UCAS's blog

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

Five things you need to know about Clearing

Last year, thousands of places were available in Clearing, in courses ranging from science to history. Here are the five things that'll give you an understanding of what Clearing is. 

1. What is Clearing?

Clearing runs from 5 July to 23 October and is an opportunity for anyone who hasn’t been accepted by a university or college to find a place on another course.

2. How do I know if I can use Clearing? 
When you log in to Track, you’ll see if you’re in Clearing. In the ‘Next Steps’ section, there’ll be an option to ‘Add a Clearing choice.’

If you applied after 30 June, you’ll automatically be entered into Clearing.

3. Where can I find vacancies?
The first place to start is our search tool. When you select where you normally live along with ‘Clearing 2017’, you’ll be shown all the available courses. 

4. How do I apply to a course in Clearing?
When you’ve found the course want to apply to, give the uni a call to ask if they can consider you for a place. If they confirm that they’ll accept you, add the choice in Track in the ‘Your Choices’ section.

You can speak to as many universities and colleges as you like in Clearing, but you can only add one Clearing choice at a time. This must be the place you want to accept.

5. What happens after I’ve added a Clearing choice?
If the uni has offered you a place, they will update your status in Track to show you’ve been accepted. Once this has happened, your Confirmation letter will appear in Track within a week.

Do you have any further questions about Clearing? Take a look at the advice on our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter

Wondering what to pack?

Before you know it, it’ll be time to pack and get on your way to uni. Here’s a quick guide on what to pack.

  • Clothes – there’s no need to pack your entire wardrobe, especially if you’re going to head home at the end of term!
  • Bedroom bits and pieces – duvet, sheets, pillows, hangers, and towels. You might want to think about ear plugs if you’re going to be in a lively area, or a mini fridge for your room if you’ll be in shared accommodation. 
  • From the bathroom cabinet – toiletries, glasses, contact lenses, medication, and a small first aid kit.
  • Laundry – washing products, laundry bag, and drying rack.
  • Electronics – laptop, tablet, printer, extension leads, and chargers. You may need an adaptor if you’re coming from outside the UK.
  • Kitchen essentials – check what is included at your accommodation. As a minimum, you’ll need enough cutlery, crockery, glasses, pots, tea towels, mugs, baking trays, and pans, plus basic gadgets such as a kettle and toaster for yourself. 
  • ID – passport, driving licence, NHS medical card, online card reader (if you use one for online banking), National Insurance number, and all important correspondence with your university. 
  • Food basics – while you’ll do your first food shop when you’re settled, it may take you some time to get settled into your room, so think about taking enough for the first day – stuff like coffee, tea bags, cereal, cooking oil, tins, and condiments.
  • Course essentials – if you can, try to get hold of any reading lists before you go and buy books in advance. You may be able to get a deal on second-hand books before term starts, and everyone tries to buy the same copies. You should also consider the stationery you’ll need. 
  • Little touches – if moving to uni is your first time away from home, take some keepsakes that will help keep you from getting homesick.
  • ‘Just in case’ items – things like an umbrella, torch, batteries, alarm clock, and plenty of change for washing machines.

Clearing: What you need to know

What is Clearing?
Clearing matches applicants to university places that are yet to be filled. It’s available to anyone who has made a UCAS Undergraduate application and doesn’t hold any offers. Running from 5 July to mid-September, you’ll be eligible for Clearing if:
  • you apply after 30 June
  • you are not holding any offers from universities or colleges you’ve applied to
  • your place is not confirmed after exam results are published
Last year, thousands of places were available through Clearing, such as English and law, with over 64,300 applicants obtaining places.

Courses in Clearing aren’t just the ones nobody wants – there are many reasons why courses are still available. It’s an opportunity for those who have missed their conditions, or had a last minute change of heart about the university or course they want to study.

How do you use Clearing?
Well, the first place to start is to search for vacancies in our search tool. You need to select your location along with the ‘Clearing 2016’ tab before searching for vacancies.

After you’ve found the course you’re interested in, give the uni a call to make sure you meet the entry requirements and they still have vacancies. If they offer you a place and you want to accept it, add the Clearing choice in Track. When you sign in, if you’re eligible for Clearing, in the ‘Next Steps’ section you’ll be given an option to ‘Add a Clearing choice.’

