July 23, 2019

The UCAS guide everyone can understand

UCAS, or the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, has been helping students get to higher education since 1961, when they began their work streamlining the admissions process for potential undergraduates. This being said, to many, the higher education application process is still a complicated and taxing task. To make the process as simple as possible follow this easy, understandable, guide to UCAS and the higher education application system.

Where to start?

Before thinking about the application process, you must be certain in your course and institution decisions. Start by thinking of the type of course you want to embark on, whether it is an accounting and finance degree or applying for human resources courses. Then, take a look at what institutions offer your specific course and decide which one best suits you, through ordering a prospectus or visiting one of their Open Days.

Once that is sorted it is time to register and apply through UCAS. This part is simple – just go to ucas.com and click ‘apply’ and then ‘register’. Keep note of the username and password and fill in the form. If there are any parts you are unsure of your school or college should be able to clear things up but generally it is mainly a case of filling out your details to the best of your ability. The drop down menu options are simple enough and when it comes to answering questions on your previous education, choices and employment take your time and make sure you have noted down everything.

Some of the most common mistakes when filling out a UCAS application include:

  • ‘Home address’: this doesn’t need to be filled in if it’s the same as your postal address.
  • ‘Email address’: make sure it is one you can access at home (i.e. not a college email) and remember that university selectors can see it.
  • ‘Dual nationality’: to only be filled in if you have two passports.
  • ‘Fee code’: this is usually ‘02’- people often mistakenly put ’01’ meaning private finance or ‘99’ meaning other.

UCAS personal statement

Once the form details are filled out you come to the often dreaded personal statement. This is one half of ensuring your selection so it is vital to make sure it is completed to the best of your ability. Write it in a word processor first before copying and pasting into the form, and remember it has to be under 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text. This includes spaces and blank lines, so keep an eye on the formatting.


The main structure of a personal statement consists of:

  • Why you’re applying.
  • What makes you the perfect candidate for the course and institution.
  • The skills and experience relevant to the course.


Remember to make it as original as possible and avoid such terms as ‘I have enjoyed [course] from a young age’ and words like ‘passionate’ unless you can make them sound original or genuine. Then triple check all grammar and spelling – you want to make sure your personal statement shows who you are as a person and offers something the reader wouldn’t gain from simply reading your grades.


What happens next?

What happens next?

Once you have submitted your application with your personal statement, it is a case of waiting to hear back about your offers and whether you have to go to any interviews. If you are offered an interview try not to be stressed. You can’t prepare for every question they could ask but you can make sure your love of the subject shines through in your answers and demeanour.

Should you not receive any offers, all is not lost! UCAS clearing and UCAS Extra are the two services that make it possible to attain a university place even if you didn’t get the grades you had hoped for. Clearing is how higher education institutions fill any places they have left; to find out more, see the UCAS clearing section of their website. Similarly, UCAS Extra is there if you don’t receive any offers from your choices. Working from the end of February until early July, this service effectively offers you a sixth choice of institution or course. You will know it is available to you if it pops up as a button when you log in to track your application.


Do you have any other hints or tips for UCAS applications that we have missed? Share it with others on the GSM London Facebook page.


Image Credit: UniversityBlogSpot (flickr.com), l i g h t p o e t (shutterstock.com)


This content was written by Rachel Smith. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.

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