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By Michelle Lillywhite

2nd year BU Student, BA (Hons) Social Work

So, you have been to the open days, you know about the finance, you know where your mates want to go – and all you need to do is apply – but don’t panic!!

The first thing to do is know where you want to apply and what the closing date for a UCAS application is as this can vary with some courses.

The usual closing date for UCAS is mid-January but don’t leave this until the day before as you need to write your personal statement and get one of your teachers to respond to the information about your expected grades and as they will probably have many of these to do you need to give them time to respond.

So here is my guide to applying and hopefully getting in!!

  • Open a UCAS application and make a note of your user name and password as this is something you will need all year as you go through the application process, especially when offers are made and on results day to see where you have been accepted!! You get to give one person access to your application so make sure this is someone who won’t forget the login details or will keep them handy if you need them (in case you forget yours!).


  • Make a note of everything you need to know about the course information that needs to be completed on the UCAS form then have it all together when you fill this in. Do it in one go as there is nothing more frustrating than constantly being told you have missed one little tick box!


  • Personal Information needs to be completed about work history, education history and family information. If it is best then ask a relative to sit with you and complete this information – accuracy is vital.


  • Personal Statement – how do you express yourself in 4000 characters? That’s characters not words! This has got to stand out, be about who you are and show why you want to do the course and what relevant experience you have. You could start with bullet points and then flesh them out a bit. You could look through teacher’s comments on essays or reports and see what they say about the kind of student you are. Have a look through the blurb about the type of candidate the course is looking for and try to mention the skills and experience you have in line what they are looking for. Most importantly ask someone to proof read it, or more than one person if you can, and ask them for some honest and constructive feedback about how it comes across. Write this in a word document and then paste it in so that you can spell check and grammar check and know that it’s right! Ultimately it is worth taking time to do this to the best you can as this is the view of you that the University is going to get so make it count.


  • Reference – ask the teacher who you would like to be your referee – out of courtesy if nothing else – but also so that they know it’s coming. They can think about what they want to say about you in advance. Think about who you ask to be your referee and think about what they know about you that another teacher doesn’t. If you have to give one teachers name and don’t get to choose then take the time to sit down with the person and tell them about you and why you are applying for this course. If nothing else this will show your referee that you are serious about your application and that you have shown initiative in getting the right message across.


  • Student finance information – while this isn’t the main application for finance the UCAS team do share information with Student Finance England about the success of your applications and as its all linked it’s a good idea to put this information in too. Once you have decided to apply it is worth starting your student finance application and getting this agreed in principle – even if the choice of university changes it doesn’t matter – the last thing you want to be doing during fresher’s week is worrying about sending ID to people – so get this agreed in principle with your parents relevant information in advance.

The last tip would be to make sure you get someone else to read through everything you have put down as at the point your application is successful you will need to provide documentation of exams, address and family information.

Lastly as that mid-January deadline comes around you can be a little bit smug in the knowledge that your application is in already and hopefully near the top of the pile!

As offers come through you will get emails saying that your application has been updated, so enjoy the success, and then you can look forward to starting your first year at Uni!!

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