You can apply for one choice at a time through Clearing. Once a choice has been selected, you cannot add another, unless you’ve been unsuccessful with the first one. If you want to apply elsewhere once you’ve added a choice, then you need to ask that uni to cancel your place so you’re able to apply again through Clearing.

If you only applied for one choice in your original application you’ll need to pay an additional £11 to go through Clearing.

Have any questions about Clearing? Have a look at our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.  You can also check out our video guides to Clearing.

Frequently asked questions: UKCAT Admissions Test

What is the UKCAT?

The UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is a test used in the selection process by the majority of UK university medical and dental schools.

It is a 2 hour, computer-based test, which is sat in Pearson VUE test centres across the UK and worldwide. The test consists of 5 separately timed subtests which are designed to test the cognitive abilities, attitudes, and behaviours considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.

Who needs to sit the UKCAT?

Most UK universities require applicants to medicine and dentistry courses to sit an admissions test in addition to their other entry requirements.

A full list of universities and courses requiring the UKCAT is given on the UKCAT website.

You can only take the test once each year, so make sure you use the official preparation materials on our website. There are over 1,000 free practice questions available throughout our practice tests and other materials.

When do I need to book?

Your first step is to register via the UKCAT website. Registration is open now and closes on 19th September 2017.

You then need to book and sit your test any time between 3rd July and 3rd October 2017. Bursaries to cover the full test fee are available for eligible UK and EU students.

Using your UKCAT result

You will receive your UKCAT result as soon as you have tested. Scoring and marking are explained in full on the UKCAT website.

There is no pass or fail, however different universities may use your results in different ways depending on their entry requirements. You are advised to check the individual entry requirements for the universities you are applying to before you submit your UCAS application.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with the latest information.

Quantitative social science? Find out more…

If you’re thinking about taking a social science degree course, you might be interested to know that there are some specialist programmes which combine social science and quantitative skills.

So, what are quantitative skills, and what’s different about these courses? We asked Dr Simon Gallacher, Head of Student Programmes at the Nuffield Foundation.

What are quantitative skills?
‘Put simply, these give you the ability to handle data and use numerical evidence –  essentially, how to design and undertake your own research using data to help you get to the heart of challenging questions. This means you can design surveys and experiments, then analyse and interpret different types of data, and learn how best to use this evidence to make decisions. The key thing is, it’s using data which can help us answer some important questions.’

So, can you tell us more about the social science and quantitative skills degrees?
‘They’re called Q-Step degrees and are a new kind of social science degree that enable you to ask the important questions about society, why people behave as they do, and give you the necessary skills to answer them.’

So, social scientists are interested in finding the answers to questions such as:
  • why does life expectancy vary depending on where you live?
  • why do opinion polls sometimes get it wrong?
  • what is the link between family background and educational attainment?
You can study for a Q-Step degree at 18 leading universities across the UK, in social science subjects ranging from area studies, to political science, to sociology. All these degrees include developing your quantitative skills – in other words, your ability to handle data and use numerical evidence. These skills are invaluable in today’s job market.

What will I learn? 
Courses vary depending on the subject and university, but on a Q-Step degree programme, you could learn how to:
  • design surveys and experiments – essentially, how to design and undertake your own research
  • analyse and interpret different types of data, such as social media data, survey data, government data, and longitudinal data
  • evaluate the quality of data and analysis, and learn how best to use evidence to make decisions

Many Q-Step degrees offer work placements, which will enable you to gain experience of using data to answer big questions about people, their behaviour, and the circumstances in which they live. A range of employers offer placements, from think tanks, to marketing agencies, and research institutes. Q-Step students make a positive difference to the work of their host employers, including authoring published reports, presenting to international audiences, and even giving evidence to parliamentary committees.

What do Q-Step students say?
‘My Q-Step internship at Ipsos Mori gave me the opportunity to apply and develop the knowledge I had gained in the first two years of my degree. I then embarked on a quantitative dissertation in my third year. My Q-Step experiences were a huge contributing factor in my selection for a graduate role at [leading professional services firm] PwC.’

