Thursday, 28 May 2015

Apply 2016 - how to apply...

Apply 2016 is now up and running so you can start filling in your application, ready to send it on its way to the universities in September. Even though your application deadline may seem ages away, it’s worth registering as early as possible to save any last minute dramas down the line. If you’re unsure where you want to go or what you want to study, you don’t need to select your universities or courses just yet. However, you can start by filling in the other sections so you’re ahead of the game. So where do you begin?

Getting started
The basics come first; with questions based around your personal details so they should be straight-forward enough to answer. If you come across any questions that aren't clear, click on the red question mark which explains what you need to include. Check out our handy how-to video for a more in depth view in to the application.

This section’s where you need to add any schools or colleges you’ve attended from around the age of 13 onwards, along with the qualifications you’ve taken. It’s worth having your certificates to hand as they’ll be useful if you’re unsure of any of the details, such as your awarding bodies. There’s quite a lot of info you need to add here so we’ve created this video to help you.

Personal statement
This is your opportunity to shout about your strengths, talk about your interests and expand on why you want to go to university and study your chosen course. On a practical note, it’s best to create a draft of your personal statement in a Word document first then copy it over once you’re happy with it. It’s a good idea to ask a family member, teacher or friend to have a look over it before you add it to your application. A second pair of eyes will pick out any errors you might’ve made or remind you of some important information you’ve missed off. Reading it aloud a couple of times is a good way to check that what you’ve written flows correctly.

You need a reference before your application can be sent. This should be from a current or previous teacher but can come from someone who knows you in a professional capacity, such as an employer. Your referee can’t be a family member or friend.

There are a couple of ways to get a reference – read on to see which is the right way for you.

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

When you register, you’ll be asked to enter a buzzword if you select that you’ll be applying through your school or college. This will link your application to your school or college so your teacher can write your reference. They’ll also be able to look over your application and help you along the way, and when the time comes, they’ll send it to us on your behalf.

ii) If you’re applying independently: 

There are a couple of ways to get a reference if you’re applying independently. If your previous school or college is happy to complete a reference then in the ‘Options’ section you can select ‘ask a registered school, college or centre to write a reference only.’ This route needs a buzzword from the school or college so you’d have to discuss this with them.

Alternatively, you can enter your referee’s contact details in the reference section and we’ll send them an email with instructions on what to do.

If you’re opting for this route, make sure you speak to your referee first and ask if they’ll be able to provide you with a reference before you send them a request. Once they've completed it you’ll be sent an email and the reference section will be marked with a red tick.

Good luck with your application!

If you have any questions about applying then have a look on our website. You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll do their best to help.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Student Finance: your questions answered

The deadline for student finance applications isn't far away, so we asked for your questions on Facebook and Twitter to put to the experts. Read on for the answers from Mark-Lee Kelly, Corporate Communications Executive at the Student Loans Company.

When is the deadline to apply for student finance for undergraduate courses?
Apply early to make sure your student finance is ready at the start of term. New students living in England should submit their finance applications by 31 May, and for continuing students, by 30 June.

New students in Wales should have applied for their funding already, but anyone still needing to apply should do so now. Continuing students should apply by 12 June.

When can I apply for finance if I’ll be studying at a conservatoire?
Student finance applications for all full-time, eligible courses are available, and students from England and Wales should apply now!

To apply, register or log in to your online account at:

How do I apply for student grants?
To apply for a non-repayable maintenance grant, you must indicate on your application that you wish for it to be based on your household income.

If you’re under 25 years old at the start of your course, your parents or partner will be asked to provide their income details from the 13/14 tax year. This will be used to determine whether you’re eligible to receive a grant, and if so, how much you’ll get.

In addition to maintenance grants, special non-repayable support may also be available to you, depending on your circumstances. Extra help includes:

·             Childcare Grant (CCG)
·             Adult Dependents’ Grant (ADG)
·             Parents’ Learning Allowance (PLA)
·             Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

More info on these is available at and

Can I apply for student finance before I've had offers back from the unis?
Yes! You don’t need to wait for a confirmed place on a course to apply for student finance.  
Use the details of the course you’re most likely to study. You can update them in your online account later if they change.

When can I apply for funding for part-time courses?
Tuition fee loan applications for part-time and Open University (OU) courses are now available for students in England. To apply, register or log in to your online account at

For students from Wales, part-time loan applications will be available during the summer at

What student finance is available for international students?
Students with EU nationality can apply for a tuition fee loan if they have been resident in the EU for the last three years.

To apply, students planning to study in England should download and print an EU15N form from

EU students studying in Wales should download and print off an EU15N form from

International students from outside the EU can apply for a tuition fee loan if they have been a resident in the UK for the three years prior to the start of their course, with an immigration status that allows them to stay in the UK.

Do I need to apply for finance again for my second year?
Yes, you need to apply for each year’s student finance that you require.
The only exception to this is for those full-time students whose previous year’s application was not based on household income, where the application may have been automatically renewed for you. If this is the case, you should have received an entitlement letter in the post and a declaration to sign and return. You can check your previous correspondence from your online account.

How does repayment work?
Grants and bursaries are non-repayable, so only your loans will need to be repaid.

Repayments will start the April after you leave university or college and the amount that you repay depends on how much you’re earning – currently you have to earn £21,000 or more before tax.

