How to: UCAS

By: Francesca S.

High school is the last step before university, and while high school lasts four years, you might want to start thinking of your future, your university choice, if you would like to take a gap year and all that happens after you graduate. Our university (or college) counselor is Mr McAndrews and from grade 10 onwards, he will start coming into your class to introduce you to the vast world of universities. This article will outline how you should start preparing for university and how UCAS works. First off, UCAS is the British online system (so of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland) for you to apply and enroll in universities. You will not be given an account until grade 12, but you can start using it’s browsing services whenever.

If you are in tenth grade, most likely you don’t know what you want to do, and if you do – well you might change your mind. Whatever position you are in, go on ucas.com, and search for a course. Start doing that, just to see how it works, and what information you can find.

Note: you don’t know what courses to look for? Try look for a course your older sibling takes, or one similar to your parents’ profession. Or, just a random one, like computer design.

A list of universities in the UK will appear in alphabetical order, make sure you filter to the right qualification level, so undergraduate – there are more filters on the left column, you can apply as you wish.

Let’s take a look at a specific example, and say you really chose to do look up computer design. In the results page, the course offered by Aberystwyth University (what a complicated name!) called Computer Graphics, Vision and Games really intrigues you – by clicking on it you will be able to access more information. Not only is there a summary of the course or a map of the university location, but you can also look at the entry requirements, costs and what is needed to apply. In fact, Aberystwyth requires 28 point for that course in the IB. Bear in mind, that you sometimes might have to go to the university’s site for specific material. Going back to the results page, by clicking on the university’s name, you are sent to UCAS’s overview of the university.

Note: It is very important for you to look at the entry requirements of each specific course.

In terms of logistics, tenth and eleventh grade should really be the time for you to look into universities, and be inspired. Maybe you have already in mind where you want to study, generally – maybe UK, US, Italy, your native country, etc. Still, I recommend you to sign up for the many college visits that happen throughout the year, and to be prepared. To do so, look up the university that will visit, and ask general questions, even if you don’t have in mind to apply yet. Good general questions are:

What activities go on apart from lectures, lessons and seminars?

What do you think is the strongest feature of the campus?

What is the acceptance rate?

Still, if you are going to a university visit knowing you want to apply to the course, you may ask questions along these lines:

Are there special requirement needed to apply for Computer Graphics, Vision and Games?

What are the modules of this course?

Note: modules are specific sets of classes you need to take to graduate from the course. For Computer Graphics, Vision and Games (CGVG), the first year you have to take Introduction To Computer Infrastructure, Introduction To Programming and more. And eventually in the third year, you have to take Advanced Computer Graphics.

By the end of eleventh grade, you need to know what course you are interested in, or at least you should provide Mr McAndrews with an idea of courses and universities. Your choice in university should be guided by your present class grade and predicted IB grades, by the location, university type and more. Don’t worry, there will be universities that will match your preferences! Maybe you begin to realize CGVG isn’t your choice anymore, but you would rather do Software Engineering. In that case, you are already prepared for universities that have courses of that type and can soon find more that suit you and your choice. UCAS lets you apply to a maximum of five courses – they can be the same course from two different universities, similar courses, two courses from the same universities…there are many combinations! I recommend, that the course type is similar among your choices as you only have one personal statement to submit, which should include why you are interested in studying whatever you applied for.

Once you have your UCAS account you will be asked to fill out personal information, school information and give reference emails and numbers. Most importantly, you will have to fill out your current diploma courses and then select and give the course codes of the universities. You will have space to write your personal statement and will probably need to answer more questions.

Note: the personal statement is a short essay on why you are applying, and what makes you a good candidate.

If you have now applied for your courses, you will have access to track.ucas.com where universities will inform you of their acceptance, from the moment you apply they have until May 5th to respond.

Best of luck to you all!

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