted to do, so she got in touch with the programme leader to find out as much as she could. She’s now enjoying every minute of her course, and believes that using Clearing helped her to make the right decision about her future – listen to her story here.

Joyce’s story
Joyce was very upset when all five of her choices were unsuccessful for adult nursing. She had always wanted to contribute to the National Health Service and when that did not work out, she had to really think about what to do. She decided to use Clearing and was successful in getting a place on a public health course at the University of Greenwich.  She says she’s incredibly glad she tried this route, as she would have otherwise waited another year before reapplying.

Joyce has now completed her studies and will be graduating this October.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Finding the right course for you in Clearing

When it comes to contacting universities and colleges about courses in Clearing, it’s important to act quickly but that doesn't mean making a hasty decision. While you need to be proactive you also need to be sure that the course you accept is right for you. We asked admissions staff from universities and colleges to share their advice on researching courses effectively in Clearing  read on to find out what they told us...

Stewart Harper – Head of Student Admissions, Leeds Metropolitan University

Stewart Harper,
Leeds Metropolitan 
For those that are due to receive A level, BTEC or other exam results this summer, deciding what to do next may be an ever-present thought. The most important thing is not to panic; many universities still have places on a wide range of courses and we are here to help you.

Clearing isn’t a ‘second best’ option, but rather a process by which thousands of students each year find the course that is just right for them. As with the main UCAS cycle, the key is to make sure that you research the course and university, and if possible go and visit – we have opportunities to come and see our campuses on the Friday and Saturday after A level results for example, and that often serves to reassure applicants about the choices they are making.

It is difficult to get the same depth of research done in a few days as across the whole application cycle, so you can make a start now and see what vacancies universities are already advertising – our website also carries details of what UCAS Tariff points you need. You’ll need to consider the balance between different options within the same subject area – practical or theoretical, for example – that suits your own personal style or preferences.  

If you aren’t yet eligible to apply through Clearing (for example, if you are still waiting for your results) then keep a note of the courses or universities that attract you so that you don’t have to repeat the exercise, and if you are going to be away on results day take those notes with you – don’t forget that nobody else can do your application for you!

Doing your research now will put you ahead of the game and come September allow you to start on a really exciting journey!

(From 22 September 2014 Leeds Metropolitan University will become Leeds Beckett University.)

Emma Powell – Admissions Officer, the Edge Hotel School 

Emma Powell,
the Edge Hotel School
It’s never too early to prepare 
If you don’t have a place, or think you might not get the grades you need, think about your options before you have your results. Most universities let you visit and speak to admissions staff, so you can start to weigh up your options before it’s time to make a decision. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan – or even better, several!

On the day
Check the Clearing vacancies in The Telegraph and on the UCAS website, and look on institutions’ websites – many have a dedicated Clearing page. This is why preparing beforehand is useful – if you have an institution in mind you can call them to ask about Clearing vacancies or find them in the vacancy lists. At the Edge Hotel School we ask students interested in applying through Clearing to call us first.  

Questions you should ask
Some universities might want to interview you over the phone so make sure you’re not in a rush! We understand it’s a stressful time, but think about why you want to study there, what the course is about and what your job prospects might be. Doing research will make all the difference to making a good impression. 
You need to make sure it’s the right course for you and the place you want to be for the next few years. As well as answering questions that admissions staff ask, it’s important to have questions of your own. How will you be assessed? How long will you be in lectures? What links are there with industry? What accommodation is available? Ask when you would start  the Edge Hotel School has start dates in January, May and September.  

Getting the place
Make sure you check your emails as admissions staff may contact you following your call with useful information about open days and how long you have to decide.

Amber Clabburn  Clearing Adviser, Kaplan Holborn College

Amber Clabburn,
Kaplan Holborn College
Research before results day, just in case
It’s a good idea to plan and research courses in advance of results day. That way you will already have options if you find yourself in Clearing, which means less stress and panic on the day.

Research similar courses to the ones you’ve applied for. Remember to consider the ‘additional extras’ the course may offer, such as placements or professional qualification exemptions. Most important of all: check that you meet the basic entry requirements – though these are sometimes altered in Clearing.

Researching on results day
If you find yourself in Clearing, it is important that you effectively research courses and institutions – after all, you are investing two to four years of your life at university or college.

There are many things to consider, so try not to rush the search too much. Chances are you know roughly what you want to study, so look on ucas.com, institution websites and in the Telegraph to find institutions that have spaces in your chosen subject area. 

