UCAS 08 (and beyond) tips/advice for UCAS 09 Watch

jeh_jeh
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#21
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#21
(Original post by ~*~rAiNbOw~*~)
do you have to declare your AS grades or can you put them pending? (for the 2009 application cycle)
I was the 2008 application cycle and we could put in pending AS grades (so I'm presuming it's the same for this year); but only if you're retaking them. If you've already got them and you're not retaking, you have to put them down, even if they're really bad. Unis will find out and when they discover you had results and you didn't put them down they won't be impressed...
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~*~rAiNbOw~*~
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(Original post by jeh_jeh)
I was the 2008 application cycle and we could put in pending AS grades (so I'm presuming it's the same for this year); but only if you're retaking them. If you've already got them and you're not retaking, you have to put them down, even if they're really bad. Unis will find out and when they discover you had results and you didn't put them down they won't be impressed...
O okay, that's not too bad...I read somewhere on this forum that in 2009 u won't be able to put any AS results as pending even if u were retaking :confused:
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koshtoom
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I'll probably be repeating what some other people have said, but it's always good to reiterate some points to make sure they get through.

- Order as many prospectuses as you want, they are free, even if the interest in the university is tiny, still order it.

- Research the courses thoroughly, they really do differ quite a bit from university to university.

- Put a university down as a choice because you think you'd be really happy and comfortable studying there for 3/4 years, not because it has a great reputation, or your friends, boyfriend/girlfriend is going there.

- Don't judge a university negatively because it is far away, I accept some people don't want to move away and that's fine, but those who are a little worried about distance, don't be too bothered by it, a lot of people will probably be in the same boat.

- Aim high with your choices, don't immediately shy away from a university because you think that 'you don't have a chance of getting in', it's always worth a shot! Have a back up just in case though.

- Personal statements.... spend a good amount of time on them. Try not to go for cliches, you can certainly be passionate about your subject without being cheesy. Your enthusiasm should come shining through, and don't get too bogged down with extra-curricular activities unless they are truly needed for the course, the universities are much more interested in your love of the subject. Read it over, pass to friends, as teachers for advice, any pair of new eyes on the statement should be welcomed.

- Don't get too disheartened about rejections, I had an acceptance in November, then got rejected from 3 other choices over the following 5 months, followed by another acceptance. There usually is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you most certainly do get over it! It really isn't the end of the world.

- Visit the universities! As most people say about this point, I can't stress it enough. When you actually visit the places you get a 'feel' of it, when I visited I knew that my choices were right because I felt comfortable and 'at home' there. So visit, visit, visit.

- Be prepared to be patient as well, especially if you send off your application early. I had a space of 7 months between sending off my application and getting my final decision, just relax and be patient.

- People may get offers from the same university on the same course before you, even though they sent their application after you, it doesn't mean that you won't get an offer! Also just because decisions are coming through from a university, doesn't mean that your decision will, different departments take different amounts of time.

- UCAS Track.... you'll most probably be on this a lot of the time in free lessons, when you come home from school etc. I can guarantee that around 75% will become addicted. Before you all start panicking, they send e-mails at 12 and 5 (If I remember correctly) to inform of decisions, but Track can be updated at any time. I'm sure I read somewhere on here that Track addiction is better than Crack addiction, a good thing to tell the parents!

Ummmmm, I think that's about it, I'll add more if I can think of anything!
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Flo[ProActiv]
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#24
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Personal statement related question:

I don't have a particular field of interest in my chosen subjects [History and Politics]. Does this matter / will it count against me?

[Apologies if I sound a bit pathetic, I'm just a owrrier by nature].
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DavyS
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Incidentally, these are just my opinions:

- If you're applying to Oxbridge, start early. Not too early, but, your entire application has to be in before 15th October, and given how much you'll be writing, rewriting, reworking and fiddling with your Personal Statement, you do want to start work on it early. I did mine the last week of the Summer Holidays and with all the critique I got from various people, it was only finally slotted into play in late September.

- One tip I took on board was that when writing your personal statement, you shouldn't put any sentence that everybody could put on your personal statement. Example: Anyone could put the sentence "I find maths exciting, dynamic and fun." into their personal statement, but only a tiny number of people could put "My experience teaching maths to German students, for me, made maths exciting, dynamic and fun" or "Self-teaching maths for me, made it the most exciting, dynamic and fun of my subjects." Don't just sound passionate; everyone will be passionate; sound uniquely passionate.

