How to be Uni-que

A beginners guide to applying for university

Why go to university?

In these strange times and with so many restrictions being placed at university, many teenagers are asking this exact question, but there are certainly many benefits to a university education. For example, average graduate is estimated to be about 38% better off by his/her early 30s. Over a whole career to earn between £100k – £300k more, by 2023 it is estimated that 56% more jobs will require people to hold graduate level qualifications. It is also claimed that on average graduates live longer & are healthier, happier, less prone to depression, more likely to exercise & more likely to make a significant & satisfying contribution to the community around them. But the competition is fierce, particularly in a post lockdown world where many university courses this year were oversubscribed thanks to the grades debacle, meaning potentially fewer available places next year. Even so, generally the best courses are fiercely competitive, for example a History course at Durham University attracted 1200 applicants for 90 places.

The art of selling yourself.

University applications are a huge minefield and they require a completely different approach to anything you have experienced before because for the first time in your life you are having not sell yourself, all within the confines of 4,000 characters.

A personal statement will be impossible to write until you know what you want to study, because it needs to focus around your chosen courses. Remember that different institutions will focus on different modules, English for example could be a variety of non-shakespearean, old English, American English or creative writing, so be cautious of what it is you are applying for. However, while doing your research and making your decisions, be mindful of your statement right from the start. If you know the course you wish to study then the personal statement is simpler, if you are unsure specifically on the course you wish to study that is not a problem but will require a slightly different writing style. Read everything you can about the course itself, including details of the modules and what sort of thing you’ll be learning – it’ll help you to work out if it’s the right type of course for you and get you thinking about how your interests or experiences fit in with that path.

Once you have decided all of this it is time for the dreaded personal statement, I would recommend even students in year 10 start thinking about how robust they can make it. What opportunities can I take advantage of either in school sports teams, music, drama or wider school community projects? Outside school what can I do to help maybe volunteering at a local food bank or a friends business? Reading around subjects is critical, it is always worth knowing who the influential authors in your area of study are and start reading some of their works, essentially building up a portfolio that shows admission tutors that you have a real passion for their subject. As a general rule, Admissions tutors are looking for a checklist of the following skills, which you need to be able to demonstrate through your personal statement.

  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to write an extended essay
  • Ability to think critically
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Ability to manage time effectively
  • Ability to contribute to team thinking
  • numeracy

They will also want to know the following about you;

  • Why you want to study the subject(s) you’re applying for? Remember – expand on your reasons and evidence this e.g. has a particular area/topic caught your attention? Have you undertaken work experience/placements/EPQs/tasters to broaden your knowledge and understanding? 
  • Why should universities choose you? What have you got to offer? Demonstrate your motivation and enthusiasm. Showcase your skillset. 
  • What else do you do? Part-time work/ Volunteering? Hobbies/interests? Responsibilities? Other achievements?
  • Tip: When reviewing your statement, ask yourself – why am I putting this information in my personal statement and what is it telling the person reading it?
  • Your personal circumstances
    Your experience of estrangement may have had a massive impact on your studies. Pragmatically, there may be skills/experiences that you could draw on when talking about yourself, how have these experiences affected your choice of course?

Castle Tutoring are able to provide a personalised university application service, having enjoyed success in placing students in Oxbridge, Russell Group and other universities, in addition to mentoring and guiding students through Higher Aprenticeships. UCAS deal with 17,000 applications in an average week, in 2020 dealt with 27,000 applications on Jan. 15th alone, with 55,000 candidates only logged on to UCAS for the first time in the period Jan 13- 15th, being prepared early is critical to success and we are available to help.

Key Dates:

  • 15 October 2020 for 2021 entry at 18:00 (UK time) – any course at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry. You can add choices with a different deadline later, but don’t forget you can only have five choices in total.  
  • 15 January 2021 for 2021 entry at 18:00 (UK time) – for the majority of courses.

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