The UCAS deadline was on the 15th January and I was one of the many students this year who used it to apply to university. I'm up to my neck in revision at the moment, so I thought a quick blog post about university and UCAS would be easy and a good way to motivate me with my work, too!
The whole university process began for me by using a website called 'Unifrog' which I had access to through college. It's a great site and it allows you to put in the course you want to study and your predicted grades and then comes up with a list of universities that are aspirational, solid or safe (my predicted grades were decided based on a set of internal exams I did last summer). You then create a shortlist of those universities and it gives you more information about them. I used 'Unifrog' throughout my application process, and it certainly put me on the right path.
After I created a few uni shortlists on 'Unifrog' I went onto the universities' websites to look at my course (which is Journalism) and I booked in on a few open days. If you're planning on applying to university any time soon I would absolutely recommend going to these open days. My first and second choice unis were my 'back ups' before I went to look at them, and I ended up not even applying to the university I was originally adamant I'd be going to. I went to these open days in May/June, but they run throughout the year and they're a great way of getting a feel for the place and knowing how far you'll have to travel. It's also useful to look at the accommodation, too. I'd recommend looking at the university's library, because you'll probably spend a lot of time there, and anywhere else you may be interested in, such as their gym.
I should add that I went to a UCAS convention in June which really helped me confirm that I was interested in certain unis. There were talks going on throughout the day which were great for me as I was completely new to the process (I have no older siblings) and these talks covered accommodation, the application process, Russell Groups, Oxbridge and many other topics. There were also stands for different universities everywhere, with staff members standing ready to discuss your future with you.
I signed up to UCAS in about June (I think) with my college, but I didn't do much else with it until the start of Year 13. The pressure really started the kick in then as my college had an internal deadline of 22nd November. To begin the application process, you have to put in your personal details (address, date of birth etc) and your past education and employment history, including the GCSEs/other qualifications you've acquired up to this point. You then have to put in your chosen unis (you don't need to order them) and whether you will be applying for student finance. There's no particular order you need to do these tasks in, I just found it made more sense to get the easy stuff (my details) out of the way. I also left my personal statement until last.
The PersonAL sTATEMENT
Everyone always stresses about their personal statement and I think they have every right to. Trying to sell yourself in 4,000 characters really isn't an easy task.
I started the process of writing my personal statement by quickly writing up things about me in bullet points. This included why I wanted to study my subject, my past achievements (things I've done within journalism, work, sports etc) and then I typed up some things about me. I then categorised these bullet points and got rid of anything I thought was irrelevant, I repeated this step a few times and made paragraphs based on each section. I actually typed up my official personal statement in less than an hour, because of how much prep I'd done. I then emailed it to my college tutor and he gave it the all clear. I revised it a few times before sending it off, but didn't make any major changes.
I think the key advice I'd have is take your time and take small steps. A personal statement seems daunting, but you can get plenty of advice from UCAS and if you use your own pace it will work out fine. I know people that took days to write theirs, everyone has their own method. After uploading my personal statement to UCAS, I went over all of my details and sent it off.
After I sent my university application to UCAS, they forwarded it to all of the universities I had applied to. At this point, you've done all you can and all you do is wait. Many people I know got uni offers in the first day or first few days, but all I got was a load of emails saying "thank you for your application". This left me very worried as I was just imagining a load of 'declined' emails, but after a week I received my first offer and I got my second offer a few days later. I received offers from every university except for my first choice (which was also an 'aspirational') before Christmas, but luckily got my final offer on the 8th January. UCAS Track is great as you can see all of your offers in one place and you know what your offers are (all of mine were conditional except for one, which was unconditional).
After I received all of my offers, I had to choose my 'firm choice' university and took up the option of an 'insurance choice' too. I consequently had to decline the rest of my offers. In the end, I accepted University of Leeds as my firm choice and University of Sheffield as my insurance. I feel very lucky because these were the two I wanted to get into.
After accepting my offers, I've booked to go to applicant days at both unis and I've applied for accommodation at Leeds - accommodation at Sheffield doesn't open until March, but I'll be applying there too. All I'm doing now is my best, my A Levels (as well as everyone else's) are so important and they really do open up the door for the next stage of my life. I'm just hoping all of my hard work pays off and I'll be a very happy student in August when I open up my results.
(Sorry this post is so long, I forgot how much I had to do to get where I am!)