UCAS undergraduate application

How to complete the best UCAS application

Stephen Spriggs
March 13th 2020

Getting into the best universities is difficult. Competition is fierce, especially at the esteemed Russell Group universities, and a clutch of top A Levels isn’t enough to guarantee you an offer. As we have some of the best universities in the world – with Oxford University in the top spot – they attract top students from all over the world. It’s a crowded process and in order to stand out, you need to prepare an excellent UCAS undergraduate application

The best tip is start early, which means Year 11 if possible, particularly if you are thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge or for a specialist course like Medicine or Veterinary Science. Think of the application as a long-term strategy. This gives you the time to acquire the background knowledge and practical experience that you can reference in your application. If you’ve got your heart set on a degree in literature, start reading widely. Try new authors that aren’t on the school curriculum. If you’re interested in art, visit galleries and exhibitions. If you’re considering a business-related degree, can you shadow a family friend at work for a few days or even do some voluntary work.

If, by Year 12, you know which subject you aim to choose, have a look at university preparatory reading lists and start working through them. If you don’t know what you want to study, talk to A Level teachers, tutors and parents about your interests and ask them to suggest topics to research further via books, podcasts or visits to places of culture. 

The more you research, the more likely you are to find an area of interest that you want to study further. This can help streamline your subject choice (ie. you love History A Level but now realise you want to specialise in Russian History). Applying for a course in which you have genuine interest, with evidence to show you’ve explored this interest outside of the classroom, makes preparing your UCAS undergraduate application so much easier. Passion for a subject will jump off the page.

This early legwork can also help you cross certain subjects off your list. University is a world away from A Levels, and what might pique your interest at school might not hold it for three or four years. Another element to preparing an excellent UCAS application is choosing the right course for you. Admissions registrars will be able to detect a half-baked application with lukewarm interest in a course and will send it straight to the ‘No’ pile.

Once you have decided what you think you want to study, go and visit universities on Open Days. These give you the chance to attend faculty talks, meet current students and admissions staff and find out more about the course and the university. Look at accommodation options as well as any other extra-curricular interests you may have.

The most daunting aspect of the application is the personal statement. With only 500 words at your disposal, this is a brief summary of your interests and ambitions and for many young people it’s the first time they’ve written freely about themselves. Look on the internet for examples of good ones. Don’t copy. Have a read and see what makes them stand out for you. Writing ‘I love Drama’ or ‘I’m fascinated by Geography’ isn’t enough. Demonstrate your enthusiasm. Single out a book or a trip or exhibition that meant something to you and explain why. Be reflective. Don’t make it a list of your awards or school prizes and don’t waste 300 words on your artistic achievements if you’re applying for a French degree. It might look as though you’d rather be studying Art.

Ensure it’s well written and check for typing errors. Do accept help from parents and teachers, but remember that it is your words, your thoughts and your personality that have to shine through. Don’t be scared to show some individuality. Leave the admissions registrar wanting to learn more about you as it’s more likely to lead to an interview or even a firm offer.

Preparation is key for preparing a good UCAS undergraduate application. The best are written by those who are interested in their subject, have read wider than their A Levels require, are self-motivated and have given serious thought to their future study. They might have exactly the same exam grades as their competitors but their application stands out, and they’re the ones who will be offered a place.

If you would like to know more about how to make your UCAS application win you a place at your dream university, get in touch with our education experts and UCAS advisers here at William Clarence today.

UCAS undergraduate application