Parents Advice is available at www.ucas.com/parents. This is a bespoke section to support parents of students going into higher education. Not only can parents sign up for quarterly e-newsletters to receive timely information and advice as well as download a PDF copy of our Parent Guide, but they can also find out about finance, offers and how their son or daughter can make an informed decision for their higher education future.
UCAS (the universities and colleges admission service) is the vehicle through which students apply to universities and colleges to undertake degrees after they have completed their two years in the sixth form. Applications are online and can be completed on any computer that has an internet connection. The website, www.ucas.co.uk is full of useful information about applying and has links to all university/college websites. You can apply to attend university in the academic year after you have finished school, or you can defer entry until the year after. Either way, we recommend that you complete an application during year 13, even if you are taking a gap year, because it is easier to do than the following year when you might be planning to be abroad. The choice is however, yours. You might like to apply after leaving school when you know what your A2 grades are.
The great majority of students choose to apply for the maximum number of 5 separate courses that UCAS allows. These courses can be chosen from any of those listed in the UCAS webpage; you can even apply to 5 courses in the same university if you want to! There is no ‘first choice’ university, and no one university knows where else you have applied to. In high demand subjects, like medicine and veterinary science, students are limited to 4 such choices; the other 1 must be an alternative course as a back up in case you are rejected by your medical choices. It is very important that you write down your UCAS passwords and remember where you have put them! You don’t want to have to phone UCAS and have to admit to losing them, so be organised from the beginning of the process. The UCAS charge is £22 for 5 entries. You will have to arrange to pay UCAS by a debit card before your application is sent off.
What follows is a chronology of the UCAS year. This process will take a year to complete, beginning in June of year 12 when you will register with UCAS and ending the following August when hopefully you will receive confirmation that you have a place on one of your two choices of university or college courses. The aim of this section is to give you the relevant information so you know what to expect to do, and when to do it!
For those entering university in autumn 2012, the UCAS offices are open to receive completed applications from the middle of September 2011. When they receive your application, they send individual applications to each of your 5 choices. UCAS has 2 deadlines, October 15th 2011 for all applications to Oxbridge and all medical, dental and veterinary degrees and January 15th 2012 for all other applications. These are the deadlines for the forms to be emailed to UCAS, not the internal school deadline; make sure that you are aware of these internal deadlines.
- Late June 2011. Register with UCAS in a General Studies lesson. This process generates your unique passwords; don’t lose them! You will register under your form grouping so your tutor can monitor your progress.
- By the end of the summer term you should have completed the sections on personal details, part time employment, the GCSE section of the qualifications and have written a first draft of your personal statement.
- Those applying to study medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, some law and academic subject courses will need to take aptitude tests in the Autumn term. It is your responsibility to find out what the registration requirements are, as these vary considerably. (See your Head of Year or form tutor). These tests incur costs. Check the UCAS and university websites for further details.
- During the summer holidays you should continue to research your university/college choices and undertaking any relevant work experience.
- After results day you should update your form to include your AS results and your 3 or 4 subject choices for A2 study.
- In early September you will be issued with a UCAS planning sheet. You must then obtain your predicted A2 grades from your subject teachers so as to inform an appropriate course choice. You have to initiate these conversations with your subject teachers; they will not do it for you.
- Shortly after Parents’ Evening in mid-September, you should enter any AS re-sit modules in the qualification section. Your results should now have been entered chronologically.
- As a result of this research, you should then complete your course choices and your personal statement. (See separate section on writing a personal statement).
- This is a formal document and you must take great care to complete it with absolute accuracy. Too often students make careless errors which slow down the whole process unnecessarily. After final corrections have been made, you should then send the final document electronically to your Head of Year.
- Once your form has been approved by your Head of Year the Head will make an appointment with you to discuss your reference.
Once the Head completes your reference, your Head of Year can send off your application to UCAS.
Deadlines. Read This Carefully!
You can see that all of this will take time, especially if the Head has many references to write at the same time, consequently, Oxbridge, medical, dental and veterinary candidates should aim to submit their completed UCAS forms to their Head of Year by the start of October. Non-Oxbridge applicants should aim to apply by the start of November. It is a however a balancing act between getting your choices right by undertaking thorough research into university courses, which takes time, and deciding in haste and making an inappropriate choice. Some courses may allocate places by mid-November and so a prompt application is encouraged. It is a good idea to attend open days to help you make up your mind BUT don’t overdo this and miss important work at school; attend as many in the summer holidays and at weekends as you can. You must excuse yourself from lessons to attend an open day. Only attend open days for courses which ask for grades which you can realistically achieve.
After your application has been sent to UCAS, you can track its progress through the UCAS website. This enables you to see what decisions the universities and colleges have made about your application. Again you will need your UCAS passwords to access this service, so don’t lose them! Universities and colleges will inform you of their decisions on-line. The possibilities are; rejection (their loss, not yours), decision pending (they might be waiting for more applicants before they decide. Don’t worry, this is not necessarily a bad sign) and conditional offer, (they offer you a place provided you get certain grades or points). Unconditional offers are usually only given to those students who already have A2 grades. When you have all 5 decisions you will be sent an offer letter from UCAS. This does not usually happen until after February 2012. This will detail the outcome of your 5 choices. The best outcome would be 5 conditional offers and the worst would be 5 rejections. In the case of the latter, you have the option of applying to UCAS Extra, which allows you to apply for a further university course. If this applies to you, you must seek advice from your form tutor or Head of Year.
With your letter you will be sent an ‘Offers Deadline’. This is the date by which you must have decided which offers to keep and which to reject. If you don’t reply to UCAS by this deadline you will lose all offers and therefore will have no university or college place to go to in September (next September for gap year students); there are no exceptions. The date of this deadline varies individually, so don’t be worried if it isn’t the same as your friends. You can hold 2 offers, one your ‘firm’ offer and one your ‘insurance’ offer. Your firm offer is the course with the higher grade/points requirement and the insurance offer is the offer with the lower grade/points requirement and will only be taken up if you fail to get the grades needed for your firm offer. There is little point selecting a firm and insurance offer with the same points/grades because if you fail to get the grades needed, you won’t get a place on either course! The whole point of the system is to give you a safety net, in the form of your insurance choice, to use if you don’t get the grade/points you expect to in the exams. Although we hope that you achieve the grades required for your firm offer course, you must be equally happy to attend your insurance offer course if necessary.
On results day you should hopefully achieve the grade/points needed to take up your firm or insurance offer. If you have just missed the requirements, it is worth phoning up the university or college to see if you can still take up your place. School will be open on this day to give help and advice. Bring in your UCAS passwords, as the computers will be available for you to check your status. If you fail to get either of your 2 offers, you can go into ‘clearing’. In this process UCAS will attempt to get you a place on the basis of matching your results with any places on courses that haven’t yet been filled. This can happen quickly, literally in hours, or it can take longer, over a few days. It is best to be around during this period, so that you can respond quickly to any offers that clearing gives you. You are welcome to come into school and use the computers to help you during this period.
Finally, if you are still confused after reading this tome, seek advice, don’t just drift along and hope for the best; be proactive, after all it’s your future and therefore you should put lots of effort into making it the future you want to inhabit!