UCAS applications: advice from the Careers Service

Joanne McKinney.
Joanne McKinney.

If you’re considering applying to university next year, you will need to complete the all-important UCAS application.

Joanne McKinney, careers manager for Coleraine, Limavady and Ballymoney in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Careers Service, offers the following advice: “All UCAS applications are made online through www.ucas.com.

“Students should first use this website to search for courses and institutions in which they may be interested. Applicants can also find information on deadlines, personal statements and filling in the application form,

“Students may apply for up to five courses in a normal UCAS application. They must also complete a personal statement explaining why the institution should choose them for this course, including any work experience or extra-curricular activities. Many universities do not interview applicants as they rely on the information provided on the UCAS application form. The application includes personal details, predicted grades, a reference and the personal statement.

“The importance of the personal statement cannot be overstated as it forms a key part of the offer process. Prospective university students should consider the points below in relation to their personal statement.

“Explain why you want to go to university and how you plan to use the qualification and provide evidence that you have the skills to study the course for which you are applying.”

Joanne adds: “Demonstrate your understanding of your chosen academic area; this may require additional research.

“Show how your current or previous studies relate to your preferred courses.

“Provide examples of any activities that show an interest in your chosen course. This could include any jobs, work experience or voluntary work that you have undertaken and what you have learned from the experience e.g. team working and interpersonal skills, analysing and problem solving skills, communication skills, I.T. skills, personal planning and organising skills.

“Include any skills or talents that make you stand out from the crowd. These could be as varied as sports and leisure activities, musical or language ability or any awards that you have won.

“Highlight any positions of responsibility you have held and how you have developed as a result of the opportunity.

“If you have taken a Gap year, explain what you have learned from the experience.

“Ensure that you explain how your skills, experiences and lessons learned relate to your chosen course.

“UK institutions require a reference which should be from someone who can comment on the student’s academic style and suitability for the course, often a subject teacher in a relevant subject. The UCAS website provides further guidance on referees.

“Another source of useful information on university options can be found at http://unistats.direct.gov.uk. This is the official website for comparing UK higher education course data, and includes official data on each university and college’s satisfaction scores in the National Student Survey, jobs and salaries after study and other key information for prospective students.”

Advice and guidance is available from the Careers Service at 0300 200 7820 or at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers. Information on university options is also available from the UCAS website http://www.ucas.ac.uk.