UCAS's blog

The UCAS blog provides you with information about applying to uni.

Making the most of your time now you’ve accepted an offer

The wait to find out if you’ve met the conditions of your offer can seem like it goes on forever. To take your mind off it, here are three things you can be doing right now.

1. Check your status in Track – find out what it means and what you should do next. It may change over the coming months, so make sure you know what each status means and what you need to do.

2. Familiarise yourself with Clearing and Adjustment – if you’re waiting for results, they may be better than expected, or they might not be quite what you were hoping for. Clearing and Adjustment are our services to help you find another place in either circumstance – understanding how they work now will make the process much smoother if you need it on results day.

3. Sort out finance – you’ll need somewhere to live and money to pay for it! We don’t arrange student finance, but we do explain the process and point you in the right direction to apply for student loans.

If you’ve got any questions about your application, check out our info on www.ucas.com or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Some Extra advice...

If you’ve used all five choices and been unsuccessful with all of them, or you’ve had a change of heart about the unis you’ve applied to, you don’t need to wait for Clearing. You can apply though UCAS Extra!

But what is UCAS Extra? This blog post will answer all your questions about what it is, who it’s for and whether it’s the right choice for you!

What is Extra?
Extra begins on 25 February and is an opportunity for you to apply for another course if you’ve used all five choices and don’t hold any offers. You can add one choice at a time. If you’re unsuccessful, or you decline an offer you receive, then you can add another choice, until 4 July.

Is Extra for me?
Extra is available to anyone who has used all five choices and not accepted a place – it could be because you’ve unsuccessful with all five, or you’ve received offers but had a change of heart and decided the courses wasn’t right for you. Either way, Extra is another opportunity to find a place on a course.

It’s worth keeping in mind that you can’t change your personal statement or reference. So if you decide to apply for a completely different course, speak to the uni first to check if they’d like a different personal statement. If that’s the case, they’ll ask you to send it straight to them.

Where can I apply?
Not all universities will have places in Extra, so you need to do some research into what’s available in our search tool. If you select the option ‘Courses open to new applicants’ from the filter, your search results will show only courses with vacancies.

Once you’ve found a course you like, add it in Track by clicking on the ‘Add an Extra choice’ option on the ‘Your choices’ page.

When will I hear back from the unis?
If you’ve not heard back from the uni after 21 days of adding your choice, you can add another one, until 4 July. By doing this, you’ll cancel the one you originally applied for in Extra, so make sure it’s definitely what you want to do! If you want to wait to see if the uni will offer you a place (they have until 13 July to make a decision) you can do this – it never hurts to ring the uni if you want to check how long you’re likely to wait for its decision!

If you get an offer, you’ll need to reply by the date shown in Track. If you don’t, your place will be declined automatically – so pay close attention!

Have any further questions about Extra? Have a look at our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.
 

Gap year or study?

Can't choose? Here's how to do both...

 

If you haven’t yet made plans for the next academic year, consider this – you already have everything you need for a unique, fulfilling gap year, right there in your rucksack.

 

In today’s super-connected world, there is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos, listening to a podcast, or reading a blog, we can now learn almost anything online. All it takes is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and an internet connection.

 

So instead of spending thousands of pounds on an expensive gap-year package, some school leavers are deciding to simply spend that time learning – their way, their rules.

 

Thanks to sites like edX and Coursera, the doors of the world’s best universities are now open to us all. Offering free online courses known as MOOCs (massive open online courses), schools such as Harvard, Berklee, the University of London, and the Sorbonne, provide classes that include lectures, reading materials, a student community, and assessment (if you wish), all for free. You choose the classes, and you choose when you learn.

 

These are just two of the many websites that provide classes on almost anything you can think of. Other examples are Tuts+, which teaches skills including coding, illustration, photography, and web design, and the BBC Academy which features online learning resources in journalism and media production. The more you look, the more you will find.

 

And don’t forget the real world. Many of the bigger online courses organise meet-ups to bring people together. You may also choose to supplement your online learning with a local community class – there are some fantastic ones out there.

 

From art to business, a growing number of professionals offer advice – you can create your own degree! One American artist has even taken the time to write up his guide to an alternative to art school, at a fraction of the $200,000 many US students pay for a college degree.

