Perhaps you weren’t intending to go to university this year, but your travel or job plans have fallen through or you’ve just had a change of mind. Perhaps you’ve been made redundant and need another qualification to be competitive in the job market…
The good news is, that it isn’t too late to apply to university for a September start. But you need to start looking now!
You can apply for a course through ‘Clearing’ – a process designed to help people find a university course that still has places available – from July until October, assuming you’re not already holding a degree offer from another university or college. Clearing is managed by UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and the UCAS website (https://www.ucas.com/) provides details of all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the UK, including links to university websites. You would usually apply for courses via UCAS when you’ve decided what courses you’re interested in.
Please don’t leave it until A level results day – on Thursday 13th August – to start looking. This is the most manic day of the year for student recruitment, akin to ‘Black Friday’ in retail. If you can contact universities beforehand, you’ll be doing yourself a big favour and, probably have more choice of course and can spend more time talking to tutors and considering options.
Some courses may already be full – so I would strongly suggest that you look through the UCAS website to see what courses you are interested in, narrow it down to no more than 10 and then start phoning the universities to see if they still have space on the courses you are interested in and what grades or ‘UCAS points’ they are offering. Sometimes, grades are reduced during Clearing. Make sure that you have all the relevant information to hand, such as your GCSE grades, any other qualifications you may have like, music, dance exams etc. as they can count towards your entry requirements in some instances. This will ensure that you don’t apply for a course that is already full and waste a potential line in your UCAS form.
Check out this UCAS page to find out more about what qualifications are included and how many ‘UCAS points’ they are worth. This post from Oxford Royale Academy also provides some information about what non academic qualifications are included.
If you’re a mature student and have work experience, other criteria may apply. The university teams will advise how you can apply and they may even make you a conditional offer on the spot! If they do, ask for the name of the person you are speaking to and a reference number and don’t feel worried about ringing back a day or so later if you’ve not received any confirmation. It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you’re only interested in the one course, then it doesn’t cost as much to apply via UCAS.
Don’t feel like you have to accept the first offer made to you. This is probably one of the most expensive purchases you will make, so give yourself time to think about it and, perhaps, discuss with others. If you’re not sure, then think about taking a year out and maybe do another A level at college, learn a new skill or take on volunteering roles. I did an extra A level at evening class, learnt to type and took on temporary work during my year out. Just don’t waste the year by sitting on your backside for a year – it not good for your mental health and it doesn’t look good on your CV.
If you accept an offer and later decide it’s not for you, then you can decline or defer it for a year, if you wish, right up to enrolment/registration. If you get better grades than you were expecting, you can also decline the offer and accept another. Make sure that the new institution will hold a space for you while you do this and check the UCAS guidelines on how to do this as you can land yourself in trouble otherwise.
Also, you may be eligible for a student loan for your course and maintenance. The university should be able to explain how to apply for this, but if not, this UCAS page is a good starter for ten.
Remember, if you’re not sure about anything – the content of the course, how it is assessed, what type of jobs graduates go into, or just the paperwork – please ask the admissions team or tutors at the university. They are there to help you and want you to make the right decision for you. No one wants an unhappy student.
Wishing you all the best!
June Dennis, Expert witness, consultant, trainer & freelancer in Marketing, Business & Higher Education.
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