UCAS: my experience + tips and advice!
Don’t get me wrong, UCAS and applying to university is a scary process, one that most fear when it gets to this time of year. Obviously, this year is a little different as due to COVID-19, a lot of open days and summer schools have been cancelled (I feel this pain this year as my Summer School is under review for the end of June, I’ll be gutted if I can’t go!), but I’m here to explain my experience and what I did to help decide on which university to attend and what course to do next year, as well as offering tips and advice. Just to make people aware in this post, as of (hopefully) September, I’m moving to Newcastle University to study Psychology & Sport and Exercise Science as a Joint Honours course. So, I can’t apply my knowledge to all subjects, but I will try to give advice based on the general process!
This time last year I was looking into a variety of sport courses, at a wide range of universities. The UCAS website is very useful in looking at courses, what they cover, what the offers are, the quality of teaching etc. It is the best place to start if you aren’t sure and have an intrigue in a range of courses. I found the best way to move forward was write down a few courses I liked the sound of and book onto an open day. When I did this, I wrote down 6 courses I liked the sound of, and booked onto 4 open days after realising I wasn’t really wanting to go to a couple of the universities listed. The four universities I visited were: Bath, Nottingham, Loughborough and Newcastle.
I did most of my open days in June, and found them to be great experiences. They give an amazing feel for the university and allow you to look at a lot of what a course/uni has to offer! Key things I look at on an open day: the course, accommodation, the student union, facilities (for me that’s the sports centre), libraries and study spaces, and then the city/town itself. This pretty much covers everything that you need to know about the university. All universities will hold an open day fayre which will have a range of courses, student life stands, accommodation, finance etc, that will all offer talks on subjects as well as general talks. I only attended a couple of subject talks as I prefer researching myself and talking to course leaders/lecturers etc. I debated a lot of courses in this time, firstly starting with Sport and Exercise Science, then moving onto Physiotherapy/Sports Rehabilitation and then Sports Psychology. I am a very indecisive which means I struggled to come to a decision on my course!
Another thing to take into account is Summer Schools. I was lucky that I could attend the Nottingham Potential Summer School last July, which I have previously written about as I enjoyed it so much! If you would like to read about this experience, I will link it here, so that I don’t keep rambling! I would highly recommend a summer school as it gives you a sense of life at the university, as well as giving you a lot more information on finance, life skills and personal statements (which came in very handy further down the line! I think most summer schools this year won’t go ahead as mentioned but definitely keep your eye out for them. Or if you are heading into year 12 next year, keep researching opportunities to follow what you’re passionate about!
The final topic I wanted to discuss was the actual application itself and the personal statement. I am planning to write a post on personal statements later on in the year so I won’t talk too much about them here, however, I found the application very easy to complete, I just didn’t have a lot of motivation to complete it! I did have a fair bit of support from teachers at the sixth form I attended which is lucky, but the best thing to do if you’re lacking support is to ask someone you know who has been through the process for help, as sometimes as painful as it is to do, I’m sure we don’t mind helping others! The key to your application is the personal statement which I found so tedious to do but I just had to get on with it eventually, and the key thing is to exaggerate quite a bit, but also keep it realistic at the same time. As well as this, keep a log on activities that could look good on the statement e.g. volunteering, online courses/MOOCs and summer schools so that there is more you can write about! The more information you have, the easier it is to write!
Key Tips and Advice:
- - For open days/other events, have a dedicated book that you write all your thoughts in. This makes it so useful when deciding what 5 choices to put down on your application. I did this for all my research and it did really help! I’m still using it now to decide on accommodation!
- - Get as much experience in the area you are interested in as possible. Having experience for a lot of courses makes you stand out as an applicant because it shows dedication to the course! It also helps when you arrive at university when applying knowledge.
- - Get your personal statement done ASAP. Now I didn’t actually do this and put it off until late November/early December, which I do kind of regret as it meant I was a lot further behind than most in my year. Getting it out of the way really does help focus more time on you’re a-Level/BTEC subjects, which is what you’d rather be doing in Year 13 to succeed.
- - Don’t overwhelm yourself with open days. Open days are the most useful to get to grips with a university, but that being said, don’t book too many. They do take a lot of time out of a weekend, particularly if they are far away, you spend a long time travelling (mine was a 10 hour round trip for Bath). I would pick 3 or 4 universities you really like the sound of and attend those, and just research the rest. Of all I applied to, I only looked at 2 of my 5 choices in person, and researched the rest!
I hope this post helps those who are yet to go through this process if you intend to, and if you have gone through the process, how did you find it? Let me know your thoughts,
by mills x