Ucas January deadline – four tips to make your application go smoothly

Students talking while looking at a laptop

Have you left your university application to the last minute?

Don't panic! You still have a couple of weeks before the 29 January deadline. With some hard work and careful planning you'll be able to get everything sorted. Follow these four steps to get your application in on time.

Get your teachers in the loop

It’s important to tell your teachers that you intend to apply as soon as possible, so that they can prepare a reference for you. You can’t apply without a reference, so this is the first thing you need to get sorted. While you’re waiting for them to get back to you, start working on finding the courses you want to apply for and begin writing your personal statement.

Once you know who’ll be writing your reference you can put together some notes of what you’re going to put in your personal statement, as well as some information about the courses you want to apply to. Sharing this will help them to understand why you’re applying and what your goals are.

Choose the right courses and universities

Talk to your teachers about your predicted grades and be realistic about your choices. "Make sure you have a genuine interest and enthusiasm for your chosen subject", says Sharon Tamale, education liaison advisor at the University of Hertfordshire.

You’ll be studying for three years or longer, so make sure you’re choosing a subject you’re actually interested in, and a university you want to go to. If you're struggling to pick a uni, this article will point you in the direction of some really useful resources to help you make a decision

You’ll also need to make sure you’re applying for courses that you meet the entry requirements for. Requirements vary from course to course, so make sure that you’ve read and understand what the university is looking for. If you’re confused, then you can get help in the Applications and UCAS forum.

It might be a little late in the day to visit a university – and coronavirus lockdown restrictions might make it impossible anyway – but you could take a virtual tour of the campus

Our open day FAQs and advice on making the most of open days can also come in really useful, even if you can't physically visit in person. 

And that's not the only research you can do online. TSR’s sister site The Uni Guide contains loads of information and statistics to give you a better idea of the course and student life.

You can also find the university’s forums on TSR to speak to current students and discover more about what it's really like being a student at the university.

group of students gathered around a laptop

Get your personal statement finished

Your personal statement is a vital part of the application process and it should cover all those things that matter to you and your course choice. If getting started feels intimidating, then TSR's Personal Statement builder will guide you through the process. Focus on getting anything down on paper to begin with – you’ll be able to edit it afterwards.

Take a look at our article on how to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps.

When you’re writing your statement, make sure you show and don’t tell. Details and specifics make a PS stand out from the crowd. Be genuine, avoid clichés, and show them why you’re a great applicant. You also need to be concise. "It’s all about quality not quantity,” says Amanda Kenningley, deputy head of SCLS at the University of Huddersfield.

Making sure you polish your PS once you’re done is also important. "Read your statement out loud; this way you can really notice the small mistakes that can easily be overlooked," says Reema Jawad, assistant outreach and schools liaison officer at Royal Holloway.

And don't neglect your ending – our article on how to end you personal statement with a bang should come in useful. 

Double-check the details

Once everything is ready, get somebody to proofread your application. You want to get this right first time, so make sure you’ve definitely got the right grades, courses and university codes entered in to Ucas.

"Ask someone from your family, school or college to proofread your application," says Owen Lord, admissions team leader at Buckinghamshire New University.

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