Eight things you need to know before applying to university

If you're planning on going to uni next year, now's the time to start thinking about your application. Those applying for courses such as medicine will already be eyeballing the first major UCAS deadline: 15 October. Uni hopefuls looking at other courses have a little longer (for most the key deadline is 15 January).

Starting now can help ensure you come up with an application that really stands out, as well as giving yourself the chance to make changes later on if you need to. You’ll find plenty of resources here on The Student Room to help with your application, and we've spoken to Anne Wilson, head of admissions at Edge Hill University, who shared these essential pointers. 

  • Make sure you understand the course entry requirements

OK, so you're clear on the grades you need from your A levels, Highers or BTEC, but how about other requirements? Double-check what your target universities want to make sure you're not missing anything.

Some, for instance, will specify particular GCSE/Standard Grade results, while if you're applying for a vocational course you may need specific non-academic achievements such as relevant work experience or CRB clearance

  • Give your personal statement some zip

Your personal statement is your best opportunity to make your application stand out, so be sure to come up with one that is well-written and original. University websites often have general guidance on personal statements ( Edge Hill does) - you may also find subject-specific guidance there that can help you tailor your statement.

Try to avoid cliches (certainly think twice about starting: 'I have had an interest in [insert subject here] for as long as I can remember...'), but don't feel the need to use elaborate language that just isn’t ‘you’. Straightforward language can be just as effective in getting your message across. 

  • Are your AS grades cashed in?

Are your AS level grades already cashed in? If so, then you must put the cashed-in grade on UCAS Apply as an achieved qualification - even if you are resitting a module. If not, then your AS grades must be entered as pending qualifications, no matter how brilliant the grade.

If you're not sure whether your AS levels have been cashed in, check your results slip. If this shows an overall grade as a capital letter as well as lower case module grades/UMS, your AS level is cashed in. If you are resitting modules for a cashed-in AS, the AS needs to be entered twice, both as an achieved and as a pending qualification. 

  • Stay in touch

The email address you use on your application is important. For one, you want to make a good impression right from the off. Don't use an email address like [email protected] - remember who's going to be looking at this application. Also, make sure you use an email address you will have access to until at least September/October of your year of entry – your college/school email address may expire before then. If you do need to change your email address after applying, remember to do this using UCAS Track, so that the unis have your current contact details. 

  • Take your time choosing your unis

Remember you don't have to fill in all five choices at the time of submitting your application. You can add choices in later, and this is worth doing if you aren't initially able to find five you really like. As long as you have added them in by 15 January (or 15 October, for certain courses) you will still get equal consideration along with everyone else. 

  • Don't be blinded by prestige

Don't judge a uni by your own preconceptions (or those of others). The course comes first – choose a course because it offers the content and structure you want, not just because it’s at a university with an impressive-sounding name. Once you’ve found the right course, you can then do your research on the university to make sure the whole package is a good fit for you. 

  • Learn the lingo

Reeling from all the uni-specific lingo? Not sure what to make of ‘UCAS Extra’ or ‘tariff points’? Check out The Student Room's university glossary to get up to speed on all the jargon. 

  • Understand the key dates

Don't be late! There are a number of key dates throughout the UCAS application process - make sure you know those that apply to you. The deadline for applications for Oxbridge, and for medical, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry courses is 15 October 2012. For most other courses the application deadline is 15 January 2013 (save some art and design courses, which have a later deadline of 24 March 2013). You can apply up until 30 June 2013, but if you’ve missed your initial deadline then universities only have to consider your application if they still have places available. Don’t forget that after you apply there will still be important dates you have to adhere to, such as when you need to reply to offers, that will be shown on UCAS Track. 

Good luck with your university application!