Whilst I’m busy thinking about what I’m going to be doing next year at university and all of the adventures that I might have, there are soon-to-be A2 students who are just starting on this process. I didn’t do a perfect UCAS application (I’d planned to have mine sent off by the start of the first half term holiday, that just did not happen!) but I’m able to give some advice, seeing as I still have a painful memories of the UCAS process embedded in my brain!

  • Get university brochures now – it can be part of your summer reading, get as many as possible, even ones that you might never consider because you’re aiming high or because you doubt you can get AAA, it will help just to see the different standards that are out there. I ordered pretty much every one I could (my poor, poor postman) and divided them up into ones that were too high, ones that were too low, ones that were too far and ones I actually liked. Some I kept in the like pile just because it had an amazing course, even though I had no chance of getting in (you’ll get back to college, the work load will hit you and you’ll happily discard these ones).
  • Make a realistic action plan for things like university visits and personal statement writing. There’s no pointing doing what I did and saying you’ll have your application sent off a month after returning to college. It just isn’t going to happen in a lot of cases. Find out when everything needs to be in for UCAS, find out when open days are and when you’re free to do all of this stuff.
  • Personal Statements take time, it’s true that if you haven’t done much that you can write about (eating 30 hot-dogs in a minute does not make you a good candidate for an engineering course) you’ll need to try and cram some things in now, but it’s not that hard: medical courses require work experience so take the opportunity to do that this summer (it will also give you a taste of what you can do after uni), get involved in volunteering (there are always plenty of places looking, they might not be relevant to what you want to do but it’s important to show that you are able work as part of a team, on your own, help the community etc), get involved in drama productions (as an English student I spun my involvement to show how I appreciate literature in all of its forms), join a sports team (even if you’re really bad – you don’t need to tell the unis that you can barely kick a football!) or join a local interest group (I live in a historical area so there are plenty, it has nothing to do with English Lit, so I said that it helped me to understand the context of pieces and it shows that you don’t have a narrow focus). There is always time do things that increase your chances!
  • Take a look at Pesky Personal Statements for some links that I used to help me (and I had a pretty sweet personal statement, if I may say so).
  • When you get back to college talk to your teachers, pester them like crazy about reading drafts of you personal statement (your form tutor and course tutors are actually really good at helping, you just have to corner them so they have to help you).
  • Talk to your family – they might not be able to help you finance uni so you might have to start looking for a job now or take a year out to have a full time job. Also, even if your parents haven’t been to uni it will help if you sit down and ask what they expect from you and what you expect from them – you might need to know how far they are willing to drive to uni if they’re going to be the ones dropping you off, and they might need to know how they can support you best with your application (they’re your parents so think you’re the best person ever, which is basically what you’re trying to tell whoever is reading your personal statement, which makes parents very useful).
  • Your friends are also key to making it through all of this craziness, you’re all going through it together so can help each other – why not spend a few lunch times on UCAS together? Even if it’s just filling in a few simple sections, it helps to have support of people who are doing this too.
  • Apply even if you’re not sure you want to go, you don’t have to reply until 2016 if you’re applying this year, you might decide you want to go or decide that you don’t. Keep your options open!

Good luck to everyone applying this year, it’s tough, but it’ll be worth it when you get to go to the university of your dreams!