The UCAS Process

Most of the students in St Edward's Sixth Form apply to university. This is all done through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service)

The UCAS website has all the information you need and more about your application. You can use it to search for courses, explore what sort of course is appropriate and also apply to go to university.

A Summary of the Process

In Year 12 we start working on what course you would like to follow. You can apply to up to five different universities with an application which includes course choices and a personal statement. Although you can start filling in the application from June in Year 12, it cannot be sent off until September in Year 13. 

Individual universities will then respond with an offer for you which may take the form of grades, or a point score based on the UCAS Tariff. 

We have a more detailed version of the UCAS Application Calendar. 

The UCAS Tariff and Offers

This handy chart tells you all about it. In summary an offer may be something like 'BBB', with is '300 points' in the old system or '120 points' in the new. Point scores depend on the actual grades you get, therefore 'ABC' gets the same score as 'BBB'. Ask a teacher for any further guidance.  

Choosing a Course

There are tens of thousands of different courses at university. Many of them in traditional subjects, but many is less traditional ones. Here's some ideas to think through.

  • Foundation Degree - Want to do a course but unlikely to get the grades? You can apply to do a foundation degree which will often allow you access to the degree course at the same university.
  • 3 Year Full Time
  • 4 Year Sandwich Course - these have a year of work experience in the middle.
  • 4 year degree with a Masters
  • Joint Honours degrees. Can't decide whether you want French or Computing? Do both!

What to do?

  • If you know exactly what you want to do, have a look at the UCAS course search and it will show you the relevant courses. 
  • If you are not sure what to do, consider looking at KUDOS or PLOTR and completing the Centigrade application which can give you ideas of courses and universities. 

Choosing Universities

Do you ever go to the shop and buy the first pair of shoes you see? Probably not! Universities are the same and there are lots of variations between them and they all suit different people. Here are some things to think about when selecting universities:

  • Is a typical offer from the university one that I can realistically achieve?
  • How big would I like to go? E.g. 
    • Large city universities - London, Manchester
    • Small city universities - Exeter, Warwick
    • Rural universities - Cornwall, Aberystwyth
  • How far would I like to go?
    • Local? National? International? (Where there is a lot of accommodation and all the buildings are concentrated in one area (e.g. Exeter? or am I happy with one which is spread out (e.g. Wolverhampton)

What to do:

  • Go and look at university websites
  • Get prospectuses, we have some in the 6th form Common Room, you can get free ones online, or collect lots of them at the Bournemouth University Higher Education Fair.
  • Complete 'Centigrade' through school which narrows down the options for you.
  • Use the UCAS search facility to refine by location.

Useful links to find courses and universities

If you would like to find out more, please click on the "Post 18" drop down menu for useful links. 

Specific Subjects at University

Some subjects are more competitive and therefore require early applications. This includes Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science and Oxbridge colleges. We need to know if you intend to apply for these. 

If you don't think you'll have the grades to get into medicine, there are many different careers which require similar skills and lower grades. Have a look into these ideas: anatomy, audiology, biomedical science, chiropractic, deaf studies, dental technology, dietetics, health science, hygienist, medical lab science, medical technology, mental health, midwifery, neuroscience, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, opthalmics, optometry, orthotics and prosthetics, pharmacology, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry, radiography and radiotherapy, speech therapy and toxicology. 

Many of the above will attract an NHS bursary that will pay the fees and give you a (small) non-means-tested bursary. There are some further suggestions in the document in the downloads section at the bottom of the page. 

The Medic Portal is a great resource for all aspects of applying for medicine, from interview advice to UKCAT questions - much of it is free. Click on the "Post 18" drop down menu for this link.

Personal Statements

There is plenty of good advice regarding the writing of UCAS personal statements on the UCAS website. We will also give you some guidance sheets. In summary, think of answering these four questions in separate and you can't go far wrong. 

  1. Why do you want to do whatever it is that you want to do?
  2. What have your current studies taught you that is relevant to this? 
  3. What other things have you done outside of school to help you with your course choice? 
  4. What other interesting things do you do and how have they helped you develop skills for life/university?

Student Finance

Universities are able to charge up to £9,350 per year for their courses these days, and many choose to. However, this can be paid for through loans. It is worth considering that a typical degree these days may cost between £30-50,000 depending on location and course. 

These loans are only repaid once you are earning a decent salary which typically requires a degree to get, so it can be considered a sort of graduate tax. 

You still need to apply for student finance which can be done through the Government website.  

Since universities charge higher fees, there are more scholarships and bursaries available for disadvantaged students. Please look at scholarship websites.

All of these websites can be found by clicking on the "Post 18" drop down menu. 

UCAS Extra 

If students are unsuccessful with all 5 applications (unlikely) or choose to do something else after they have applied, they can 'reject' all their offers and choose to apply to somewhere else through 'UCAS Extra'. Please talk to us if you ant further advice with this. 

Clearing

Out of your initial 5 offers, students select a 'firm' and an 'insurance' offer. They should not have the same grades and the firm should be higher. If you fail to achieve either of the offers and the University chooses not to offer you a place, you can apply to universities after A level results day through Clearing. This simply involves phoning around universities with places and talking to them until you find one who will accept you. Occasionally, students who exceed their targets choose to do this as well. 

Applying to Oxbridge

  • You can apply to a college or make an open application, whereby your application is given to the college with the lowest application ratio. It is good advice to apply to colleges which has a tutor in your subject. 
  • Colleges vary by size, closeness to the centre of town, age, facilities (especially accommodation and sporting) and ambience. All are good but you may well feel more at ease in some rather than others. 
  • Cambridge has a tripos system, whereby your degree is split into 2 parts; part 1 (first year) and part 2 (2nd and 3rd year). There is a lot of flexibility and it is possible to change your subject to something new. However, there are some restrictions e.g. moving to medicine from law. The Cambridge natural science degree is very broad and involves a combination of experimental sciences. 
  • Oxford has more combined subjects e.g. PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) and PPP (psychology, philosophy and physiology). 
  • In addition to the UCAS form, Cambridge require an additional online questionnaire. 
  • Interviews are normally from December onwards and not everyone is interviewed. You are normally asked to submit samples of your work (discuss with your teachers what to include). You may have a formal exam but more common are shirt tests. At Cambridge they are sat at the interview, Oxford tests are sat prior to the interview. The tests are clearly explained on the website with examples of past papers.
  • Both universities want 'exceptional' intellectual flair and curiosity, you must be fascinated by your subject and not just be an expert of the A level curriculum. Cambridge want 90% across your UMS marks to be interviewed, realistically you should have a minimum of 7A* at GCSE. 
  • Please note that you DO NOT need 4 subjects at A2, but most applicants for science courses will have 4, including further maths; always check. Further maths is also required or highly desired for computer science and economics. 
  • Both universities look at your background, what school you went to and what opportunities you have had. If your school did not offer Further Maths then they can be more flexible, but the course itself may be pitched at a level that if you do not have Further Maths it may be very hard to cope with. 
  • Both universities prefer traditional A Level subjects but are actually more open that some of the leading universities, always check. 
  • Do not apply unless you have a realistic chance, do not waste your or their time with a fantasy applications. 
  • As well as the university websites, look at www.oxbridge-admissions.info