Be realistic when considering courses; ask yourself the basic questions e.g. Do you meet the entry criteria? Would you be interested in moving to or commuting to that location?

Questions for admissions tutors
Ask anything and everything, but stay calm. After all, it is the admissions tutor’s job to help you. And don’t worry if you think that you are asking something silly – chances are someone will have asked this before. Feel free to ask even the most seemingly insignificant questions if they help ease your concerns. Although Clearing is a busy period for any institution, the staff at the end of the phone will be pleased to help you. 

And finally...
Try not to rush your decision; whatever it may be. Speak to teachers, parents, friends – anyone who can give you advice from their own experience. If you make the most informed choice you can, it’s likely to be the right one for you.

Sophie Rowell – Admissions Co-ordinator, Nottingham Trent University 

Sophie Rowell,
Nottingham Trent University
Results day can be a daunting time, particularly if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped. If you don’t quite meet the conditions of the offers you hold, you can enter into the Clearing process. This is another chance to find a course of interest, now that you know your results. 

It’s beneficial for you to prepare for Clearing in advance of results day. Look at universities asking for slightly lower grades to do your course of choice, think about where you would like to live in the country, and have a think about which courses match your skills and interests. Some universities publish their Clearing vacancies early, and it doesn’t hurt to have a look at some courses which may be of interest. Parents and teachers may be able to suggest some universities that you hadn’t thought of previously, or courses that you hadn’t yet considered.

If you end up going through the Clearing process on results day, the most important thing is not to panic! There are plenty of spaces at universities up and down the UK, and it’s essential that you take your time to research the courses and universities thoroughly. Make sure that you call the Clearing hotline yourself, rather than getting someone else to call, and have your results and a pen and paper in front of you. Admissions agents are there to help you find a great place in Clearing, not to catch you out! 

We’ve put together some advice guides full of hints and tips to help you prepare for results day. From the ten golden rules for Clearing, to a step-by-step guide, we’ll talk you through what to expect on the day and how to approach the Clearing process. Go to www.ntu.ac.uk/clearing to find out more. 

Rebecca Heron – Student Recruitment Manager, Lancaster University 

Rebecca Heron, Lancaster University
If you think that you might be in Clearing, then the best thing you can do is prepare in advance! Even if there’s only a slim chance, it’s always best to have a contingency plan just in case you don’t do as well as you expected. 

First off, make a list of universities that you might consider – check that they offer your course, and look at the entry grades. You might want to revisit some of the universities that were in your original UCAS choices – you could always give them a call to see if they expect your specific course to be in Clearing.

Next, list your preferred universities in priority order – that way you'll know which to call first on results day. Most universities will open early to cope with demand - the most popular will receive thousands of calls for a limited number of places, so it’s a good idea to make a note of telephone numbers and opening times in advance, and call as soon as they open in order to beat the queues.

Don’t make the call without having done your research first – at least know whether the course is available and what the entry grades are. Your experience could differ greatly depending on the university – some may just run through your grades, whilst others may conduct a telephone interview, so be prepared for either. 

You’ll have to make a decision quite quickly, but you still need to make sure that it’s the right choice - whilst you’re on the phone ask about the modules that you’ll be studying, and find out if accommodation is guaranteed for Clearing students. 

Try to visit the university before you accept an offer – most will have visiting opportunities in the days following Clearing, so ask when you call.

Sarah Temlett & Lucy Dixon – Admisisions Support Unit, University of Sunderland

Our top tips for Clearing:
Sarah Temlett & Lucy Dixon,
University of Sunderland
Sarah: “Don’t be shy! Whoever you speak to will want to help you and provide advice tailored to your qualifications and the courses you’re interested in. Places may be limited so don’t be afraid to sell yourself and show your passion for your subject. A conversation with an Admissions Tutor may be an informal interview so have your personal statement to hand – you may want to reference it. If you’re not sure about an offer you’ve received, it’s OK to think it over and call the university back. Don’t take too long as places aren’t held indefinitely, but don’t feel you have to accept it there and then.”

Lucy: “Make sure your phone is charged and that you’re somewhere quiet – you may have to make several calls and you’ll have lots of information to take in. Have a pen and paper to write down the names and numbers of people you have spoken to, as well as any other information. Have a list of your qualifications and experience so university staff have the best chance of finding a course for you. Don’t forget  the university may want to know about your GCSE or equivalent qualifications too."

