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Navigating the UCAS

Navigating the UCAS

By: Holly Sansom

Applying for Uni in the UK? The process of applying for university is overwhelming enough, but luckily the UCAS system is fairly straightforward. Once you are acquainted with the application process, you can focus your energy on choosing a course you are passionate about and polishing your winning essay instead of fretting about the application itself.  


Once you complete your online registration at you are ready to get started on your application. Here is a guide help you navigate the seven main components of the UCAS application.


Part 1: Personal Details

This section will ask you to provide personal details including address, birth dates, and parent information. Make sure that you provide an email address that you check regularly, and one that would not be embarrassing to read aloud in front of the admissions board. I  think most universities would decline to admit


Also, note that you have the option to “nominate access”. It may be a good idea to assign a parent or your admissions consultant in case you are unavailable and one of the institutions needs to get in touch with you.


Part 2: Additional Details

Race, ethnicity, and background details all go here. This section also gives you an opportunity to list activities outside of academics that you may have engaged in. Volunteer work, summer school, and other extra-curriculars are a great way to begin to paint the picture for the admissions board that you are both a dedicated student and a fun person. Remember they are looking for students who will add something to their student body: It’s okay to show your personality!


Part 3: Student Finance

This section will depend on your situation and needs. You can choose to share financial information which will be pulled from your UCAS application. If you opt out now, you can still get financial assistance later – but you may have to re-enter some of the same details later. Keep in mind that funding for international students is very limited.


Part 4: Course Choice

Course selection is a big decision! Be sure to do plenty of research before committing. Looking thoroughly at the UCAS course descriptions is a great idea, but it can also be helpful to ask around among friends and family to see if anyone has studied courses similar to what you are interested in. Once you have decided, you can use the search feature in UCAS to identify the course code and location code of the courses you want to apply for. You can apply to a maximum of five courses – but keep in mind that if you are applying for dentistry, medicine, or veterinary studies, you can only apply to four courses in your chosen area of study. Your fifth application must be different (but can and likely should be related).

NOTE: You can only apply to Oxford OR Cambridge, so make sure to really focus on your top choice!


Part 5: Personal Statement

This is arguably the most important part of your application aside from test scores and grades. This is your chance to make your case to the admissions board and show your true personality. Be sure to develop your essay outside of the UCAS website in a word processor and then copy and paste it into UCAS. Remember: Your personal statement goes to all of the institutions you are applying to, so don’t make your essay university-specific or else the University of Edinburgh might not to be too impressed by how much you want to go to Cambridge…


Part 6: Employment

Not every student has held a job, and that’s okay. Even if you feel like waiting tables or working part-time as a lifeguard last summer aren’t a big deal, they can still give the school valuable insight in to your interests and abilities. Don’t leave it blank if you have any work experience!


Part 7: Education

This section is straight-forward, but a bit cumbersome. You will have to enter all of your modules and test scores. Take your time, and have a parent or friend sit next to you to double check your accuracy.


A Note on References: If you are applying through a school or college, this section will not appear for you, as it will be arranged through your school. If you are applying individually, you will need to provide your references details, and UCAS will email your referee with instructions.



Take a deep breath, and just remember that universities are looking for well-rounded individuals. I mean it when I say that it is important to carve out time for fun and self-care during this stressful time. Good Luck! 


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