With less than a week to go to the 15 January deadline, experienced adviser David offers his advice on how to make these last few days a little bit easier.
Posted Wed 8 January 2020 - 11:06

‘With less than a week to go until the 15 January deadline, no doubt all us advisers up and down the UK (and further afield) will be making final preparations to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. But they won’t. It never does.’

‘There will always be something that throws up a last-minute challenge – whether you are new to supporting applicants or a seasoned veteran. Even in my own experience as I work through my ninth cycle leading the UCAS process, this week is always the one that brings the most uncertainty. Every year I have learnt lessons and adapted the systems I use to try to be ready. Each one of us advisers will work in slightly different ways, within the parameters of our roles and establishments. But I hope that my thoughts below may help to make these last few days a little bit easier for you…’

Check, and double check.

Emails, the adviser portal, your own internal systems… The new adviser portal has made checking and tracking the application process much smoother, so make use of the filters at the top to see how applicants are progressing, and then see whether you need to follow any of these up.

Block out some time.

Whether you have the ability to control your own diary or have a busy timetable, trying to get some clear time to manage everything is key. Communicate with line managers or senior leaders to see if you can be given some protection, or whether can you make swaps with colleagues? In the last week, I will be swapping some of my duties and making it up later in the term – and everyone knows that 15 January is the day to leave me alone.

Communication is key.

There is always a fine line in schools and colleges between ensuring everyone is informed, and bombarding people with too much communication. However, there is perhaps an exception to this in these last few days. Whether it’s daily emails to tutors or a list displayed in a common room which you can update, keep reminding students and colleagues that there is still time.

Get your references ready.

It might sound obvious, but having the bulk of reference material ready for any student who may choose to apply at the last minute can save time. Speak to subject teachers and tutors to ensure that this is done for every student who may still want to apply.

Liaise with senior colleagues.

If you have any kind of ‘approval’ process for your references (such as the Head of Sixth Form, Head Teacher, or other senior colleague) getting the references through this will be useful too. Even if they are not used, those finished references will still be useful for university or job applications in the future.

Seek confirmation.

If you have students in your cohort who seem to be considering alternative routes such as apprenticeships or employment, do look to get this confirmed. Ideally speak to them personally or via their tutor, so that you can ‘cross them off’ your list. Although, they could change their mind!

Don’t forget the leavers.

It can be easy to ‘bump into’ current students around school or college and have a chat with them about their applications, but what about any who are re-applying through your centre or applying for the first time after a gap year? Remind colleagues who may be contacted instead to let you know ASAP. If these students have registered with Apply 2020 and are linked to your centre, use the details in the adviser portal to get in touch. Yes, it’s additional work, but knowing what they are doing may save you a panic later on!

Keep everything safe.

While it may not necessarily be helpful this time around, who knows whether any of your current students will choose to apply, or reapply, in the next cycle. Keep references from this year safe and accessible for yourself and anyone else who might need to edit them in future. Again, the work done now will save time in the future when one of the leavers ‘pops up’ at the last minute next year.

Students can still apply after 15 January.

If, in spite of all your hard work and effort, students fail to meet the 15 January deadline, then not all is lost. Some courses and higher education providers may still have spaces available. Urge students to use the filters in the search tool on ucas.com, and to contact providers directly to ask if they are still accepting applications.

Look after yourself – you are not alone.

Inevitably, this is a busy time and we always put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. It might sound obvious, but it is very easy to overlook our own well-being at such a crunch time. Ensure that you are getting some rest, take time away from your screens, and keep yourself well fed and hydrated. If you’re new to all this, reach out to others for support if needed. Whether that’s colleagues in your school or college, UCAS coordinators and advisers elsewhere, friends and family, or the Schools Team at UCAS, there will always be someone ready and willing to help.

Best of luck with it all – roll on 16 January!

David Ruck
Head of Higher Education and Careers
Bristol Grammar School


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