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Making a UCAS application

Here, you'll find information on how to make a UCAS application or support your students through the process.

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This section will guide you through the steps of making a UCAS application. 

Research

Haven't chosen a course yet? Check out our Degree Course Finder (DCF). It's designed for students studying a Pearson qualification (Edexcel, BTEC or LCCI) who are looking for progression options to university. 

Learn more about our Degree Course Finder

Thoroughly research your possible degree options before deciding which courses to apply for. Remember to look at Unistats on the university website to get some helpful information about what students think of the course, jobs and salaries after study, and other key information.

What will I need to achieve?

Find out the entry requirements of the universities that you wish to apply to. Some courses require an A level as well as a BTEC and some require you to have taken certain BTEC units. If the entry requirements are not clear on the website, contact the university to get full details of what they would want from you.

Where can I get help with my UCAS application?

The Complete University Guide gives detailed guidance on the whole process and also gives some helpful 'dos' and 'don'ts' for writing your personal statement. The Which University Guide also gives some helpful information and advice to BTEC learners. 

When you are ready to apply, go to the UCAS website.

Know your BTEC!

Make sure that you put the correct BTEC qualification on your application form. There are many different BTEC subjects, each with several different sizes.

Check with your tutor what the exact title of your BTEC is. If you put down the wrong title, it may mean that you don't get an offer or that you receive an offer you can't meet.  

UCAS says:

"The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the online application process. It gives applicants the chance to stand out from the crowd, which is why it should be an individual, and personal, piece of work."

Look at some examples on the guidance websites to get an idea of how to compose it.

Write your own personal statement because:

  • UCAS has software that will detect whether you have plagiarised it
  • Universities will be looking to see what makes you special and stand apart from others.

All universities tend to give guidance as to what information they would like in personal statements, so check out the universities you are applying to.

It's the same personal statement for all courses you are applying for so avoid mentioning universities or colleges by name, and, ideally, choose similar subjects.

Personal statement checklist

1. Know why you are applying:

  • Think about why you are applying before you start
  • Decide the most important reasons
  • Make sure you are clear about your reasons for applying and can explain them to other people
  • Discuss it with your teachers, parents and friends.

2. What the admissions tutor wants to know:

  • That you have the right entry qualifications
  • That you have clear knowledge of your chosen subject
  • That you have the skills necessary for the course
  • That you can make your point clearly and concisely
  • What you do apart from study.

3. What sets you apart from others? As a BTEC student, you may have strengths and experiences that other applicants may not have:

  • You may have had a relevant work placement
  • You will have experience of doing real-life practical tasks
  • You may have developed independent learning skills and time management skills.

4. Setting out your personal statement:

  • Write in short simple sentences using plain English
  • Use formal language – don't write in a chatty way and avoid humour
  • Divide it into five or six paragraphs
  • Good spelling and grammar are vital, so use your spell-check and ask someone to check your draft.

Support your students through the process by making sure that you write a successful supporting reference and they:

  • do thorough research to find the course that they'd like to take

  • have the right entry qualifications for the courses they've chosen – some courses may require an A level as well or specific units in the BTEC National

  • select the right BTEC qualification on their UCAS form – if they select the wrong award it may mean that they don't get an offer or that they receive an offer that they can't meet

  • check their application form for spelling and grammatical errors.

Register your centre as a UCAS centre and then apply to UCAS to get permission to manage your students' applications.

This will give your staff access to UCAS's online Apply service, which enables you to oversee your students' applications by:

  • monitoring how much of the application your students have completed
  • creating, editing and approving their references
  • checking, approving and submitting the applications
  • making secure payments on their behalf. 

There are lots of websites that provide guidance on writing a UCAS reference. Here are some of our favourites.

The UCAS website provides general guidance on what to include in your reference. Think about:

  • your student's post-16 academic performance and their potential for success in higher education
  • why they're suited to their chosen subject and career path, plus their attitude, motivation and commitment
  • their skills and qualities like aptitude and enthusiasm, plus current or past achievements that will help with their chosen subject area
  • their achievements, work experience, extracurricular activities and interests that relate to their chosen courses
  • any commitments that might prevent interview attendance on a particular day
  • any personal circumstances that might affect their performance (consent must be gained from the student first to mention health or disabilities).

Avoid repeating any of the information they've given in their application, unless you want to comment on it, and avoid mentioning any particular university or college.

Explain which BTEC qualification the student has taken, including its size in relation to an A level. Don't assume that university admissions tutors are familiar with non-traditional qualifications such as BTEC Nationals.

Flag up the unique nature of BTECs, for example:

  • learners study real-life, work-based case studies and they complete projects and assessments
  • the variety of assessments and learning styles used
  • indicate whether the student would cope with extended writing or examinations, if necessary for the courses that the student is applying for.

Give details of the performance of the student:

  • Predict the likely grade to achieve
  • Relate your student's skills, experience and characteristics to his/her chosen study area

Comment on the attributes of the student, for example:

  • Communication skills
  • Determination
  • Commitment to study
  • Genuine interest in the course
  • Reliability
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Punctuality.

Write a unique reference for each student and make sure that your reference is well-structured, focused and concise. 

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