Amy Abbate, Q-Step graduate

‘The focus on quantitative methods allows you to start a different conversation with employers – one about politics as an exciting, forward-thinking, and data-driven degree. As a student competing to get a job at a top company, it has really helped me stand out from other applicants and to secure my position as Marketing Executive for [customer acquisitions company] MVF Global.’

James Potter, Q-Step graduate

Where can I find out more?
Firstly, visit the student pages on the Nuffield Foundation website. Then you might want to download the Q-Step prospectus featuring details of all Q-Step degree programmes across the UK. After that, check out the course descriptions at the individual universities, and perhaps register for an open day to help you get a better understanding of what would be involved. 

Unconditional changed course

Some providers may change your status to a changed course offer. If this happens, you’ll see something like this in Track.

If this happens, don’t panic! It means one of your choices has offered you a changed course offer.

This could be a change to the course, the start date, or the point of entry.

Why has my offer changed to an unconditional changed course?

The most likely reason is that you didn’t meet the conditions of your original choice but the university or college wants to offer you an alternative course.

If you have any questions or concerns about the change, you’d need to speak to the uni or college to find out why they’ve made this change.

How do I respond to the unconditional changed course offer?

You can only reply to an unconditional changed course offer once BOTH your firm and insurance have a Confirmation decision. How you respond will depend on which choice has changed.

     1. If your firm choice offer has been updated to unconditional changed course

You can accept it now if you’re happy with the change. If your insurance offer has been confirmed and you decline a firm choice that is now an unconditional changed course offer, your insurance choice will become your firm.

      2. If your insurance choice has been updated to unconditional changed course

You’ll have to wait to see if your firm choice confirms you. If you’re placed at your firm choice, you won’t be able to accept your insurance place. If you’re unsuccessful at your firm, you’ll be able to respond to the unconditional changed course offer at your insurance choice.

How long do I have to reply?
Once you have a final decision from both your firm and insurance choice, you’ll have five days to reply.

Need some help with your results? Take a look at the advice on ucas.com or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Why is identifying estranged young people in HE crucial?

There are hundreds of thousands of young people who have a difficult and unsupportive relationship with their family in the UK. For many, family problems subside as children grow to become independent adults, and make their way to university. But for those students with family problems which grow and develop into wider rifts, the journey through school and into higher education is not always a smooth transition.

Estranged young people have no contact, support, and/or approval from their family. Our research shows there are three common causes of family estrangements, which can leave young people with no choice but to go it alone.

Families may experience mismatched values and beliefs between generations, where the choices a young person makes do not fit with the rigid expectations or traditions of the family unit. A common cause is persistent abuse, and particularly emotional abuse, where a young person does not receive the emotional validation, positivity, love, and care we typically associate with a functional parent/child relationship. Changes following divorce and remarriage play a large part in estrangement, and young adults can find themselves unwanted or unaccepted in a new family form, with the addition of one or more new family members. Importantly, our research shows such family issues often go unidentified by social services, meaning estranged young people lack the statutory visibility of care leavers, who have been removed from family and placed in residential or foster care. These young adults have taken the difficult step of removing themselves.

Many of these young people are studying in our schools and colleges and are grappling to find a place in our communities. A significant number of people reading this blog will have worked with such young people, who have been held back, hindered, and thrown off track by their lack of family capital. It may be that you, as professionals, have seen the barriers that independent young people, studying without family support, will come up against.  

How does this present itself? 

Visibility has been one of the most fundamental issues for both students and professionals in this area. As there is no formal divorce or removal process in place to emancipate young people from their families, it is hard for students to be given the necessary support, or feel confident in coming forward to access it.

Our research has shown that shame and stigma around self-removal from family acts stop young people from trusting that they can find support, and not judgement. Furthermore, these young people and their unique needs do not fit neatly into pre-existing support policies. For example, estranged students need support or flexibility with finding a lump sum deposit for halls of residence prior to entry, yet have little statutory status to give credence to their needs.

Furthermore, community and belonging is important for young people, who may feel they do not matter to anyone. If the first interaction a student experiences with a higher education provider is with an inflexible policy, defended to the hilt, barriers and frustrations are built. Our research and work in this sector has indicated that understanding staff, who are willing to advocate and challenge rigid policies, are crucial in the journey into higher education for estranged young people. Developing relationships with student support services early on, pre-entry, will maintain aspirations that the student community can accommodate their needs.  

