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Wrap up your uni application by Christmas

Motivated to finish your application before December 25?

We asked Courteney Sheppard, customer experience manager at UCAS, for his advice on submitting your best possible application.

Choosing your top five

Research is a key part of making the right decision on the top five universities you want to apply for.

The January 15 deadline may be looming ever closer, but there's still time to consider which type of university you'd like to go to, and read prospectuses and uni websites.

Courteney says: "Make sure you do thorough research, as changing your university or college once you’ve started isn’t always easy.

"Research is a key part of making the right decision on the top five universities you want to apply for. Look in detail at the course structures, modules and the general university. Location is also particularly important so make sure you research the area if it’s unfamiliar.

"Make a list of your favourite universities and check the dates for their upcoming open days online. Attend as many of these as you can and talk to as many students and staff as you can manage. Ask yourself whether you can see yourself studying there as you wander round."

Worried that your application won't be taken as seriously because you're submitting it later in the cycle? Don't be: UCAS and universities treat all applications equally, whether it's sent on September 1 or 5pm on January 15.

Writing your personal statement

Make sure to highlight what will make you a suitable student on the course.

Courteney has some tips for what to include in your personal statement: "The personal statement is a short reflective piece, which offers you the opportunity to describe your ambitions, skills, experience, and why you believe you’re a great candidate for your chosen undergraduate course.

"Make sure to highlight what will make you a suitable student on the course, showcasing any relevant skills, experience or achievements gained from school, work, or other activities.

"It is important to stand out in your personal statement but be cautious with humour – you never know what the reader will or won’t find funny.

"All personal statements are screened at UCAS, so your personal statement must be your own work – don’t be tempted to copy. If UCAS finds similarities, the application will be flagged, and the relevant universities and colleges notified."

Don't miss TSR's guide to writing your personal statement and our personal statement builder tool.

Getting your reference right

If possible, your referee should be someone who knows you academically and can talk about your work ethic, interaction with other students and your suitability for higher education or a future career.

When it comes to sorting your reference out, time management is key. If you're unsure of your school or college's timescales, check with your form tutor or head of year.

"If possible, your referee should be someone who knows you academically and can talk about your work ethic, interaction with other students and your suitability for higher education or a future career," says Courteney.

He adds: "Your reference should be filled out online as part of the application form, and include your career goals and work experience, as well as how well you've done in specific modules or course components. If your referee is one of your teachers, they can add your predicted grades for any pending qualifications you're currently studying.

"With your permission, the reference can also include circumstances that have or could affect your academic work, such as a personal problem, illness or any individual needs you have."

Keeping an eye on Track

Make sure to respond to any offers before the deadlines provided.

After you've sent your application off, relax – but feel free to check Track over the festive period in case any of your chosen unis make their decision.

Track will be updated as usual over Christmas, but you might not hear anything back until January as many universities close or operate with reduced staff this time of year.

Courteney says: "Once you’ve submitted your application, keep an eye on Track, to continually check its progress and status. Make sure to respond to any offers before the deadlines provided.

"Staying updated and ahead of the game is imperative to ensure you don’t miss out on any future opportunities."

Need more time?

Keep on top of the UCAS deadlines and key dates for 2019 entry.

If you miss the UCAS deadline or choose to apply later then all is not lost. UCAS Extra is open from February 25 until July 4 for both new and current applicants.

Check with your chosen universities that they are still accepting new applications.

As a current applicant, you can go through Extra if you have used all of your five choices but either haven't been accepted or want to decline your offers.

When Extra opens, you can search for courses that are still available on the UCAS website. If you are currently in the application cycle, your Track will update to let you know whether you are eligible to apply through Extra.

Got a question about your UCAS application? Speak to our advisers.

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