 

Taking time to really explore what you’re interested in might be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. You might realise the expensive course you thought you wanted to do isn’t quite your bag after all, or find yourself heading in a whole new direction.

 

Of course, for some of the more traditional professions, such as law and medicine, you can’t get around the requirement of a university degree. Even so, a year of self-guided study will help you build up knowledge and skills that will help you once you undertake formal training, as well as nail down the areas you’re most interested in.

 

If this sounds interesting, but you’re getting cabin fever at the mere thought of spending any more time in your bedroom, there’s a solution – creative co-working spaces.

 

Also known as 'hot desking', you rent a desk to work or study, mix it up and meet other like-minded people. East London’s Hatch is a great option, and at only £12 a day, it won’t break the bank. There are similar outfits all over the UK.

 

Spending a year exploring and learning doesn’t have to mean you can’t travel the world as well. If you’ve got some money saved, you could rent a room abroad and live like a local in another city. Or you might go with a cheap hostel and hot desk option. Explore by day, feed your brain by night – you decide.

 

Now more than ever, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to designing your education. Whether your passion is applied mathematics or circus arts, law or industrial design, you’re in creative control, and the tools you need are just a click away...

Is work experience important?

A recent survey showed two thirds of employers look for graduates with relevant work experience because it helps them prepare for work and develop general business awareness. Importantly, one third of employers felt that applicants did not have a satisfactory level of knowledge about their chosen career or job.

To gain a better understanding of a career, organise some work experience or a few days’ work shadowing with an employer. It may not give you time to develop job-specific skills, but it can give you insight into the work involved. It also shows you have motivation and commitment. Some schools, colleges, and universities may be able to organise this for you but if not, research and contact companies yourself.

Alternatively, you could gain relevant work experience as part of a vocational programme, such as a BTEC diploma or apprenticeship. You could also consider an internship, a higher education course which offers a work placement (a sandwich course), or a foundation degree.
  • Internships can last from a few weeks to up to a year, and could be something you organise for a summer holiday or a gap year. Depending on the type of contract, you may or may not receive a wage. Internships are available in many sectors and industries such as business, law, marketing, engineering, and hospitality, and can give you the opportunity to gain more career-specific skills and knowledge. They are very popular and competition for places is high, so you’ll need to apply as early as possible.
  • Sandwich degrees normally last four years and include a year working in industry with an employer. Most placements offer a salary and they are a great opportunity to gain in-depth experience of work in your chosen field.
  • Foundation degrees are vocational/work-related degrees. They combine academic skills and knowledge with workplace performance and productivity. They focus on a particular job role or profession and are designed in conjunction with employers.

The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring, and love helping others, you are on to a winner. Personality is the key.

'One area that many young people underestimate is their inherent digital expertise. Having grown up in the digital world, many tools and technologies are second nature to them. Now is the time to capitalise on these skills and show potential employers exactly how valuable they can be.'

Want to find out more?

Here are some reports and surveys which give detailed insight into the careers of the future:

Top tips and guidance from people who recruit – a great guide produced by CIPD. It’s packed full of advice directly based on what recruiters say – what they look for when they pick out the best job applications, the kinds of questions they ask at interview, and how they choose who to give the job, apprenticeship, or work experience opportunity to. You’ll also find a section on what to do if you haven’t got any work experience, including information on volunteering and how it can boost your chances of finding a job.

What are the 21st century skills every student needs? An insightful article from the World Economic Forum about the skills needs of the future, with references to key research and reports.

Working Futures (UKCES) – based on detailed labour market information, this report offers a forecast for job opportunities in the UK up to the year 2024, based on past behaviour and performance. The report isn’t intended to offer precise predictions, but an indication of which industries might expand, which might contract, and on what scale.

Careers of the Future and the Future of Work: jobs and skills in 2030 (UKCES) – a piece of research exploring the future of work, and how jobs and the skills needed in the workplace will change by 2030.

Sector Insights (UKCES) – a collection of reports that look at particular sectors in the UK to identify the outlook for jobs and skills, identify major trends affecting each sector, and how the mix of skills needs is likely to change over the next decade. These reports also investigate employers’ perceptions of the skills needs of specific occupations, and the challenges employers have in meeting those needs.