We are therefore really pleased to have been working with UCAS to help improve visibility for estranged students

It is our intention at Stand Alone to ensure such students become more visible, and can be brought into the support networks of higher education providers sooner rather than later.

Stand Alone is a charity supporting people of all ages who are estranged from their family, or a key family member. We have a strategic focus on estranged young people between the ages of 18 – 25, who are entering higher education.

How a UK Degree Can Boost Your Career Opportunities

The main reason for anyone attending university is to get one step further to achieving their desired career. It’s important to attend a university where you are not only taught skills for future jobs in your studies, but also to learn from new cultural experiences, friendships, social life, and the everyday independency that may be new to you. Studying abroad allows you to learn these skills on another level, and why not do that in the country that is home to top English-speaking universities? Here we outline some more reasons why students from around the world should study their degree in the UK.

Recognised institutions

As the UK is known for schools with high academic standards, earning a degree from an accredited UK university connects you to an institution with a prestigious reputation recognised internationally. Across The Pond are partnered with over 40 top UK universities, each offering excellent programme teachings and great academic and career support. Having any of these universities on your résumé will look highly impressive to employers.

Less time and more intensive programs

The quicker the better, right? Not only will you have the opportunity to study at one of the top educational institutions in the world, you are also able to squeeze all your studies into a short time. A three-year bachelor’s and one-year master’s get straight to the point, requiring you to take only those classes which relate to your major. Not only that, with funding always being a big stumbling block to studying abroad, less time spent studying a degree means less money spent!

More specialised degrees

UK universities tend to offer specialised degrees at master’s level. This can be attractive if you don’t want to wait until studying a PhD or entering the workforce to start narrowing your interests and delving further into a specific field of study.

Having the freedom to pursue a specialty degree early on in your academic career allows exposure to educational and/or professional communities which you may join one day.

Boosts your employability

Across The Pond’s UK partner universities all offer programmes that you can utilise when applying for jobs at home after your studies. Employers seek applicants who are flexible and show an aptitude for independence and leadership. Having an international degree demonstrates that you took the initiative to live and study abroad, and international experience is highly valued by employers.

As former students at British universities, the Across The Pond advising team understands the difficulty of choosing whether studying abroad is for you. If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK and the vast opportunities it may offer you, please contact one of our advisers.

Exam stress season

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website www.aftertheplayground.com.‘Tis the season not to be jolly – otherwise known as the ‘exam stress season’. It’s like the flu season, but without the cough.

So here I am, juggling the very different needs of my three daughters, two of whom have exams this summer.

Here are the steps I have found useful in achieving a successful exam stress season. Let me be clear about what I mean by ‘successful’. I do not define success as every one of my children achieving straight A* grades in all subjects. I define success as them getting through the stress of exams safe and well, and being able to look back satisfied that they gave it their best shot. The rest is for fate and the public examination boards to sort out.

Exam sympathy
This is a point in my parenting life when I feel I am required to be unreservedly sympathetic. Some parents may want to tell their children exams were harder in their day, or had taken on ten paper rounds before they were out of nappies. Even if these things were true, I realise this is not the best time to talk about it. Exams are hard and can be gruelling. I find it helps to acknowledge this and state clearly my acceptance this is not a great time for teens. I also remind them it will not last forever, and a long summer break will soon be here – although I don’t mention results day is right in the middle of it!

Exam support
If you have some knowledge about the subjects your child is studying, it is tempting to become over-involved in the revision process, but this is not always helpful in the long term. The objective of this process is for your child to become an independent learner, so it may be useful to keep this in mind as you hog the textbooks.  Personally, I can be a complete pain in the neck when my kids are revising a subject which interests me, and I’m sure this is a constant source of irritation to them, but they humour me nevertheless.

On the other hand, don’t assume they will have everything available for the learning process. Revision skills are taught in most schools these days, but your teen may not have taken them on board. Therefore, you may want to encourage them to discover what works for them, and this is a matter of trial and error. I personally need to write everything down in note form when I am learning, and I also find it helpful to talk out loud as if I am explaining it to someone else. Some students find a whiteboard and pens useful, while others need a huge notebook. If you support them in their chosen revision method, at least it shows you respect the process and consider them mature enough to handle their own revision. If they can revise according to their own style it will be more productive, and perhaps even enjoyable, for them. They will NEVER admit this, however.

