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UCAS University

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Former headmaster and spokesman for the Council for

Independent Education (CIFE) James Wardrobe shows you how to fill in an outstanding UCAS form

his is the high season for completing UCAS application forms and how you fill yours in is VITAL. Your UCAS form goes to Admissions Tutors. If it is

convincing you’ll get an offer, otherwise you will be rejected - end of story. So here’s six tips to make it the best you can. Good Luck!


TUTORS WORK Understand how Admissions Tutors review your UCAS form. They want to be fair and fill their places with students who are interested, rewarding to teach, sensible and independent. They will read through your UCAS form carefully and apply their Selection Criteria exactly. These are the guidelines Admissions Tutors use to decide whether your application meets their minimum standard. They aren’t always clear, but most courses now publish guidelines. The UCAS website and the course-entry pages of individual universities indicate what subjects you should be taking, what points they’re expecting, what GCSEs they want and any other specific requirements. Make sure your UCAS form tells them all they want to know.


PERSONAL STATEMENT The UCAS Personal Statement is where you write about why you want to study your chosen degree, who you are and what you’ve done. What you say matters and how you say it, matters. Here’s where you show your commitment, your interests and


achievements. So, it’s REALLY important. For many degree subjects which lead

directly on to a particular career (law, medicine, etc) you’ll find that the Selection Criteria go beyond subjects and results. Admissions Tutors want to know that you have particular experience, qualities or skills which the course requires. This is your main chance to convince them. For more detailed advice look at “How to write a good UCAS Personal Statement” at www.

SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT Admissions Tutors like commitment. Students

committed to their course are likely to work hard and be a success. Use the Personal Statement to show that you know what your proposed course involves. Relate its content to any relevant practical experience, your interests and to the work you liked

best in your sixth form studies. If you are applying for two different degrees, it

is fine to focus mainly on the first choice subject, especially if the safety-net one is related to it. It’s harder if you’ve decided to go for two quite different subjects, but the best answer will come from asking yourself: ‘Actually why am I doing this?’ You need to make this tough decision before you complete your form. Discuss it in detail with your UCAS advisor.

HAVE GOOD ENOUGH GRADES You need good grades at three levels: GCSE, AS and A

level. If your GCSEs don’t make the Selection Criteria you may well be rejected, so get the best grades you can. Your Admissions Tutor may show mercy if your referee makes a good case and if your AS results confirm that you’re improving. You have to show AS results if your school has

certificated (ie letter graded) them. Show results from individual units if they are impressive. Your reference will include a prediction of your A-level grades. Knowing your predicted grades is a crucial aspect of making sensible university choices because you face rejection if you apply for a course needing higher grades than your referee predicts. Find out what your predictions are, and if your predictions may be lower than you need, work hard on the next tip.

Six of the best T


YOUR SIDE Your reference is as important as your results-to-date and your personal statement. It predicts your A-level results and makes the case for offering you a place. So make sure that your referee is on side and has all the ammunition to write a supportive reference. Build a positive relationship with your referee: be on time for meetings, stick to deadlines, ask for advice, be reliable. Your behaviour will impact on his opinion of you and therefore the reference. Provide a sheet of points, which might help your referee to support you. Predicted A-level grades

are decided by your referee and teachers. If they’re too low, you can try pleading but don’t expect an A prediction if you’re scoring solid Cs. You can however negotiate; ask your referee to consider raising your predictions if you work hard and it improves.



YOUR INTERESTS Admissions Tutors appreciate any ‘challenge’ you may have been involved in outside the classroom. A challenge can be anything you have put personal time and energy into which goes beyond purely social activity. Your interests help show how you meet any soft skills Selection Criteria. They also show that you achieved good academic results without spending every minute working and that you will probably contribute fully to university life. Generally, independent-minded sixth- formers find it easier to make the transition to university, taking living away from home in their stride.

Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 35

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