Education and skills survey 2016 – the Right Combination (CBI/Pearson) – this report provides useful insight into the skills employers are looking for, based on the results of a survey of nearly 500 organisations in the UK.

Skills Matter (OECD report): – a survey of adult skills in 28 OECD countries. It was developed to provide a picture of the match between the supply and demand for skills, how labour markets are changing, and how well equipped their citizens are to participate in and benefit from increasingly knowledge-based economies.

 

Social enterprise – the stuff dreams are made of

If you’re motivated by your values, have an idea, and want to make the world a better place, social enterprise could be for you.
  • Social enterprises are businesses or projects people set up to focus on tackling social problems, improve communities, or create opportunities to improve people’s lives. There are various definitions of social enterprise, but a key feature is that they have a social or environmental objective – they’re driven by values.
  • You may recognise these examples of social enterprises – The Big Issue, One Water, the Eden Project, Divine Chocolate, and Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant.
  • They make a profit and make a difference. Yes, they need to succeed and make money, but a key feature of many social enterprises is that half or more of the profit they make is reinvested into sustaining or growing the business. They often receive income from grants and donations, but also generate income from trading or delivering their service.
  • Social enterprise is growing in the UK – according to government statistics, in 2014:
    • There were an estimated 741,000 UK social enterprises – an increase of around 58,000 since 2012. The majority were small or micro businesses, employing 2.27 million people (an estimated 300,000 increase since 2012).
    • Women and those from minority ethnic groups are more likely to lead social enterprises.
    • Higher education is actively involved – as well as offering courses to develop the knowledge and skills to become a ‘social entrepreneur’, hundreds of universities and colleges support social entrepreneurs. These social enterprise case studies give you a taste of how some of the UK’s universities and colleges are supporting students and staff in an inspiring range of social ventures. Find entrepreneurship courses on UCAS’ search tool.

Where to find out more

Social Enterprise UK – a national membership body for social enterprise, with lots of useful information and FAQs on its website.

UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and a leading provider of support and access to funding social entrepreneurs in the UK. It also works with universities and offers a range of resources where you can find out more.

Year Here offers a course for graduates in social innovation. There’s lots of information on their website and in their 2017 prospectus.

Social Enterprise Market Trends 2015 – you can find more of the most recent government statistics in this Cabinet Office report.

Association of College and University Entrepreneurs – find out how university and college students are setting up and growing their own social enterprises.

 

Five money tips every international student should know

Studying for a qualification in the UK could be the start of a fantastic adventure, but there are a few things you need to sort out first. Here are five financial tips to help you make the most of your studies.

1. Set up a bank account
Setting up a UK bank account gives you more security and control over your money. You can still spend it when you like, and
it’s much safer than keeping it in your pocket or hidden under your mattress.

When you open a bank account, you’ll need to show the bank or building society two types of identification:

your passport
proof of your address in the UK

Depending on the bank or building society you choose, the proof of address you need could differ – so ask before you apply.

2. Make a budget
Don’t spend all your money in one go; plan how much you can afford to spend each month and stick to it.

Your rent and bills should be your top priority, so always have the money in your account to cover these each month before you pay your other bills. Here is a checklist of the expenses you might face as a student.

If you create a budget, you know how much to set aside each month to cover your essential outgoings, and you’ll know how much you can spend on everything else.

If you have applied for student finance support, then work your budget around that. You can learn more about the types of student finance available to international students.

3. Look out for deals and bargains
Try to avoid buying your weekly shopping from small independent shops, as they often charge more for day-to-day items like milk, bread and toiletries.

Supermarkets often advertise deals throughout the year, like half-price washing powder, or buy one get one free on a pack of toilet roll.

If you know you’ll need these things throughout the month or year, you could save money by buying them when they’re on offer.

Most supermarkets also reduce some food at the end of each day. This could include meats, cheese, or any food that is due to go out of date on that day.

This happens because supermarkets need to get rid of the stock before the day ends for food regulation reasons, although the food is still safe to be eaten the same day.

4. Shop online to save money
Even if you don’t have the internet set up at your address, you can use the university internet to grab yourself a bargain on most household items.

You could save money by buying things like toiletries and cleaning supplies online, just watch out for any delivery charges.