- Open Days. Definitely. Initially, my intention was to apply for Exeter, Kent and Surrey; but I went to Exeter for an open day and hated it: this told me campus universities were definitely not for me, and actually shaped my choices for the better. If you go to a university open day, you should try and take a note of what was good about it. In fact, I took such an instant dislike to Exeter's isolation (which is just my opinion, but the amount of greenery and lovely surroundings did wow me to begin with) that I knew there was no point going to the open day; I spent the rest of my day shopping in the town centre and I went to see a film.

- Don't worry about filling your UCAS form in with five universities you really want to go to. I didn't really want to go to Bristol or Exeter, but couldn't find any real other universities to put on my form; I was intending to reject my offers and start again if I didn't get offers from Oxford or St. Andrews. You can reject offers, so don't feel pressured to find five universities that rock your world.

- People are talking about 'curricular' and 'extra-curricular' but I think that's perhaps a bad way to talk about it. A better way is the distinction between 'subject related' and 'non-subject related.' 20% of my PS was about pieces of the syllabus that I found interesting; 60% about extra-curricular maths, and 20% about non-maths extra-curricular stuff. Don't waffle on about how you think the most interesting part of a German syllabus is sports but if you can talk precisely and concisely about why you think Der Vorleser is the best book you've ever read, the examiner would be excited to hear about it.

- Start investigated open days now, as often people look on the internet a few days after they've taken place. Don't just go to open days for universities you're interested in as other places may surprise you.

- People say don't let distance scare you (it most certainly didn't me, my insurance is the university second-furthest away from where I live in the UK!!) but also don't let people bully you into leaving home and being high and dry. Make a list of the things that are important to you but be honest. If being able to keep contact with your parents is important, make sure you choose a university where you can visit each other. It's important to make choices for your reasons, rather than let othrs bully you into it.

- On that theme, do NOT let your parents bully you into anything. My parents aren't the kind to do that, but I do know of many others that do. Do the course you want to do, at the university you want to go to. Obviously, listen to your parents as they are often smarter and wiser than you; but if your parents are forcing you to accept an offer from Bath when you'd rather go to Warwick, that's your perrogative.

- Academic prestige is not the most important thing, but don't undersell yourself. It's important to have a good time, but look at universities where you feel you would be stretched as half of university is, and I know this is hard to believe, academia. If you are getting top grades, then you don't want to end up in Oxford Brookes because although you will have a good time, you could regret it afterwards. However, that's not to say accept universities based on rank, it's important to balance both liking a university and it being aimed to challenge you. Only you can rank universities like this.

- If you are going on an Oxbridge open day, first of all, take a bit of time to look around all the colleges. My first choice at Oxford, Wadham, I didn't like. However, I could see Trinity and I knew I wanted to go there instead. Being able to look around all of them will help you make a reasoned choice.

- However sparkly your PS and Predicted grades are, they're nothing unless they can be backed up with a brilliant set of A-Level grades. To a certain extent, if you have great grades and a decent range of extra-curricular, subject-related things, you're already above the crowd and will sell your self. Half the battle is making the offers I'm sure all of you are capable of receiving

Whew, that's quite long. Sorry!

Editting this in:
Personal statement related question:

I don't have a particular field of interest in my chosen subjects [History and Politics]. Does this matter / will it count against me?

[Apologies if I sound a bit pathetic, I'm just a owrrier by nature].
People often choose 'areas of specialism' because of a fleeting interest in them in the AS-course and because they think it might look interesting. I'm as guilty as the rest of them; and I name-dropped many areas of mathematics into my PS. One of my interviewers picked up on this; and asked "Your personal statement makes you seem a little bit boring; what can you offer the college besides mathematics?" If you don't have an interest, that might remove a bit of the focus from your personal statement, but as long as its precise and crisp then the lack of focus won't really make you seem any less worthy candidate because you don't like one particular bit of history!!
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inkblot
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#26
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(Original post by DavyS)
- One tip I took on board was that when writing your personal statement, you shouldn't put any sentence that everybody could put on your personal statement. Example: Anyone could put the sentence "I find maths exciting, dynamic and fun." into their personal statement, but only a tiny number of people could put "My experience teaching maths to German students, for me, made maths exciting, dynamic and fun" or "Self-teaching maths for me, made it the most exciting, dynamic and fun of my subjects." Don't just sound passionate; everyone will be passionate; sound uniquely passionate.
One of the best bits of advice on here right there.
The number of personal statements of my friends I saw starting with the opening line 'from experience x/the age of x, I have been passionate about subject x' is truly shocking.
I hate it.
It's the worst possible way you could start a personal statement.
It sounds so wet, so meaningless and so disingenuous.
Before you say anything about how 'passionate' you are or when that passion began just stop and think about how you could convey that in the most original way and not in a way that probably over half the competitors for your place are going to say.
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AnubisX
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(Original post by Rainfaery)
Okay, I have a question about personal statements.
How much of it do universities want to be focused on your subject, and how much of it should be focused on other things, like extracurriculars?
About 75% Subject to 25% extra-curricular. It is certainly a good idea to let the subject dominate the Personal Statement.

