It might seem a little early with application deadlines, but for students looking to attend a UK university in Autumn of 2023, now is the time to start preparing. In particular, anyone who wants to apply to Oxbridge needs to be mindful of the earlier deadline for applying to top universities. Here’s why you need to start thinking about UCAS applications now, and how to go about it.
When are UCAS deadlines?
There are two important deadlines to remember for UCAS applications:
- This year the early application deadline (which you need to meet for all Cambridge and Oxford University applications, is 15th October 2022.
- For all other UCAS undergraduate courses, the deadline is 18:00 (UK time) on 25th January 2023.
Isn’t it a bit early to think about UCAS?
It might seem premature to think about UCAS applications when it’s still eight months away from the early deadlines in October, but there are two reasons why it’s important to start now:
1) Not everything can be done overnight
If you want to add super-curricular activities, reading, research or work experience to your resume then you need time to plan those things and make them happen. You can’t say you were in a debate club if you only turned up to one meeting.
2) It’s not all about UCAS
Although it might not seem like it now, preparing for your UCAS applications isn’t just about going to uni. It’s about focusing your thinking on what you want to study and why, which will have a long-term impact on life after uni as well. It’s important to get the most out of this final school year, taking opportunities to learn beyond the classroom and think through your plans. You might start the year thinking you want to study Law at Cambridge, only to realise after work experience and extra reading that it’s actually not what you want to do after all! Or it might galvanise your thinking on your area of specialism, discovering a real passion for studying a particular area of science or history.
What does a UCAS application involve?
There are three main components to your UCAS application.
1. Personal statement
The first is your personal statement, which is an essay typically discussing who you are, what you’re passionate about and giving universities an insight into why you want to study your chosen subject. In this part of your application you can talk about everything from favourite books to any work experience you have done to further your subject interest.
2. Your qualifications
The second part of your UCAS application is about your qualifications (typically, your exam results). These will be given as grades from formal exams to date, as well as predicted grades. Many students applying to uni in their last year of school will receive conditional acceptances from universities, which are contingent on their final A Level or International Baccalaureate results.
In addition, there are a series of administrative questions. So, you should always make sure you check out the form in advance, have all necessary information to hand, and leave plenty of time before the deadline to fill it in.
What can I do to prepare for UCAS applications?
In lots of ways you will already have been preparing for your UCAS applications without really thinking about it. Your school might also have been encouraging you to develop your interests for a number of years.
If you play in sports teams, read a lot about things you’re passionate about, join school clubs, have a job or do any volunteer work outside school, all these things are part of who you are and how you approach learning, challenges and opportunities.
However, one of the things universities, particularly Russell Group universities, will want to see is that you have really thought about the course you want to study and that your passion for it is backed up by drive and knowledge as well.
Some of the things you might consider doing to prepare for your UCAS applications (in addition to studying of course!) are as follows:
Extra curricular activities
Extra curricular activities are a great way to show your interest in a particular area, show that you have multiple interests, develop skills (such as leadership, problem solving or team work), to meet new people and to develop your knowledge. It’s a broad term that can apply to lots of different things, from school clubs to sports teams, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme to Model United Nations or charity work. Whichever you choose, it’s important to show a proper commitment rather than simply signing up to things so you can add them to a checklist.
Extra reading – supercurricular studies
Reading around your specialist subject is always a great way to show that you’re passionate, interested, and keen to develop your knowledge so you can talk around it beyond the curriculum. Oxford and Cambridge are known for the second phase of their application process – the interview – in which they like to see, amongst other things, that students have a capacity to think around a subject, develop their views and discuss them.
Work experience, whether it’s a week or a month, shadowing, volunteering or on a more formal internship, is a particularly good way to show a commitment to a vocation such as law, engineering, medicine, veterinary science etc. It might also be a good way to explore different career paths that some degrees can lead into. For example, history could lead to teaching, law, research or a number of other paths. Work experience will help you to be clearer on what you want to study and why, as well as showing willingness to potential universities.
Spend time researching the universities you’re thinking of going to, as well as the specific courses you think you might want to do. This will not only help you to make the right choice for you (the same course at different unis can be very different to one another), but it will also help you decide which other activities will help you prepare for your chosen course in the lead up to UCAS applications. Another thing that Oxbridge interviewers are extremely fond of is asking why you want to study a particular course at their establishment. You might find that you’re inspired by the writings of a particular professor and want to learn from them, for example.
Where do you start?
Most people will have some degree of support from their school when it comes to UCAS applications, but lots of students find it helpful to have additional one-to-one support as well.
The best thing to do is to start by looking at the UCAS application requirements and exploring a little in your own time.
Additional university application support can help you by:
- Giving you the best chance of maximising your application.
- It can broaden your thinking about your application and university goals.
- Help you decide which additional activities might help channel your understanding of your chosen subject.
- Ensure you have properly researched where you want to go and why.
- Give you an informed person to talk to about your ideas and to review your personal statement.
- Help support you in areas that you find challenging.
If you would like to speak to the team at CamVision about our University Application Mentoring service, contact us any time to discuss your needs and see if it’s right for you.