Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Replying to offers: give yourself enough time

You’ve waited anxiously for your university choices to make their decisions. You’ve logged in to Track to check thousands of times and now you’ve finally received all your offers. You’re probably thinking “What a relief, the wait is over!” but don’t relax just yet, as once you get to this stage there’s a big decision to make: which offers will you accept?

Know your reply deadline
Although you might still be weighing up your different offers, there’s one thing that’s certain, and that’s the deadline you need to reply by. If you’re wondering when it is, it all depends on when you received the universities’ decisions. The first deadline is 7 May, which is for those who received all decisions by 31 March, but Track will display the right deadline for you so make sure you check.

Reply sooner rather than later
Whether you’re one of the people whose deadline is 7 May or not, once you’ve had decisions from all of your choices then it’s a good idea to reply to your offers sooner rather than later. That’s not to say you should rush your replies though – it’s really important to think carefully until you know which you’d like to make your firm and insurance choices. But once you’ve made your decision it’s best not to wait until the last minute.

You might think you’ve got plenty of time but don’t let the reply deadline creep up on you. The unavoidable truth is that if you leave it until deadline day to reply to your offers in Track, you’ll be feeling the pressure – even panicking. When you’re rushing it’s more likely that you’ll make a mistake, which could mean selecting the wrong replies. Just imagine – you’ve spent months perfecting your application and working towards meeting the conditions of your dream offer and you accidently select ‘decline’ instead of ‘firm’!

Now that’s not to say this doesn’t happen to even the most prepared applicants. You may be able to change your replies within seven days of making them – if you call us then we'll be able to let you know if this is possible.

Avoid unnecessary stress
If you miss the reply deadline altogether you’ll end up lumbered with unnecessary stress, as the offers you received will be automatically declined. We call it ‘declined by default’ and if you find yourself in this situation you should contact our customer service advisers straight away – they’ll be able to accept your chosen offers, but only if you get in touch within seven days.

So the most important piece of advice is to give yourself enough time to reply before the deadline. Here are just some of the benefits of replying in good time:

  1. You’ll get peace of mind –  your replies will be done and dusted and out of the way, so you can begin enjoying your summer
  2. You’ll avoid last minute problems – you’ll have the chance to ask for help from your teachers and UCAS, should you need it. 
  3. You’ll be able to make plans – universities and colleges will often wait until you’ve replied before they let you apply for accommodation. 

For help replying to your offers, take a look at our post Replying to university offers: the big questions or watch our video guide.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Open days: how to plan valuable visits

A survey published this weekend suggests that a quarter of students don’t attend open days before applying to university. We found this quite surprising, as open days are so helpful when it comes to painting a picture of university life and choosing courses. Yet our own research also suggests that a similar percentage of students still choose not to make these important visits before applying.

Keith Carter, Professional Development Officer at UCAS, explains more about the value of open days, where to find key information and how to make the most of visits.

Keith Carter, Professional Development Officer, UCAS.
I think it’s essential to visit a university or college before committing to at least three years of study. It’s another way of making sure your choice is right for you. Open days are an important part of researching courses and can make all the difference when it comes to making informed course choices.

By just setting foot on a campus you'll immediately get a feel for the place; perhaps you'll be able to picture yourself going there almost every day for the next few years, or the opposite - 10 minutes might be all you need to know that a particular university definitely isn’t for you!

Open days are often on weekends as well as weekdays and take place throughout the year. To help you plan your visits, we’ve made finding out about open days as easy as possible with our new open days search tool. All you have to do is choose the university or college you’re interested in visiting from the list, hit ‘Select’ and away you go! You’ll see upcoming open day dates, contact details and links through to the unis' own websites for more info.

Going on a visit will help you understand what university life is like, as you’ll be shown around lecture theatres, labs, catering facilities, bars and halls of residence. You’ll get some idea of the geography of the area and how close you’ll be to key services like train stations and supermarkets.

Open days are also prime opportunities to ask questions - not just to the staff, but perhaps more importantly, the students already studying there. You can ask almost anything and it can be far more revealing than reading a prospectus.

By making an effort to include open days in your research, you can avoid the disappointment of starting a course and finding it isn’t what you expected.

The new open days search tool is a great place to start this chapter of your journey to university. Once you've got the dates in your diary, have a read of our open days hints and tips to help you make the most of your visits.