Questions to ask during Clearing:
Sarah: “If you don’t meet the requirements for a course or there are no places, ask what else is available. Other courses may have different requirements, so there may be a similar course or a foundation course you can get on to. If you ask about a course with professional accreditation, for example social work, always ask the Admissions Tutor how much experience you need to have." 

Lucy: “Ask about the availability, location and cost of accommodation. We have fantastic accommodation here at Sunderland, with great broadband speeds and at reasonable prices. Ask about any financial help that’s available, including bursaries and scholarships. There's more about the scholarship package at the University of Sunderland on our website."

The Exam Results Helpline gets ready for your call

The countdown is on to A Level results day and the Exam Results Helpline is preparing to help more peopleTwitter and Facebook as well as by calling 0808 100 8000.
than ever before. For the first time in the Helpline’s history, you can speak to careers advisers on

The Exam Results Helpline is manned by top careers advisers who help thousands of students each year with free, independent advice and they’re ready to give expert advice again this year.

On Thursday 14 August you can find out whether you’ve been accepted onto your chosen university course early in the morning (UCAS Track opens at 08:00 UK time). In most cases you will then need to go into your school or college to pick up your results. If you haven’t got into your chosen university, don’t panic! The Exam Results Helpline opens at 08:00 and advisers will be ready to talk through your options.

No question or worry is too small and the advisers can guide you on a number of topics including: higher education, retakes, Clearing, gap years, funding, vocational learning, apprenticeships and careers advice.

Exam Results Helpline adviser John Carberry explains how the helpline can help you in this short video:

Good luck, and whatever happens, don’t panic  we're here to help you. Either pick up the phone and call 0808 100 8000 or ask your question on the Exam Results Helpline Twitter and Facebook pages.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dispelling the myths about A level results day and Clearing

Isn’t it funny how every year the same myths about A level results day and Clearing appear? We do our best to stamp them out but somehow they still do the rounds. I mean, who exactly is circulating them? And why?

We’ll probably never know, but you can get the truth behind the rumours right here in our dedicated myth-
busting blog post. And after reading it, please help your fellow soon-to-be-students by tweeting, sharing, blogging about and – if necessary – shouting these results day and clearing facts to anyone who’ll listen!

  1. TRACK DOES NOT UPDATE AT MIDNIGHT or at any time the night before A level results day. Neither does it show whether you’ve got in to your uni at 06:00, or 07:00. It’s at 08:00 on A level results day. Honest! Here’s the proof.
  2. YOU WILL NOT SEE YOUR A LEVEL RESULTS IN TRACK. Your school or college will give these to you. We’ve got lots of info on our website to explain exactly what happens to your results, so take a look if you want to know more!
  3. CLEARING VACANCIES CHANGE ALL THE TIME. That means they can disappear and appear throughout Clearing, as and when places are filled and become available. The universities and colleges update their own vacancies, so as soon as they change the status of one of their courses, this’ll be reflected in the vacancy search.
  4. UNIVERSITIES CAN’T UPDATE EVERYONE’S APPLICATION AT THE SAME TIME. Although I’m sure they wish they could, and have all their applicants’ offers changed to the correct status in an instant, it just doesn’t work like that. Some offers will change later than others. So the moral of the story is, if you get the grades you need and your offer hasn’t changed to unconditional, don’t worry about calling UCAS or the uni straight away. Chances are your offer will update during the day. In some instances you might need to contact the uni though – you can find out more on our “Still waiting?” page.
  5. YOU CAN APPLY FOR ANY COURSES YOU’RE INTERESTED IN IF YOU’RE IN CLEARING. Even if you originally applied for marine biology and you’ve now realised that food science is your calling, there’s nothing to stop you contacting unis to ask for a place on their course. There’s no guarantee they’ll consider you, but you can most definitely ask. Don’t ask, don’t get.
  6. YOUR CLEARING NUMBER WILL APPEAR IN TRACK AS SOON AS YOU’RE IN CLEARING. And not before. If you’re not in Clearing there’s no point calling UCAS to ask for a Clearing number – this is only generated once you’re not holding any offers, and as soon as we’ve got it, you’ll have it!
  7. YOU’RE ONLY ELIGIBLE FOR CLEARING IF YOU HAVE NO OFFERS. If you’ve been accepted by your firm or insurance choice, this doesn’t mean you can go ahead and use Clearing. In some situations you may be able to, but this requires a conversation with the uni you’re placed with to ask if you can let go of their offer to use Clearing instead. This video FAQ explains.
  8. YOU CAN’T CHANGE YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT. If you’re applying for courses in Clearing that are different to your original choices, and the unis would like you to write a new statement, then you’d need to send them a copy directly.
  9. CLEARING IS NOT JUST FOR PEOPLE WITH LOW EXAM RESULTS. There are lots of reasons why people use Clearing - some will have declined all their offers, others might not have received any offers in the first place, perhaps if they applied for particularly competitive courses, and some apply after 30 June and automatically enter Clearing.