When it comes to mentioning extra-curricular activities one thing I noticed was how important was to not just list them. That comes out like you are just 'stat padding' your statement to gain any sort of brownie points you can get. It is a better idea to write about what you've gained from the activities than what you've done. For example, debating might have enhanced your abilities in individual research and presentation. Even better, try to link it to the skills required for your subject if you can can. Obviously this is much easier for some activities than others.

Also, do not forget to mention the other subjects you take at A-level and how they have helped you develop useful skills. Some A-levels complement each other better than others, but even so, I would not neglect to mention any other subjects you take in the statement!

(Original post by Rainfaery)
Is it possible to show you are passionate for your subject without coming off as very cheesy?
It does seem very hard at times, lol. I think the trick is to really think about the areas of the course and the themes and ideas that you have found the most interesting or that have really inspired you or made you think. Write them down, expand on them, read about them a little more about them. Then write about why you like these parts of the course genuinely in your statement.

Also, be sure to mention why the subject inspires you in general. Why is Chemistry the best science to understand the world? Why does History allow us to study the world in a much better way than any other subject? These are the sort of questions its best to try to "answer" in your statement.

Read widely and may the force be with you </nerdjoke>
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Juno
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(Original post by AnubisX)
Also, do not forget to mention the other subjects you take at A-level and how they have helped you develop useful skills. Some A-levels complement each other better than others, but even so, I would not neglect to mention any other subjects you take in the statement!
That isn't a great thing to do. Unis have heard it all before, and you're wasting space you could use for something else. If you've done particularly unusual subjects it might be wise to say something abut why you chose them, but if you're applying with the required ones it's pointless

:juno:
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Rokit
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a) Know yourself and your limitations. You should know where your strengths and weaknesses lie when applying.
b) Take what everyone else says with a pinch of salt. Dont apply where others think you should, apply where you feel you should
c) Ignore league tables. Instead think for yourself, visit the uni and your department and inspect it thorougly, ask questions, email the admissions tutors about any queries. Look at the module guides, subject literature... are you satisfied with the depth and breadth of the modules
d) If you want to apply to the same uni multiple times, do it. It does not hinder your application in the slightest. What you must ensure is that you are enthusiastic about the subjects and when talking about them you can let the enthusiasm shine through without sounding like a stilted person who has crammed it all out of a book
e) When writing your personal statement, just pick up a pen and write whaever you are feeling at that time, dont try and be quirky/make quotes. Instead let your passion and thirst to learn that subject come from the heart. It will show on your statement
f) Do not turn into a UCAS track junkie. It is not cool and very desperate
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AnubisX
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(Original post by Juno)
That isn't a great thing to do. Unis have heard it all before, and you're wasting space you could use for something else. If you've done particularly unusual subjects it might be wise to say something abut why you chose them, but if you're applying with the required ones it's pointless
It really depends on what course you're applying for, after all not all degrees have three required subjects to take the course. In fact, to be fair most courses just ask for a single specific A-level and two other A-levels. It does not really matter how unusual they are if they can still be relevant. For example, I applied for History and also took Sociology and Government and Politics. The theories I learned in those subjects complemented my study of history. Therefore, I think it would be foolish to take Politics or Sociology and History, at A-level, and not explain how something like economic determinism, or another broad academic theory from Politics or Sociology, could be seen in a historical period you have studied in history. Similarly, you could mention for a science degree how your study of Physics benefited your understanding of Chemistry. Yes, universities might have heard it all before, but it surely cannot be a good thing to do several other subjects and completely neglect to mention in your statement, even briefly.

