Sunday 21 January 2018

First deadline looming for UK applications

Picture posed
Picture posed

Aoife Walsh

Students have plenty of time to make decisions for the CAO, however there is another deadline fast approaching that may be of interest to some.

Anyone interested in attending the UK's Oxford or Cambridge universities, or who wishes to study medicine, veterinary medicine or dentistry in any university in the UK or Northern Ireland, must submit an application to UCAS (the UK equivalent of the CAO) by October 15.

A UCAS application involves a lot more work than a CAO application. Most notably, applicants are asked to submit a personal statement and academic reference. There are also different closing dates for different courses, the first of which is our present concern. Unlike the CAO, UCAS applicants may benefit from submitting their applications early, as universities process them as soon as they arrive.

Students may apply for up to five courses. After they have heard back from all the universities for which they applied, they may choose to hold offers for two courses.

Medicine, Veterinary, and Dentistry applications

As previously mentioned, applicants may apply for up to five courses. Only four of their five choices can be from medicine, veterinary or dentistry and they should be listed in the order they appear in the UCAS handbook. In addition, the vast majority of health-related courses in the UK require students to take an admissions test. This may be the UKCAT, BMAT, Hpat UK (different from Hpat Ireland) or the GAMSAT (graduate medicine only).

The main two tests are the UKCAT and the BMAT (registration for UKCAT closes today and is required for medicine in Queen's University Belfast). Students should check which test the institution requires. It is possible to register to take the BMAT test until October 1 and late registration remains open until October 15. BMAT is required for admission to Oxford and Cambridge, amongst other institutions. Unlike the UKCAT, which is an aptitude test, BMAT includes a section on scientific knowledge and its application, requiring students to brush up on their science before taking this assessment.

Oxford and Cambridge

Applicants may place only one course from either Oxford or Cambridge on the UCAS application. Admission to each of these prestigious institutions is highly competitive, but both are relatively open with regards to what they seek from candidates. As one might expect, they are looking for excellent grades, however they will take extenuating circumstances and the type of school a student attends into account.

Students must submit a personal statement as well as a reference. The personal statement should clearly communicate the applicant's interest in the subject area for which they are applying, as well as evidence of their knowledge and critical thinking in the area to date.

Students will also have the opportunity to nominate their 'college'. This often causes Irish applicants far more concern than necessary. Both Oxford and Cambridge are made up of individual colleges. Each college is where the student stays and where they take their tutorials. Applicants can choose which college they would prefer or they can complete an open application and the university will assign them to a college. Whichever option a student chooses, it should not affect the applicant's chance of success in any way. Applicants may also be asked to submit written work, complete an interview or take an assessment, depending on the courses and institution.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin


Q: Do students require a second language to attend university in Northern Ireland?

There are two universities in Northern Ireland — Ulster University and Queen’s University, Belfast.  Both have a variety of different requirements, depending on the course. You can find more information on specific subject requirements on college websites or in the prospectus. However, unlike NUI universities, neither tends to require a language purely for matriculation purposes.

It is important to note that these institutions do not work within the CAO system and tend to have grade requirements. It means that some courses will require students to achieve a better Leaving Certificate than if they wished to attend third level in the Republic of Ireland, while some courses will accept students with lower grades than would be required in the Republic. Ulster University will hold its Open day on September 24 at the Coleraine campus and October 25 at the Belfast campus.

Important dates


* Open Evening - Bray Institute of Further Education

* Registration Closes - UKCAT

September 24

* Open Day - Ulster University, Coleraine

September 27

* Institute of Guidance Counsellors Midwest Career Fair - University of Limerick Sports Arena


Irish Independent

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