  11. THERE ARE GOOD COURSES IN CLEARING. Let’s get this straight; absolutely any course can enter Clearing if the uni has places they want to fill. Even some of the most popular subjects can be found in the Clearing vacancy search, so don’t write off Clearing because you don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Universities and offer-making to ethnic minority applicants

Today’s media coverage has highlighted differences in offers made to applicants across ethnic groups by some universities, as well as the difficult issues surrounding the use of individual-level data for research and other purposes.

Dr Mark Corver, UCAS’ Head of Analysis and Research explains that UCAS' analysis indicates that differences in offer rates are largely explained by grades and the course’s popularity.

He also describes UCAS' recently published analysis on application and entry rates by ethnic group and how powerful data can in fact be provided without personal disclosure.

Competition for offers at some universities can be very intense - your chance of getting an offer can vary five-fold across just a few A level grades. This means even small differences in attainment between different applicant groups will quickly show up as a difference in offer rates.

When University of Durham researchers described their findings last year, we immediately looked in detail at offer-making to applicants of different ethnic groups. We found that although the chances of getting an offer do differ, the large majority of these differences can be attributed to the popularity of the course applied to and the relative strength of entry qualifications. 

These factors don’t account for all the differences though. The offer rate to Black applicants is around 2 percentage points lower than expected. We found a similar effect for Asian applicants.  No one should be put off applying by these differences which are equivalent to much less than a single A level grade out of a set of three - but even these small differences warrant further investigation.

We have also recently expanded our reporting of application and entry rates to cover ethnic group. For example, our 2013 End of Cycle report (pages 76-79) showed trends in entry rates by ethnic group and background to different types of universities. This showed young entry rates for all ethnic groups increased last year and the entry rates to the most selective universities for Black young people from 'free school meal' (and other backgrounds) increased very substantially in 2013. We will report on this again for 2014.

This new work is possible because of the recent investment we’ve made in capturing key information such as A level grades in a systematic form suitable for analysis. 

There is a growing appreciation that providing detailed individual-level data presents a high risk of individuals' personal details being disclosed. We've been tackling this problem through designing new ways of commissioning powerful, detailed aggregated data that does not identify individuals and so can be accessed and shared widely. We will be providing more details on this in autumn 2014.

The Exam Results Helpline – helping you face the unexpected

Need advice about your options? Call 0808 100 8000

If your exam results aren’t what you were expecting, it might feel like your world’s been turned upside down. Whatever your situation, the Exam Results Helpline (ERH) can offer you free and independent, expert advice. Meet four students who are glad they made the decision to call the ERH.

Didn’t get the grades you needed? Rohan's story...

Rohan didn’t get the grades he needed due to illness. With some help from an ERH adviser and the support of his family, he successfully applied through Clearing for another course. 

No offers? Tanya’s story...

Tanya’s exam results were good enough for her to study medicine but unfortunately she didn’t have any offers. After speaking to a member of the ERH team she decided to take a gap year and now she’s on course to follow her dream of becoming a doctor. 

Had a change of heart? Tryfan’s story...

Tryfan didn’t know what to do when he realised the course he’d accepted wasn’t right for him. With expert advice from the ERH however, he’s now studying a subject he loves. 

In Clearing? Ollie’s story...

Ollie felt lost when his exam results were lower than he expected. Calling the ERH was the right thing to do, and by talking through his options he was accepted on a course in Clearing. 

Contact the Exam Results Helpline from 5 - 23 August on 0808 100 8000.

Unexpected exam results – what next?

Results day arrives and it’s the moment of truth: Have you achieved what you needed to get in to college or university?

Regardless of your situation, don’t panic, there are always options. It’s a good idea to talk them over with someone who can help you make or adjust your plans, and that’s what the Exam Results Helpline is for. Whether you have questions about gap years, skills and experience, vocational qualifications, retakes and re-marks, moving out of home or finding employment – qualified and experienced careers advisers are at the end of the phone to support you with independent advice about your next steps. You can meet four students who are glad they got in touch with the Exam Results Helpline on results day in our blog post "The Exam Results Helpline - helping you face the unexpected".