(Original post by Rokit)
c) Ignore league tables. Instead think for yourself, visit the uni and your department and inspect it thorougly, ask questions, email the admissions tutors about any queries. Look at the module guides, subject literature... are you satisfied with the depth and breadth of the modules
I completely agree with you in that people put too much stress on league tables. However, I still think that league tables are a good rough guide to the quality of a university and a course despite the fact they reveal little about the course content itself. For example, even if a course I wanted to take was littered with a legion of fantastic options, if the university got very few firsts and 2:1s, had an extremely high drop out rate and mulitiple poor teaching quality reviews I doubt I would apply there. I personally found that it was better just to be very critical of league tables and weigh that up against personal preferences.

(Original post by Rokit)
d) If you want to apply to the same uni multiple times, do it. It does not hinder your application in the slightest.
Some universties, such as Oxford and Cambridge for sure but there may be others, do not let you apply for more than one course at the same university. Just to be safe I would check that the university allows you to do this. It's only like 1% of universities that don't let you, but better safe than sorry.

(Original post by Rokit)
f) Do not turn into a UCAS track junkie. It is not cool and very desperate
lol, that's too hard to do! I even managed to write some code that would make my Wii glow when track updated, lol, how sad was that?
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xJessx
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I'll give my two cents aswell...

*Don't let anyone else influence your decision. My dad (who didn't even get A-levels) just wanted the best for me and pressured me into applying to the University of Manchester even though I didn't like it when I went. It was also completely beyond me so when I got rejected it just upset him as he thought they would meet me, see what a nice person I was and give me a place. Lol, sorry Dad

*Don't be put off by rejections like koshtoom said. My best mate who's really clever got 3 rejections within two days of applying which was a shock but then she got the two offers that she really wanted the week later.

*Have a look at the unis. This was why I didn't like UoM because it was a bit snobby but if I hadn't known that and I just got the rejection, it would have bothered me. The only realson it didn't bother me was because I went to the uni and didn't like it.

*Try to get some experience either working or volunteering in your chosen field. My AS grades weren't fantastic but I had quite a bit of voluntary experience with children and mentoring which I think helped.

*Look at the unit descriptions for your degree. I thought I liked MMU because of it's atmosphere but when I looked at the unit descriptions, the course was very literature/history orientated whereas I wanted something a bit more vocational.

*Don't be scared of interviews - it's for your benefit aswell as the university's. They can see if they want you on the course and you can see if you like the lecturers and the building. They're normally very nice and if you genuinely want and are capable of studying your subject, you've got nothing to worry about.

*Start your personal statement early because it's one of the hardest parts of applying. Over the summer, use online help or go to connexions if they can help you and just jot down points you want to say, lines that come into your head and basically have an idea of what you want to say.

*Do try and be patient - I was waiting for MMU for about 4 months and then they gave me places on two courses and told me if I changed my mind about what course I wanted to do, just phone them. They were really flexible and I was worrying for no reason that they wouldn't give me a place because I was waiting for so long.

Sorry if I've repeated some stuff, everything's already been said but I just wanted to add some stuff.
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Juno
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#32
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(Original post by AnubisX)
It really depends on what course you're applying for, after all not all degrees have three required subjects to take the course. In fact, to be fair most courses just ask for a single specific A-level and two other A-levels. It does not really matter how unusual they are if they can still be relevant. For example, I applied for History and also took Sociology and Government and Politics. The theories I learned in those subjects complemented my study of history. Therefore, I think it would be foolish to take Politics or Sociology and History, at A-level, and not explain how something like economic determinism, or another broad academic theory from Politics or Sociology, could be seen in a historical period you have studied in history. Similarly, you could mention for a science degree how your study of Physics benefited your understanding of Chemistry. Yes, universities might have heard it all before, but it surely cannot be a good thing to do several other subjects and completely neglect to mention in your statement, even briefly.
Most of the time, people have something more interesting, exciting and relevant to include. You're very limited for space, so you need to make yourself stand out and not just include the same stuff as everyone else. Also, although you may think something is really great, by the time you've studied more in depth you may realise actually it isn't.

As a PS Helper I have read many personal statements, and it's generally the weaker ones that include what you have advised.

:juno:
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