5 Things to Remember When Applying to UK Universities
The UCAS application process for UK universities can seem daunting, especially when there are rumours flying around about scrapping the personal statement for 2024 entry.
It can seem like an overwhelming task, but we’ve put together a brief overview of everything you should remember when you come to apply. You might like to bookmark this page, so you can check back in as you’re completing your application, and make sure you don’t miss anything important!
1. You’ll need to choose your university and your degree course
Choosing your favourite universities and the subject area you want to study at might seem hard enough, but you’ll also need to make sure you choose the specific course you want to study most. This is arguably the most important factor to consider, as UK universities tend to have multiple degree options for the same or similar subjects. This variation might be English Literature versus English Language, whether you want to include a year in industry in your Business degree, or whether you’d prefer a single or joint honours option.
How to pick your degree ultimately depends on your interests and where you might want your degree to take you. Make sure that the degree you are choosing is one that interests you academically – you don’t want to spend three years studying a field that doesn’t motivate you.
Not sure which field you’d like to work in yet? Check out our free personalised Career Test to get some suggestions based on your skills, values and interests.
Remember that universities offer options you might have not studied at school, such as Law, Biochemistry and Engineering – these might combine several subjects you enjoy, so make sure you’re considering the full range of options available to you. You might like to spend some time flicking through the subject lists for some of your top choice universities, to discover the courses that interest you most.
2. Check the entrance requirements for your course
Each UK university has its own entry requirements for each course, which might include minimum grades, the subjects you studied at A-Level, entrance exams, and interviews.
It’s important to make a note of these when considering which five universities you’ll apply to, as you want offers with a range of grade requirements to allow for flexibility.
For more competitive courses there might be an entrance exam to sit, such as the UKCAT and/or BMAT for Medicine, MAT for Maths and TSA for PPE. Typically you’ll have to register for these separately from the UCAS form, and your school will likely be able to help you with this. You’ll be able to sit the exam either at your school or at a local exam centre.
Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched all the requirements for each of your chosen courses, and note down any key deadlines so you don’t forget.
3. UCAS Application
The UCAS form is what you’ll use to apply to all UK universities, which means you won’t have to apply to each university individually. The form will cover your academic history, your predicted grades, teacher’s reference, and your personal statement.
There are two key deadlines that depend on what you are applying for – these are usually the 15th October for Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Sciences, and any course at Oxford or Cambridge, and then the 15th January for all other courses, but please do check these dates for your year of entry.
It’s highly recommended that you submit your application as soon as possible, allowing you to focus on your A-Level or equivalent studies later in the year. The key part of the UCAS form will be your personal statement, which forms a key part of the admissions decision-making process.
4. Personal Statements
The personal statement is a 4,000 character or 47 line essay about why you want to study your subject. You can only submit one personal statement for all five UK universities you apply to, so it’s important not to talk about specific aspects of any one university, even if it is your top choice.
Instead, focus the personal statement on your academic interest in the subject, ensuring a balance between your super- and extracurricular activities. In particular, Oxford and Cambridge look for academic personal statements that demonstrate your passion for your subject.
This can be demonstrated by additional reading, lectures and books, alongside relevant work experience. It’s important that you focus on what fascinates you the most about your subject, as admissions tutors are interested in your genuine interest – plus, it will make the resources easier to write about.
Great personal statements tell a story about you and your subject, which can be difficult to capture, so the sooner you start, the more time you have to draft a statement you’re truly happy with.
Most importantly, never lie about having read, watched or listened to something in your personal statement! You don’t want to risk having the book mentioned in an interview and not knowing what to say.
Interviews have become more commonplace in the university application process in the UK, as it’s a great way to get a sense of students beyond their paper application.
There is no doubt that interviews can be an intimidating process, as it may be your first time interacting with an expert in your field. This is why preparation is key; the more comfortable you become thinking aloud, the less stressful you will find the interview.
You might like to practise common interview questions with friends, even if they wish to study a different subject. You should also refresh your research on the things you mention in your personal statement to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible answering any related questions.
Remember, the interviewer isn’t trying to catch you out, and it’s okay not to know things! Rather than trying to blag your way out of a question you don’t know, be honest! Explain what you do know on the topic, or simply say “I’m not sure, but based on what I do know, I think the answer might be…”.
This is a whistlestop tour of the UK universities application process, but we hope it’s helpful in giving you an overview of the whole thing, from start to finish. No matter where you are in the process, it’s never too early to start preparing!
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By Sophie Parker
Our Head of Content, Sophie, is responsible for our blog and our resources. She graduated from University College London, where she read English.
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