John Carberry, a Careers Adviser for the Exam Results Helpline shares valuable advice on the different options to consider if your exams results aren’t what you expected. 

Pursuing university or college
If you only narrowly missed being offered a place at your chosen college or university, you may still be accepted so be sure to check your status in UCAS Track.
John Carberry - Careers Adviser, Exam Results Helpline

If you find yourself in Clearing you’ll need to look for courses you’re interested in that have vacancies and start speaking to universities and colleges to find out if they can offer you a place. Everything you need to know about how to use Clearing is on the UCAS website

Better grades than expected? Terrific! 
If you’ve met and exceeded the conditions of your firm choice, you’re eligible for Adjustment, which means it’s possible you could swap your course. You must register through UCAS Track, and again you’ll need to do a bit of telephone work. It’s important to be prompt if you want to use Adjustment – you only have a few days. 

Taking a gap year
Whether you’re planning to reapply for university next year or head straight into the job market, a gap year used as ‘constructive time-out’ can be great for your CV. It could give you the opportunity to ‘test-drive’ a career, develop your confidence and independence and build up your skills and experience – and ultimately make you a more valuable and competitive candidate for college, university or a job at the end of it. You could even earn some money along the way!

You have many options – voluntary or paid work in the UK or abroad, internships, work experience, travelling or a Year in Industry are just a few. 

If you’re unsure what you want to do, a gap year may provide you with the time and experience to help decide. If you want to return to education, remember to be aware of application deadlines!

Getting your exam papers re-marked
If you don’t agree with your exam results and you want to explore getting your papers re-marked, speak to your school or college IMMEDIATELY, especially if your place depends on the overall grade. There are strict deadlines in place and support from your school or college is essential.

Re-taking your qualifications 
If you think that you could have got a better grade in specific subjects or modules then there might be an opportunity for you to resit the exam, and reapply for uni next year. You need to speak to your subject teacher about this as it’s ultimately the school or college’s decision and they will organise next steps. 

Vocational qualifications
If you know what you want to do career-wise and you like the idea of earning while you learn, this could be a great choice for you. 

Vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships, HNDs and NVQs are credible, well-valued work-based training programmes. You’ll get top quality training while developing skills, earning a wage and gaining a qualification on the job. Vocational training is designed to give skills for specific jobs and is great if you want to move straight into employment.

To learn more about any of these options, contact the Exam Results Helpline. The service is available from 5 – 23 August on 0808 100 8000. Calls are free from UK landlines.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

10 places to get personal statement pointers

If a bit of personal statement inspiration is what you need, then look no further – here are the 10 best places to pick up more than a pointer or two!
  1. The UCAS website
    Start your planning at www.ucas.com/personalstatement. There are tips on how to get started and what to include. It also covers the technical aspects you need to bear in mind, such as the character count.
  2. Personal statement timeline
    Check out our personal statement timeline. It’s packed with advice on how to spread out the planning and writing stages so you’re not cramming at the last minute.
  3. Our blog
    A few years ago we asked uni admissions tutors to tell us what they’re looking for in the personal statement and the advice they shared has been so well received that it’s still our most popular blog post to date! Have a read of it here.
  4. Teachers and tutors
    Speak to your teachers and tutors at school to find out from them what they think your strengths are – they might point out a few areas that you hadn’t even considered, but that are really relevant when it comes to showing that you’d be a dedicated and hard working undergraduate student.
  5. Open days
    Open days are not only your chance to find out what a uni has to offer, but also to find out what they expect from their students. Take the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can - speak to course tutors to find out what they want to see in your personal statement, and what will make you stand out. Find out when open days are happening in our open days search.
  6. Students’ top tips
    No one knows more about the task at hand than your peers. We asked our Facebook fans who had already applied to uni for their personal statement top tips - here’s what they said:

  7. Video guide
    This brilliant video with Jane Marshall from Imperial College has everything you need to know about how to write your personal statement.

  8. Personal statement mind map
    Although it might look a bit chaotic, this personal statement mind map is a great way to get your thoughts in order.

  9. Search for course details
    Every course you can apply for is listed in our search tool, together with entry requirements and a description of what it covers. Find the courses you’re interested in and try to match up your strengths and experiences to the course requirements.
  10. Friends and family
    Once you’ve got your personal statement drafted, try reading it aloud to people you trust. They’ll be able to offer fresh insight in to how your statement flows and any areas you might have missed.