How to fill out your UCAS application

What is UCAS?

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK-based organisation which operates the application process for British universities. Services provided by UCAS include several online application portals, a number of search tools and free information and advice to students considering higher education, students with pending applications to higher education institutes, parents and legal guardians of applicants, school and Further Education college staff involved in helping students apply and providers of higher education (universities and HE colleges).

UCAS personal statement

A personal statement is a great way to showcase what your personal qualities are, your skills and your passions.  Crucially, it gives you a platform to demonstrate to your future tutors and lecturers how right you are for your chosen course.

How to write your UCAS statement:

  • Think about what gets you excited about the course you are applying for and just start writing – you’ll be amazed how effective it is simply getting all your thoughts on paper
  • Focus on the positive – describe how you got enthused about the course you want to study – what inspired this decision? Use evidence from work experience, outside reading, and all the other things you do
  • Talk about the transferable skills that will help you on the course, are you a good listener? A critical thinker? 
  • Talk about you: what makes you unique, exciting; interesting?  What makes you stand out?

Top paragraph: Start off with a great opening paragraph that conveys how excited you are about the course and shows that you really understand what you’re getting into.  

Middle: Your middle paragraphs will emphasise your skills, the evidence that proves your interest in the course and your personal qualities.

Bottom: the end bit is about what makes you unique, what will make you fit into the course you are interested in?

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Tips

  • list your skills and qualities but avoid sounding big-headed 
  • leave out flowery language – stick to plain English
  • avoid clichés
  • don’t copy someone else’s statement - there is software that will catch you out on this!

In summary, strive to make your statement authentic, a good combination of head and heart that encapsulates your enthusiasm.  Take your time, and you’ll produce something special, something that sums up what you are all about.

UCAS provides a personal statement tool to help you think about what to include in your personal statement, and how to structure it.  You can write up to 4,000 characters of text.  The tool counts how many characters you’ve used so it’s easy to see when you’re close to that limit.

How do I apply through UCAS?

When you have decided which courses you want to apply for, you can register and make an online application. There are different applications depending on what type of course you want to study.  You will need to register with UCAS to begin with.  The UCAS website will take you through each stage of the application form step by step.

How does UCAS Adjustment work?

If you've met and exceeded the conditions of your conditional firm offer, you may be able to use Adjustment to find an alternative course.  This means you can try to find another place at another university without losing your original offer.  Everyone whose place has been confirmed can register for Adjustment.  If you go for Adjustment, you will need to register, research, discuss and agree the details with the university.  They will then send confirmation to UCAS.  Adjustment is open from A Level results day until the end of August.

When are UCAS results available?

When your chosen university has seen your application, your status will change from ‘submitted’ to ‘acknowledged’ on the UCAS website.  Your chosen university may need to interview you to further establish whether you are right for the course.  When a decision has been made on your application, you will receive notification that something has changed on your application form and you will have either a conditional offer, an unconditional offer or your application will be marked as unsuccessful.  You can accept any conditional or unconditional offer on the website.   This can be a daunting time, so speak to your teachers, advisers, parents and anyone else who can help you.  The UCAS progress site will assist you each step of the way: www.ucas.com/progress

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UCAS References

Are my UCAS references important?

Much is made of the UCAS personal statement but your UCAS reference could mean the difference between an acceptance or a rejection, so it is worth making sure you get it right!  Your referee should comment fairly on your ability, attitude and approach to learning.  Essentially they are expressing their opinion on whether you are suitable for your chosen course (s).  They may also mention your extracurricular activities so make sure they are aware of everything you do.  Your referee will also list any predicted grades in the reference to help university staff work out whether you will cope academically on the course.  Talking to your referee before they write the reference is a chance to get all your key points across, and they will feel more confident in writing your reference knowing as much about you as possible. 

Who can be my UCAS referee?

The reference should be written by someone who knows you well in a professional or academic sense.  If you are at school or college, this is likely to be a tutor or head of sixth form. 

  • Ask your teacher, tutor, principal or head teacher from your current or recent school or college
  • If you left education some time ago, ask an employer, supervisor or trainer
  • Don’t ask family or friends – if you do, your application may be cancelled.

When should I expect offers?

It is a good idea to get your application in early as some universities start to make offers and respond to applicants as soon as applications trickle in from September onwards.  All applicants should hear back within two to three weeks of applying and receive an offer or an invitation to interview within 10 working days.  Applicants should login into their UCAS account to check the status of their application.

UCAS Tariff calculator

The UCAS Tariff is a number that illustrates your qualification grades in a simple way, for example Chemistry A Level, grade A = 48 points; Maths A Level, grade C = 32 points; Art A Level, grade C = 32 points and Biology AS Level, grade E = 6 points, making a grand total of 118.  This affects all qualifications that are on the Tariff.  However, lots of Universities do not use the Tariff.  Speak to your teacher or adviser about your qualifications and university entry requirements – they will know what’s right for you and how the system works. 

How many UCAS points do I have?

You can calculate how many points you have with the Tariff calculator on the UCAS website.

How are UCAS points calculated?

The UCAS Tariff (formerly called UCAS Points System) is used to allocate points to post-16 qualifications. Universities and colleges may use it when making offers to applicants. A points total is achieved by converting qualifications such as A-levels (and many others) into points, making it simpler for course providers to compare applicants.  The tariff has changed slightly, and points are now calculated as follows:

A* 56
A   48
B   40
C   32
D   24
E   16