Monday 22 January 2018

If applying to the UK, remember it's more than just about exam results

Aoife Walsh

With all the focus on CAO, it is important not to forget about the upcoming deadline for UCAS, the centralised organisation that looks after applications to universities and other third-level institutions in the UK and Northern Ireland.

While the first deadline for UCAS passed on October 15, for the majority of courses the deadline is January 15 at 6pm.

Applications to professional courses in veterinary, medicine, and dentistry and to Oxford and Cambridge closed in October. For some art and design courses, the deadline is March 24 at 6pm.

If not already sent, at this stage students who are applying for UCAS should have their application as complete as possible.

It is important to remember that, unlike the CAO system, when applying through UCAS institutions base their judgments on more than exam results.

Students are required to complete a personal statement and provide an academic reference, as well as information about work experience.

As well as the extra work involved in preparing the application, UCAS sends the completed application as soon as they receive it to each institution for their consideration.

Therefore, there is benefit to applying as early as possible.

All UCAS applications are made online through Students should also contact the institution to enquire about Irish Leaving Cert entry requirements, fees and any other requirements, such as aptitude testing. In a normal UCAS application, students may apply for up to five courses.

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, 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 teacher in a relevant subject.

Finally, the referee will be asked to submit predicted grades for each of your subjects. This makes sense in the UK, which has a system of continuous assessment, but is much more difficult for teachers in Ireland, as the curriculum is based on a terminal exam with external moderation.

Students should talk to a guidance counsellor about the system in place in their school for collecting predicted grades.

There is lots of information and advice on how to write references and personal statements at

If an application is not already in its final stages of preparation, a student might consider seeking assistance from a guidance counsellor.

Remember that teachers are busy at this time of year, so it is important to give them as much notice as possible so they can prepare a reference.

As with all college applications, students should familiarise themselves with the course content and application process.

Irish Independent

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