Disclaimer: this article directly references the UK university application procedure but tips and truths mentioned can be applicable to others around the world.
Currently in the U.K. – and I’m sure other parts of the world – it’s university application season which means most of the conversations you may be having with your friends are going to be about UCAS and/or personal statements.
I am one of the people that have already sent of my application, so I am going to be giving you some tips and truths about university applications.
Tip #1 – Try to gain work experience in an area close to your subject choice
In your personal statement (4,000 characters to sell yourself), you are going to be basically telling your university why you want to study your course. Remember you’ll be one of hundreds they could be getting for that choice as most subjects have up to 10-15 applicants per place so if you have experience and show enthusiasm for the subject, you will be in their good books. One of the best ways you could do this is to chose work experience in that subject area. For example, for my law application, I undertook work experience in a litigation team in London. Not only do you have something special for your personal statement, but it can help if you really want to do this subject as you can see the types of jobs it leads to.
Tip #2 – Open days exist for a reason
Don’t get me wrong, I know how difficult it may be to travel the distance just for one day, especially if you live miles away.
But if it’s one of your first choices, go and see the damn university before putting it down.
When the open day for Bristol was published, I made it my job to get tickets even though it meant waking up at 4 to get there by 9 and traveling alone. Going really helped me in visioning myself living there and put in perspective the fact that I’d be hundreds of miles away from home.
I fell in love with the city that day and would recommend going to an open day especially if the distance from home is far.
Open days not only help you know if you still want to study there (shows you accommodation, student life, etc.) but also introduces you to your potential home for the next 3+ years, depending on the course you take.
Tip #3 – Start drafting a personal statement ASAP
Depending on the university, your personal statement will form a large part of your application and is the only non-academic way a university will get to know you so it has to be the best it can be.
It took me 3 weeks to get a version I was comfortable sending and that wasn’t because I was procrastinating, but more because I had so much to say but had no clue how to write it.
It’s more difficult that you think, so don’t leave it until the last minute.
Also remember the person writing your reference may be doing this for lots of students, so getting your personal statement done early will help you out in the priority listing.
Truth #1 – you probably won’t need five choices
One of the main differences between the admissions procedures in North America and the U.K. is the number of choices you have. In America, you can apply to as many as you want if you have the money to pay the application fee, but you can only apply to five in the U.K.. through UCAS for the sum of £24 (2017 fee). I applied to Surrey, Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds and Birmingham even though there’s only 3 on that list I could see myself going to.
This is completely fine and you don’t even have to apply to five if you really don’t want to. You can apply for a single choice for £13 but multiple makes it £24 so if you’re applying to more than one, you might as well apply to more than 2 since it’s the same price for up to 5.
Truth #2 – Once you’ve applied, you will become addicted to UCAS Track
For those who don’t know, UCAS is the U.K.’s university admission service. After your application has been sent off and received by your universities, you receive a track login which you use to track your applications. You get an email when there has been an update on your application; this includes offers, interviews and rejections. Now everyone knows this but that will not stop you feeling the urge to check track every few minutes on the off chance that you didn’t get an email and/or stop you from getting sudden heart palpitations once you get an email.
It’s worse for early applicants (Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science) whose applications are due in mid-October and will not receive interviews for numerous weeks.
Track addiction happens to us all, so you’re really not alone.
Last piece of advice would be to apply soon because universities tend to offer the first batch of people the best offers, but remember you should do it when you’re comfortable and not be pressured to put down a course just because your parents want you to study it.
I hope this helps you in your applications to university and wish you all the luck. Of course this list is not exhaustive and there are other tips to consider, but these should help set you on the right path.
Image: The Guardian