With all the focus on CAO at the moment it is important that students interested in applying to a UK college do not forget about the upcoming deadline for UCAS.
UCAS is the centralised organisation that looks after applications to universities and third-level institutions in Britain and Northern Ireland.
UCAS’ responsibilities are very similar to that of the CAO, although the application process is very different.
While the first deadline for UCAS passed on October 15, for the majority of courses the deadline is January 15 at 6pm.
The exceptions to the January 15 deadline are veterinary, medicine, dentistry and any Oxford and Cambridge applications, which closed in October, and art courses, which close in March.
At this stage, students who are applying for UCAS should have their applications as complete as possible, if not already sent.
It is important to remember that unlike the CAO system, when applying through UCAS, institutions will judge you based on more than just your exam results.
The UCAS application involves students completing a personal statement, providing an academic reference and providing information about work experience.
As well as the extra work involved in preparing an application, UCAS will send the completed application to each institution for which a student applies, for their consideration as soon as they receive it. Therefore, there is benefit to applying as early as possible.
All UCAS applications are made online through ucas.com. Students should first use this website to search for courses and institutions in which they may be interested.
Secondly, they should contact the institution to enquire about Irish Leaving Certificate entry requirements, fees and any other requirements such as aptitude testing.
Students may apply for up to five courses in a normal UCAS application.
Personal statements should explain why the college should choose the applicant for the course. While including any work experience or extra-curricular activities is very important in a personal statement, applicants must also give the college an idea of their academic interests and work style.
The reference should be from someone who can comment on the student’s academic style and suitability for the course, often a subject teacher. As with all college applications, students should familiarise themselves with the course content and application process.
There is lots of information and advice on how to write references and personal statements at ucas.com.
Almost all UCAS applicants get at least one offer and as many as two thirds in some categories get five. If an application is not already in its final stages of preparation, a student might consider seeking assistance from a guidance counsellor.
Teachers are busy at this time of year, so it is important to give them as much notice as
possible so that they can prepare a reference.
Show your personal statement to as many people as possible. You just don't know where a helpful comment might come from. Whether it's a parent or friend who reminds you of something you have forgotten, a guidance counsellor or a teacher - the more opinions you seek the better.
Your personal statement will go to each institution and course you apply for so be careful if you're applying to more than one type subject area or institution. Avoid naming institutions or talking about things that are not relevant to particular courses for which you are applying. It would be unwise to write something like, "I always dreamed of going to Cambridge...", if the student has also applied to other colleges.
There are many resources, films and advice on ucas.com outlining details on how best to complete this part of the application, so take time to explore them. Include why you are applying, what makes you suitable and which of your skills and experience are most relevant.
Give a copy of your personal statement to your referee. It can be helpful for them to know what you are saying and match the reference to this.
Try and make the personal statement stand out. Let your voice come through and ensure it is carefully proof read by someone you trust.