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How to work your way through UCAS and university applications

Calculating your points

Some courses are more popular than others, allowing the departments that run them to ask for higher grades. The same can be said for universities and some will require higher grades than others. You can use the UCAS or university web sites and prospectuses to find out what grades are required for the universities you might like to attend and the courses you might like to follow. Sometimes a points total might be given instead.

These take the following form:

A = 120 points
C = 80 points
E = 40 points

If you have only taken an AS:

A = 60 points
B = 50 points, etc.

Some other courses carry UCAS points too, such as Music Theory above grade 5. For detailed information on the UCAS Tariff: click here

Choosing the right UCAS course/institution

Do you want to study for a degree to help you get a job and just for interest's sake? Decide on the right course for you. It may be one you are already studying. It might be linked to one you are studying. It may be something totally new. Talk to teachers, parents, and friends. Do they think this would be a good course for you?

Search for universities that offer this course. The UCAS website is a good start. Use the search facility. Make a list of the relevant universities.

Find the relevant prospectuses on the shelf in the Study Room. Have a read. Courses with the same name/code can still differ by content, level of module choice, types of assessment (exams/coursework) and amount of teaching hours. Which ones would most suit you? Also research the university location, whether first years are guaranteed accommodation, social events and other issues that relate to student life. The Student365 website can be useful for lots of related student information such as accommodation, finance and clubbing!

E-mail the universities you are most interested in for department or subject prospectuses. These will give you more information. They will also send you a complete prospectus if you want one

Note what grades the university wants. You should end up with 5 choices: 1 or 2 just above your AS grades to give you a challenge, 2 about the same and 1 or 2 a bit below (in case things don't go so well this year).

Remember to seek help whenever you need it!

You should have completed the whole process by October half-term!

Personal Statements

Whether you intend to apply to university, do a gap year or find employment when you leave Abbeyfield you will need to write a personal statement. This will be an introductory 'letter' to the person dealing with your application. It says who you are, why you are applying and why this person should pick you over and above the other applicants. Therefore it needs to be factual, interesting and above all, positive. You should not be modest but nor should you be over-bearing. You need to convince this person that you will be an asset to their organisation and that you will not drop out after a couple of weeks.

You will need to get (at least) the first draft done by the end of the summer term. Ideally you will have got your tutor to check it through and have up-dated it ready for use by then. If you type your first draft it will make re-drafting much quicker and easier. If it is done on the network it will also make transferring it to your electronic UCAS form easier (but keep a copy on a different system for back-up purposes).

Alongside this you should also consider keeping and up-dating a folder with certificates, photographs, copies of your GCSE and module results, etc... anything that says something about the kind of person you are.

Your personal statement should take on the following form:

What the course/gap/job (pathway) is that you are applying for and why it interests you. You can also explain what skills and abilities you already have in that area. This could be one, two or three paragraphs. It is where you should exhibit a passion for the subject; providing evidence not only of what you have done in the classroom, but more importantly what you have done to extend your learning outside the classroom. Evidence might be visits undertaken, books / journals read, societies or clubs you have joined, personal web-pages and the like.

What you are studying at the moment and what elements of these courses would help you in this application. It may be a specific thing or it may be general skills that you have learnt such as how to work in a group or time management. This section will be of little value if you have managed to write a lot for section 1, so you can miss it out if that is the case.

What extra-curricular things you have done while in the Sixth Form that could contribute to you being successful in your chosen pathway and/or show you to be someone who gives as well as takes. This could include your Community Leadership, sports, expressive arts, organisation of an event or organised work experience.

What things you do outside of school that would help you in your chosen pathway and/or show you in an interesting or positive light. It might be your part-time employment, a hobby, a membership of an organisation. For example going to see the Saints or Cobblers is good enough, but explain why you go and what you get from it. Reading is good, but say which genre or authors you like and why (do this in paragraph one of you are applying for an English based course). Likewise, if you like going to the cinema, explain what types of film you like DON'T go for the "I like socialising/shopping with my friends" line!

Finish off by re-confirming your desire to follow this pathway.

Click here for an example of a finished personal statement. It is to act as a guide. It is not to say that yours must look exactly the same.

Accepting your UCAS offers

In the next April or May of your application year you will be sent a letter by UCAS asking you to nominate your first and second choices. You do not need to return it immediately; take time to think through and discuss your options. But do send it in time for the date specified. You will accept one university as a firm choice and one as your insurance offer. The firm choice is the one you really want to go to.

The insurance offer is there in case you don't get the grades you need for your first choice university. Therefore, it should be a lower offer that the first one and you should still be very interested in going there. You must be clear that just as the university is legally bound to accept you if you get the grades asked for, you are bound to go there if you get the grades. The only way around this would be to get them to release you (which is extremely stressful and doesn't always work or to withdraw from UCAS for that year and do a gap option instead).

Finance at University

Hopefully, by this time, you will have started saving for university and building up a collections of pans, bedding and other stuff you might need to take with you. We really don't want you to be one of the debt statistics if you can avoid it; by knowing a bit more about budgeting and finance we think you can avoid it.

For more information on finance please click here and here

MOOC ‘Preparing For University’
All students should aim to complete the UEA MOOC on ‘Preparing For University’. It starts on the 16th June 2014, but you need to pre-register. To do this click here . Although it says it will take 3 hours per week, our estimation is that it will take you less time than this. Aim to do it at Tutor Time and in study periods (or at home). It will be a big support to your UCAS application. Let us know how you get on. 

If you need any help on any aspect of the UCAS process, please ask either your Tutor or Head of Sixth Form, Mr Mills.