5. Shop around for books
You will be asked by your university to buy books from a reading list to help support your studies.

These books can be expensive, especially when you have to buy several of them at once.

Most universities re-use their reading lists, which means that previous students might be selling the books you need.

To help you find a reduced copy of the books you need, try looking in second hand shops, or online at retailers like Amazon or eBay.

source: money.co.uk

15 January deadline - how to apply...

Looking to start uni for 2017 entry? The deadline for most courses is 15 January. If you’re not sure what deadline your course has, check in our search tool.
 
When you’ve found that dream course you’re interested in you need to register, which will give you a username and ask you to create a password. Once you’ve done that, you can get stuck in with the application.
 
So once you’ve logged in, where do you begin?
 
Getting started
The basics come first; with questions based around your personal details so they should be straight-forward enough to answer. If you come across any questions that aren't clear, click on the red question mark which explains what you need to include. Check out our handy how-to video for a more in-depth view of the application.

Education
Here you need to add the schools or colleges you’ve attended since the age of 13, along with the qualifications you’ve studied. It’s worth having your certificates to hand as they’ll be useful if you’re unsure of any of the details, such as your awarding bodies. There’s quite a lot of info you need to add here so we’ve created this video to help you.

Personal statement
This is your opportunity to shout about your strengths, talk about your interests and expand on why you want to go to university and study your chosen course. On a practical note, it’s best to create a draft of your personal statement in a Word document first, then copy it over once you’re happy with it. It’s a good idea to ask someone in your family, a teacher, or a friend to have a look over it before you add it to your application. A second pair of eyes will help to spot any errors you might’ve made or remind you of some important information you’ve missed off. Reading it aloud a couple of times is a good way to check that what you’ve written flows correctly.
 
If you’re not sure where to start with your personal statement, try out our handy personal statement tool which will get you started.
 
Reference
You need a reference before you can finish your application. This is usually a current or previous teacher, but if you’ve been working for a few years someone who knows you in a professional capacity, such as an employer, may be the right person. Your referee can’t be someone in your family or a friend.

There are a couple of ways to get a reference – read on to see which is the right way for you.

i) If you’re applying through your school or college: 

When you register, you’ll be asked to enter a buzzword when you select that you’ll be applying through your school or college. This will link your application to your school or college so your teacher can write your reference. They’ll also be able to look over your application and help you along the way, and when the time comes, they’ll send it to us on your behalf.

ii) If you’re applying independently: 

There are a couple of ways to get a reference if you’re applying independently. If your previous school or college is happy to complete a reference then in the ‘Options’ section you can select ‘ask a registered school, college or centre to write a reference only.’ This route needs a buzzword from the school or college so remember to discuss this with them first.

Alternatively, you can enter your referee’s contact details in the reference section and we’ll send them an email with instructions on what to do.

If you’re opting for this route, make sure you speak to your referee first to check they’ll be able to provide your reference before you send them a request. Let them know something about the courses you are applying for so their reference is as relevant as possible. Once they've completed it you’ll be sent an email and the reference section will be marked with a red tick.

Good luck with your application!

If you have any questions about applying then have a look on our website. You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll do their best to help.

The 15 January deadline is nearly here. Are you ready for it?

Your application needs to be with us by 18:00 (UK time) on 15 January to guarantee it’ll get equal consideration by the unis or colleges you’re applying to. If you apply after this deadline, the unis you’re applying to don’t have to consider your application.

If you’re a relaxed sort of person who likes to leave things to the last minute, you’re putting your application in danger. Here are the top reasons why leaving it to the last minute is really not a clever idea:

Stress – if you finish your application now, you don’t have to worry about it over the Christmas holidays, and so can relax and have fun without the nagging guilt of an unfinished application.
 

Technical issues – if you leave it until the last minute, your computer breaks and off-and-on-again doesn’t quite cut it, you’ll be in real trouble.

 

Research – some unis or colleges might want to see proof of your qualifications, so leave yourself plenty of time to find and dust off those certificates.

 

You won’t do yourself justice – especially when it comes to the personal statement, it pays to plan, redraft and redraft again. You’ll want to make sure your application is the best it can possibly be, and you won’t be able to do this if you leave it until the last minute.
 
