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What is UCAS? UCAS is an acronym for the Universities and Colleges Application System At present all students in schools and colleges apply to university at the beginning of Year 13, although there are plans to change this. This means that tutors have to be ready to start the process with their tutees at the end of Year 12, when they return from completing their AS examinations. By this time students will have already had some preparation, as students will have had talks from local university representatives, and have attended a UCAS Higher Education Fair and an open day at Birmingham university. Some of them will also have attended Taster courses at local universities around Easter time. During June a representative from the University of Leicester will also speak to students about the application process. Representatives from the universities will also attend on the Parents Evening in June. How do students apply? Students can apply in a variety of ways. They can fill in a paper form, which is completed and posted off to UCAS, or they can apply on line. This year we are planning to process the applications on line using ‘APPLY’. (More of this later) When do students apply? Students may apply any time after September 1st, when the system opens. How many universities can they apply to? They can apply for up to six different courses, but should be careful that they are similar –see later notes. What about Oxford and Cambridge? Students who are applying for Oxford and Cambridge must apply by October 15th. Students may only apply to one or the other, not both establishments. If they do this, their application is invalid. Students may apply to any of the colleges, or make an open reference to all the colleges. They need to research the places and colleges carefully if they are planning an application. There are separate application forms and references for these applications, students may also have to send examples of their work. If called for interview they may have written tests. It is important that tutors and students request detailed information and advice from subject teachers if this occurs. Do students have to apply earlier for anything else? Students who are applying for Medicine have to apply by October 15th too. They are only allowed to apply for four medical courses. The other two should be related in some way, this depends on the student’s interests. Some universities are setting written tests for applicants because so many students gain straight ‘A’grades at A level. Students also have to apply early for Veterinary Science and Physiotherapy. It is advisable to apply early for music, especially as students may be called for audition. Students applying for Veterinary Science should be very clear at the beginning of Year 12 that they need to build up relevant experience to discuss in their personal statements. Is there a deadline, a cut off point for applications? Students must apply by 15th January. However, we always say that students should have completed their forms ideally by half term, December 1st at the latest. This is to allow tutors to write references and the processing of the forms. How do the universities receive the information? UCAS receive the applications and distribute them to the universities. If the application is on paper, it is reduced to half size before distribution. Applications which are received electronically are not reduced and are distributed more quickly. Once UCAS have received an application, they send an acknowledgement card to the student. This contains their UCAS number. This needs to be kept safely as it will be required in any correspondence with either the universities or UCAS. UCAS contact students directly about the progress of their applications and offers of places. What happens if a student still wants to apply after January 15th? This is possible, but any such applications are marked ‘late’ and some universities may have already allocated all of their places. Students can apply up to 30th June, after that date they have to go through Clearing. (more of that later) What happens once the applications have been received by the universities? Universities contact the student and either make them an offer or call them for interview. Fewer universities interview now, but some are beginning to set entrance papers. This is true at the moment for Medicine and Law. Universities will probably give a conditional offer, e.g. To do English at Sheffield they may ask for three A grades or 360 points at A level. If you have applied for a course to do with sport, they may expect that you excel in some sports, or have represented your county. What does the student do once all the offers have been received? The student has to decide on the offer which represents their first choice of university. This should be one which is asking for realistic grades, and at a place the student really wants to go to. The student should have visited the university before making this decision. The student is allowed an ‘insurance offer’, this should be the place that they are prepared to go to if they don’t achieve the grades for their first choice. It is important that this offer is one of lower grades than the first choice, or there is no point in holding the place. Accepting the offer is a legal contract, and hard to get out of, so if the student really does not have a second choice, they should reject all but the first choice, however, this can be risky, especially if the conditions of the offer are not met by the exam results. How soon will the student receive all the offers? This can vary tremendously. Some students, especially if they apply early, may have all their offers by Christmas, whereas others may still be waiting for one in May This can be quite stressful, especially if it the place that the student really wants to go to! What does the student do when they have received the offers ? Students make the decision about their first and insurance choices. They are given a date by which their decision must be confirmed to UCAS. If they change their mind within 14 days, they tell UCAS. If they change their mind after this, they have to contact the universities themselves. If they fail to inform UCAS by the date which UCAS have given them, they could lose the offers, so this is an important deadline. What should a student do if they receive no offers? This is a situation which does not arise very often, but if it does occur then UCAS have started to offer what they call UCAS EXTRA. This means that students may reapply for courses which still have vacancies, UCAS inform schools and colleges of these, and the information is also available on the website. Additionally, if a student did not apply for six places on the original application, they can 'activate' the unused places. What if the student does not get the grades necessary for their choice of course? If a student has only missed the grade offer by a small number of points, the university may still make them an offer, or suggest an alternative course. If this is not the case, the student is offered a place at their insurance choice, assuming that they have met the requirements. If the student is not able to do this, they then have to go through 'Clearing' How does Clearing work? If a student does not gain the grades needed for their original choices, UCAS send them a form on which they can apply to universities which still have vacancies after the A Level results are published. These are advertised in national newspapers and on websites for the universities. Students will need a copy of their UCAS form and their UCAS number to enable them to complete the applications quickly. A word of warning, students should visit the university and make sure that they are happy to go there. Staff will be on hand in school to advise them when the results come out. What if a student wants to apply for an Art Foundation Year? To do this a student does not apply through UCAS. These applications are made in the December- January period of Year 13, to a local university. The Head of Art or Design is involved in these applications. It is possible to apply for a Foundation course and still apply to university through UCAS.
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