Applying to university can be a very overwhelming and scary process for many students. Not only do they have to choose courses that suit their interests, pick a variety of universities that appeal to them, they also have to write a detailed personal statement, all while still continuing their studies at college or sixth form. Having the support of parents to help and guide them while they work through their UCAS application can really make the whole process much easier and mean they make much more informed decisions. Here’s a guide to the UCAS application for parents, so you can support your child as they apply to university.§
What is UCAS?
UCAS is a charity that processes applications to study courses at universities and colleges in the UK. To begin an application, students can start here: www.ucas.com/apply.
Start research early
Before any applications are even started, it’s important for students to start researching courses and universities they’re interested in. There are a lot of higher education options to choose from, so starting early will give students more time to consider their options carefully. Request prospectuses, visit university websites and even attending open days together will be helpful. Once they have some concrete ideas in mind, get them to write a list of their top 10 choices and go through them carefully together, listing the pros and cons of each. Remember, they only get to apply for 5 courses, so they should be willing to go to any one of these.
Know the deadlines
As parents it’s crucial that you know the deadlines for the UCAS application, especially as they are almost a year in advance of when the course starts. Some courses and universities may be earlier than others, so writing dates on the family calendar will remind everyone of when the application needs to be sent off. Here’s some dates to note for 2018/2019.
Understanding the basics of filling the UCAS application
Even though students fill out the UCAS application themselves, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what is required. Firstly, remind them there is no rush to complete it in one go. The online application tool lets students save their progress as they go, meaning they can triple-check everything before they submit their final application. Information that will be required usually includes:
- General details- email address, ethnic origin, residential status etc.
- Student finance- For more information visit the UCAS finance page.
- Course choices- Students can choose up to five courses. There’s no preference order and chosen universities can’t see where else students have applied.
- Full education and employment history
- Personal Statement
- References and an application fee. Fees are £13 for one course or £24 for multiple courses.
For a step-by-step guide to filling in a UCAS application, click here.
Check entry requirements
When students have narrowed down their course choices, it’s important to check the entry requirements and make sure they’re achievable. It’s also a great idea to check with your child’s tutors or college that they’re on track to achieve the grades they need, so their final application is realistic. Lots of courses are very competitive, so getting a place without the grades specified can be tricky.
Help your child write a great personal statement
For many students one of the hardest parts of the UCAS application is writing a strong personal statement. It can be especially difficult as students have to write about themselves in a positive light, displaying their ambitions, skills and experience all within a 4,000-character limit. Make sure you give your child plenty of feedback and help them refine it until they’re happy. UCAS also has a fantastic personal statement tool and plenty of resources if your student is struggling with how to get started or what to include. It’s also a great idea for parents to read over this too!
Let them know their other options
Spending some time understanding how extra and clearing work can be helpful, especially so you know what the next steps are if your child does need to pursue a different route. Being clued up on this if on results day the outcome isn’t what is expected will mean you can explain the alternative options to your child clearly and help them decide what’s next.
What happens once their application has been sent?
Once their application has been sent, your child can keep an eye on track to check its progress. Here, they’ll be able to see decisions from their chosen universities and reply to any offers that have been made. There are a few different decisions universities can make, and different replies your child can make to offers they receive. It can get a little confusing if they’re not prepared, so encourage your child to take a look at the UCAS website to understand the different types of offers, and what their options are.
Download this detailed UCAS guide, for everything parents need to know regarding the UCAS process.