 
 
 

How to look after your finances as a postgraduate

 

Taking on a postgraduate course is a big commitment, for both your time and your bank balance. But being smart with your money can make life much easier.

How much will it cost?
Not all postgrad courses cost the same, but the average is between £16,000 and £23,000 a year. How much it costs depends on:
which course you choose
where you study
whether your course is full time or part time
how much you spend on rent, bills, and entertainment

Postgraduate certificates and diplomas tend to be the cheapest, while master’s degrees and PhDs are the most expensive. Think about your reasons for studying and try to pick a route that won't leave you out of pocket.

Decide how you're going to study
If you dream about a care free student life, where you go out every night and wake up at midday, then think again. Be prepared to work hard and save.

You can normally choose between studying full-time, part-time or distance learning. A full-time course could be cheaper, but limits how much free time you have.

A part-time course lets you mix your home life with your studies, and you can continue earning by working while you study. However, you'll miss out on uni life and may end up paying more because your course will last longer.

Pick your course wisely
Postgrad courses can cost anything from £4,999 to £30,000 a year, so make sure you know what you're signing up for. Check tuition fees before you apply for courses and make sure they're within your budget.

Check to see if your old uni offers discounts for former students wanting to come back to study. Also, look for universities near home, as this could cut down on your living costs.

Avoid choosing a uni-based on its reputation without researching it properly first. Lots of leader boards are only based on undergrad studies, and may not offer what you want from a postgrad course.

What help can you get?
There’s a new government backed postgraduate loan that offers up to £10,000 to help students cover their tuition fees and living costs. They’re available to most students starting their course after August 2016.

This new loan gets paid straight into your bank account and you can use it for anything, not just your tuition fees. This gives you more flexibility, but make sure you spend it wisely. Most universities ask you to pay fees up front, so having the cash in your account could save you from having to put it on a credit card.

Part-time and distance learners can get the loan, but only if your course is less than four years, and you'll only get paid for the first two.

Some universities also offer scholarships, so check if you're eligible when you apply. Charities and trusts also offer grants and funding, so research what you can get and apply if you're eligible.

Set a budget
You'll need to start saving as soon as you've decided you want to do a postgrad course, especially if you're going to study full-time. You might get the government loan, but it's unlikely to cover everything you need.

If you're studying full-time, use this ultimate student budget planner to work out your budget for the year. Once you get your timetable, see if you'll have time to get a part-time job. Having a regular income will come in handy when funds start to run low.

If you study part-time, you may be able to continue your career although you might need to cut your hours. Start saving before you begin your course, so you have some money to fall back on if you can't work full-time.

Make sure you've got your money sorted
Full-time students can often get the same student current accounts as undergrads. They come with a range of benefits, like fee free overdrafts and other perks.

If you’re a part-time student, you’ll probably have to make do with a normal current account. Compare accounts and try to find one with an interest free overdraft, if you think staying out of the red will be an issue.

Avoid relying on credit cards if possible, but shop around to find one that's right for you if you need one as a safety net. If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay at least the minimum monthly repayments, don’t get one.

Things to check:

Interest rates
Added extras
Credit limits
Fees
Top money saving tips for postgrads

Spend wisely – books can be expensive, so buy second hand where you can. Get a student rail card or coach card, to save on the cost of travelling. And cook at home rather than going out for food.

Save on your food shop – shop in the evenings or early hours of the morning, and get food that's been reduced for a quick sale. Bulk buying with your housemates can also be cheaper than buying for one, and you'll probably waste less food.

Shop around for utilities – don't just go with the provider that your landlord is using when you move in. Compare broadband and energy deals, to make sure you save money.

Check for student savings – you can get discounts on everything from your council tax to your weekly shop. Get an NUS card and you can save money on eating out, TV subscriptions, gym memberships and in loads of high street stores.

 
source: money.co.uk

Christmas opening hours

Everyone needs a break now and again, so we’ll be closed for a short time over the holiday period too. If you need to contact us over the festive period, take a look at our opening hours.

We’ve got plenty of advice on our website, so if you have a question while we’re closed check out our frequently asked questions, or all the advice we have on our video wall.
 

Merry Christmas from everyone at UCAS! 
 

Send us a question at any point over the festive period on Facebook or Twitter and our advisers will respond during the opening times shown above.

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