Exam structure
A perfectly structured family life is, in my experience, almost impossible to obtain. I can, however, see the benefits of everyone knowing what is happening and when. The timetables for public examinations are published well in advance and shared by schools and colleges. As soon as you get yours, pop the dates into your calendar or simply pin the timetable up in the kitchen where everyone can see it. That way you can plan family events without clashes.

A revision timetable really is essential, but can and should be flexible. Subjects can be broken down into sections or topics which can each be allocated a ‘session’. There should also be scheduled breaks. These are some of the reasons I find a timetable useful:
  1. It makes it easy to appreciate the quantity of work needed. Teens approaching public examinations for the first time sometimes underestimate the quantity of material they will have to plough through. This can lead to a last-minute panic. 
  2. It gives a psychological boost to teens who are floundering and overwhelmed, because it provides a clear path and much needed structure. 
  3. It shares out time between subjects, so your teens don’t become bogged down in one subject to the detriment of another. 
  4. It can give a sense of achievement if they stick to it. 
  5. If they don’t stick to it, this can give you or them an idea of how far behind they have got.
Exam supplies
My thoughts on this subject are very clear: if you are leaving your teen at home to revise, make sure there is plenty of reasonably healthy food in the house. This will prevent them from either starving to death or ordering several pizzas using your credit card details while you are out.

I know the official advice is to feed your child healthy brain-enhancing food at this time, and I feel this is absolutely the right thing to do. I also know there are moments in your life when you really have to have a chocolate biscuit, and halfway through an algebra equation is very likely to be one of those moments. So, once again, I try to reach a compromise. This is really not the time to have a blazing row over organic wholegrain crackers and humus.

Help with exam stress
There is no escaping the fact teens are put under a lot of pressure around exam time. Some will sail through with no problems, but others will struggle, and a few will become seriously affected by mental health issues.

There is plenty of help available if you are worried about your child’s exam stress. If you feel your child is really not coping with exams, and their physical or mental health is deteriorating, you should contact your GP, who will be able to give you some further advice. Organisations like ChildLine and Mind can also offer support and guidance.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website www.aftertheplayground.com.

My volunteering journey

By NCS graduate, Georgie Burgess, from Birmingham.

I’d really recommend volunteering. I started by taking part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in the summer after my GCSEs, and have continued volunteering through sixth form and my university studies. Giving back has changed my outlook on life. It’s also a great way to try out new things and push yourself to do whatever you can.

What was good about the NCS scheme? It gave me the opportunity to get involved in a local community project, addressing a real social need but in a supported and structured way. We decided to ask the public to sign a petition to raise awareness for the lack of self-harm and depression services. Throughout our research, we discovered that there was an incredibly long waiting list to speak to someone about mental health. We called the campaign 'Stamp Out Scars' and asked the public to sign plasters and stick them onto a body-shaped cut-out. We took pictures of this and sent them to the NHS and other organisations – this allowed us to promote local helplines and organisations for those who required them. We gained over 200 signatures and were told that we raised even more awareness for those local organisations. It was an empowering experience!

There are so many opportunities for volunteering when you’re at school or university. I focused on some arts projects which enabled me to do some coaching with children through dance and drama groups, and I also volunteered as a sixth form team member for my college. I’ve carried on doing volunteering as an NCS graduate and I mentored a group of NCS leaders, which was great because I was able to give back to the programme that got me involved in the first place.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, it makes sense to do something you're passionate about. So if you want to travel and see another country, then incorporate that into volunteering! Or if there's a topic that you feel needs more awareness, then go down that route. If you're completely stuck, do some research and find out what's out there. To spread awareness these days, it's easy to use social media as a platform to promote your cause, but nothing beats getting out in the community and talking about it. If people pick up on your passion, they’re more likely to feel a connection to whatever organisation/issue you’re raising awareness for.

I'd love to volunteer more! I really want to go to Thailand and teach. Spending a summer in another country and doing something selfless appeals to me because it fills me with warmth to know that I'm helping someone other than myself.