If you’re earning over the repayment threshold, you will have a deduction taken directly from your salary along with your tax and National Insurance. The amount that’s deducted each month/week will show on your payslip and depends on how much you’ve earned in that period.

Thank you Mark for all your help! If you have any further funding questions or concerns, you can ask Student Finance England online.

·      Twitter: @SF_England on Twitter
·      Facebook:

Student Finance Wales are @SF_Wales on Twitter, and they’re on Facebook too at

Monday, 18 May 2015

Take the Spotlight – the winners are…

Our first ever ‘Take the Spotlight’ competition, exclusively for UCAS Conservatoire students, came to a close back in March. We’re really pleased to share the winning entries with you.

To enter, students could either send us a 3,500 character essay or a short video. Amongst other things, they were asked to think about:

who/what inspired them to pursue a music/dance/drama-related course
why they chose to study at a conservatoire over university or HE college
the benefits of studying at a conservatoire

The top prize was £2,500 and a runner up from each category won themselves £1,000.

We received so many truly inspiring entries and… drumroll please, here are the winners…

Winning video entry:
Doug Price from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland raps about life at a conservatoire in his fantastic video, sharing his insight in a really unique way.

Winning essay entry:
Sally Horton from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, writes passionately about how she’s developed both musically and personally at a conservatoire, and what you can learn about yourself as a performer. Read her winning essay here.

The runners up

Alexander Astbury from Birmingham Conservatoire was a runner up with his video, in which he shares more of the performance side of studying at a conservatoire.

Emma Torrens from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was a runner up in the essay category. In her entry she argues the case for changing the meaning of a conservatoire to reveal the truly inspiring and creative nature of this type of study. You can read her essay here.

Feeling inspired to study at a conservatoire? Check out our website for more information on the courses on offer and how to apply. If you’ve got any questions about how to apply then put them to our advisers on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Thinking about apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships offer the chance to earn while you learn and get a qualification at the same time. You’ll also gain valuable work experience, which can help when you come to apply for jobs in the future.

There are over 100,000 employers offering apprenticeships in the UK, and so far this academic year we’ve received over more than 8,500 apprenticeship applications through UCAS Progress - and this figure is increasing every year!

So what does it mean to be an apprentice? Get the inside view from Lucy Ackland from Renishaw, as she shares her journey from GCSEs to award winning engineer.

Lucy Ackland from Renishaw
“When I was 13 I decided I wanted to be an engineer because I enjoyed maths and science, and I liked building and fixing things. I was determined to get good GCSE grades and my school had already pinned their hopes on me continuing on to 6th form, then studying at University.

On the run up to my GCSEs, I started to get itchy feet. I knew what I wanted to do and I just wanted to get started. I looked around at local colleges and sixth form centres to find courses that were more engineering focused than anything my school was offering. I came across an advert in the local newspaper for apprenticeships at Renishaw. Not knowing much about apprenticeships, I started to do some research and it all made sense; learning whilst on the job, gaining real qualifications, earning money and all college fees paid. I sent in my application and successfully made it through the test and interview phases. I completed my GCSEs, achieved the grades I was predicted and started at Renishaw in the summer of 2004.

I have loved every stage of my career since then. I succeeded in every job placement around the company and passed all of my college courses. I continued my studies and in 2012 I achieved a first class honours degree in mechanical and manufacturing engineering.

For the last year I have been leading a team developing the next generation of metal 3D printer. This technology is fantastic and the industry is growing; it’s fast paced, exciting and competitive and I am really, really proud to say that I have been a part of it.

Another big part of my passion is providing experiences and information to young people in the area, to allow them to make some choices about their careers and their futures. I became a STEM ambassador, a Young Engineers volunteer, running after school engineering clubs and giving talks about my experiences. I have continued to participate in these kinds of activities throughout my career. In early 2014 I was asked to be a director and trustee of the charity Young Engineers, and in summer 2014 I was nominated for the Institute of Engineering & Technology’s Young Women Engineer of the year awards. At an awards ceremony in London in December I was announced as the winner of the Women’s Engineering Society prize for all of my work in 3D printing and also my continued support of STEM engagement with young people.”
Has Lucy inspired you to consider an apprenticeship? Check out our website for all the facts you need to get started, then search for apprenticeship opportunities using our search tool.

You can also speak to our advisers on the UCAS Progress Facebook and Twitter pages if you have any questions about how to apply. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Four key things you need to know about student finance

1. First off, we need to make it clear that we are not student finance! We don’t arrange funding, but we can point you in the right direction and help you to understand the process. 

2. There are two types of loans:
  • A Tuition Fee Loan – this covers the cost of course fees. Your university or college will charge the tuition fee and your loan is paid directly to them. The amount unis charge varies – it can be up to £9,000 per year for a full-time course. Use our search tool to find courses and then use the ‘Fees and finance’ tab to check out how much they cost.
  • A Maintenance Loan – this helps cover living costs while you’re studying. How much you’ll get depends on your household income, where you’ll be studying, where you currently live and how long you’ve lived there for.
3. You can apply for your Maintenance Loan and Tuition Fee Loan at the same time, through your regional funding agency (not UCAS). How much you’ll get will vary depending on where you live. Check out the image below to find your regional funding organisation.

4. You’ll repay your loans once you’ve left university or college, and are earning over the income threshold. The amount you’ll pay back each month will depend on how much you’re earning. 

For more information, take a look at the student finance advice on our website and watch our video to get to grips with the basics.