University students in a library together studying after completing a successful UCAS application following William Clarence's UCAS application tips.

10 top tips for a brilliant UCAS application 2022/2023

Stephen Spriggs
August 22nd 2022

Applying to go to university is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life – so it’s no wonder that many people find the process overwhelming.

The UK has some of the best universities in the world (including the likes of Oxford and Cambridge) which means that competition for places is fierce – and a clutch of top A Levels simply isn’t enough to guarantee you an offer. 

In order to stand out, you need to prepare an excellent UCAS undergraduate application. However, you only get one application, and this covers a multitude of options – so it’s fair to say that the pressure is immense. 

But help is at hand. In fact, our expert advisers here at William Clarence have created the ultimate guide on how to complete the perfect UCAS application.

So, read on to discover our 10 top UCAS application tips and find out how to make your application a success:

10 UCAS application tips to make sure you stand out from the crowd

1. Decide what you want to study

Applying for a course that you are genuinely interested in makes preparing your UCAS undergraduate application so much easier.

This is where your greatest research efforts will come in; the more you research, the more likely you are to find an area of interest that you want to study further. 

This can then help you to streamline your subject choice. For example, if you’ve always enjoyed History, you might discover with additional research that you’d actually like to specialise in Roman History.

Likewise, this early legwork can also help you cross certain subjects off your list. 

Remember, 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.

Ultimately, preparing an excellent UCAS application starts with choosing the right course for you.

2. Decide where you want to study 

Once you have decided what you think you want to study, it’s time to start exploring the different universities that offer your chosen course.

The UCAS website has a fantastic course search tool which you can use to do exactly that – and this is also something our UCAS experts at William Clarence can help with. 

With a list of different universities in front of you, you can start to narrow your options down.

The next step is to attend Open Days at the universities on your shortlist. A university might look great in its brochures, but it’s important to go there and get a feel of the campus and surrounding area to be sure that it’s the right place for you. 

These will also 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 extracurricular interests you may have. 

A lot of universities now offer virtual open days, so if you’re limited by travel or time restrictions – or you simply want to have a look at a larger number of universities – you can still get some great insights into what your options can offer you. 

Oxford university, representing UCAS application tips from William Clarence.

3. Get started on extracurricular reading and research

Once you know which subject you’re planning to study and the universities you want to apply to, have a look at their preparatory reading lists and start working through them. 

For example, if you’ve got your heart set on a degree in literature, start reading widely and try new authors that aren’t on your school curriculum. This will give you some excellent topics of discussion for your personal statement.

Visiting places and attractions related to your chosen course is also a great way to enrich your UCAS application.

For instance, if you’re interested in art, visit galleries and exhibitions. Alternatively, 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 you’re still unsure about what you want to study, talk to your 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. 

4. Be realistic

It's important to be realistic about your choices.

For example, one university might offer the perfect course for you, but if it’s unlikely you’re going to get the grades the university shortlist demands, you may find yourself faced with a rejection or even end up with no option other than to go through the clearing system.

Talk to your teacher about your predicted grades and if you feel you might be falling short, include options on your shortlist with a less demanding selection criteria. 

Our UCAS advisors know which courses are highly competitive and which places have excellent courses and fewer applicants. Lean on us for advice; that’s what we’re here for. 

5. Start your UCAS application early

One of the best things you can do is start thinking about your application 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 your 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. 

The UCAS form has deadlines in the summer between school and university, and applications for Oxford and Cambridge must be completed by October, almost a year before the course starts and slap bang in the middle of A Levels. 

With young people so busy – or busy relaxing after the stress of exams – there can be a tendency to rattle off a poorly-researched application at the eleventh hour. This can not only end with rejected applications, but also enrolling on a course or at a university that is not right for you. 

If you’ve started early as suggested above, however, you should have enough time to complete the form thoroughly and carefully. 

6. Write a brilliant personal statement

The most daunting aspect of the application is the personal statement – but it is also your chance to shine!

With only 500 words at your disposal, this is a brief summary of your interests and ambitions – so it’s important to use your word count wisely.

You should use your personal statement to demonstrate and reflect upon your enthusiasm and passion for your chosen subject and draw on evidence to prove any points you make – statements like ‘I love Drama’ or ‘I’m fascinated by Geography’ won't be enough!

Universities want the best students, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the ones with the best qualifications. Show them how you’ll become an essential part of the fabric – your grades might not be remarkable, but that doesn’t mean you’re not.

An interest in extracurricular activities, from sport to music, activism to theatre, shows you’re a well-rounded character. Have you held down a part-time job or volunteer post? All of these tell the admissions tutor something about you as a person.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, you can search the internet for examples of good personal statements. However, don’t be tempted to copy them – admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements every year, and are experts in spotting plagiarism. This is a sure-fire way to end up in the “no” pile. 

The most important thing when writing your personal statement is to be yourself and be honest. 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!

For more guidance on how to write an exceptional personal statement, be sure to read our blog to discover five steps to a standout personal statement.

7. Be honest and accurate throughout your UCAS application

As well as the personal statement, there will be other sections of the form you’ll need to complete, including your personal details, additional information, employment and so on (you can learn more about these sections in this blog).

Omitting information from your application can result in it not being taken any further for the academic year you apply, so ensure that you are as detailed, honest and accurate as you can be here.

8. Check, check, and check again

Once you’ve completed your UCAS application, don’t go thinking all the work is over just yet! Your UCAS document is a long document with lots of tick boxes and drop-down menus, so it’s possible that you could have some made errors along the way. 

That’s why it’s important to give yourself a bit of distance from it, a week or so, then go back over your application with a fresh perspective.

With that in mind, getting someone else such as a friend, family member or teacher to look over your application is a good idea too. They’ll be able to spot errors that you as the writer might fail to pick up on. 

Getting them to read your personal statement aloud is useful as well, as you’re both more likely to spot any issues when you’re actually hearing the words being spoken.

A sixth form student meeting with an advisor to discuss UCAS application tips.

9. Get a good referee

If you’ve chosen a teacher as your referee, it’s good to know they’re on your side. Don’t choose one who wouldn’t pick you out of a line up, or someone you’ve shown little respect to over the years.

If your application is borderline, the decision could sit with your referee, so if you’re constantly late or can’t meet a deadline, it’s worth changing your behaviour. If you do, they’ll know you’re serious about university. 

What’s more, if your referee is predicting your grades and they’re falling short, you might need to work harder.

10. Enlist the experts

As we’ve highlighted throughout this blog, preparation is key for submitting a strong UCAS undergraduate application.

The best applications 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.

This is where the support of a UCAS expert becomes particularly helpful. For example, our UCAS advisors at William Clarence know which courses highly competitive, and which places have excellent courses and fewer applicants. 

They can also read between the lines of a university prospectus and see behind the well-rehearsed open days to give you a genuine idea of what to expect.

Perhaps most importantly, however, they can provide you unparalleled advice when it comes to your UCAS application form and personal statement.

Next steps and important deadlines

The UCAS 2023 application is now live and it’s a lengthy application, so although you won’t be able to send off your application until 6th September 2022, it’s worth registering, getting familiar with the online portal and starting work on it.

So, what are you waiting for? Take the first exciting step towards your university education and start your UCAS application today.

Want to find out more about how we can help?

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

William Clarence Education offers unbiased advice on UK School and University Placement, Oxbridge Admissions, US College Applications, UCAS application and extensive support for parents and students in all aspects of preparing for entry to the UK.

Please contact us on 02074128988 to discuss your particular needs, or email