UCAS's blog

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

Professional skills tests

If you're applying for teacher training programmes, you may have seen that some providers ask for professional skills tests as one of the entry requirements. In this blog, we’ll answer three of the most frequently asked questions our advisers receive.

1. Do I need to take a professional skills test?
To study for a teacher training programme in England you need to pass the numeracy and literacy skills tests. Some training providers may require you to complete them before your interview, or ask you to complete them by a certain date as a condition of your offer – check with your chosen training providers to confirm. If you’re applying for training programmes in Wales then you’re not required to pass the skills tests.

2. When can I book a professional skills test?
You cannot sit your professional skills test until you have completed and submitted your application. When filling in your application, you only need to include a date if you have previously sat your skills tests. If you haven’t, you should select ‘no’ and leave the date blank.
 


You can book your skills tests through learndirect, but places are on a first-come, first- served basis so it’s worth trying to book a space as soon as you have made your application. You can book a test up to three months in advance.

3. Who do I contact if I can’t find a suitable booking slot? 
The learndirect helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 16:00. Call them on 0300 303 9613 or email support@sta.learndirect.com.

We’ve got lots of advice about entry requirements on ucas.com. If you have any questions about your chosen training programmes, get in touch with the training providers you're interested in - some training programmes have many more applications than places available, so their requirements might be higher.

There’s also plenty of support to help you get ready, including practice tests, on the Get Into Teaching website.


Getting a TV licence

You need to be covered by a TV licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

This could be on any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box, or DVD/VHS recorder. If you do any of the above without a valid licence, you risk prosecution and a maximum penalty of up to £1,000, plus any legal costs and/or compensation you may be ordered to pay. You will also still then have to buy a TV licence if you need one.

To find out more, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/studentinfo.

How can I buy a TV licence?

There are lots of different ways to buy a TV licence. Whether that’s through weekly cash payments, using your nearest PayPoint outlet, spreading the cost with monthly, quarterly, or yearly direct debit, credit/debit card or by post, just choose the one that suits you best.

For more information on the ways to pay, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/payinfo.

If I live in halls, won’t I already be covered by a TV licence?

Your room needs to be covered by its own licence if you're plugged in to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV, live on an online TV service, or if you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer. If there are TVs in communal areas, check with your halls' manager to see if they’re covered by a halls licence.

What if I live in a shared house?

You'll probably only need one licence between you if you have a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house – this is the most common type of shared house arrangement. You might need your own licence if your accommodation is self-contained – if you have exclusive access to washing facilities, or your own entrance to the property. You will also need your own licence if you have a separate tenancy agreement for your own room. If you're not sure, check our advice for tenants and lodgers.

Won't my parents' licence cover me?

Your parents' licence will not cover you while you're away at uni, unless you only use a device that's powered solely by its own internal batteries and not connected to the mains power supply.

What if I'm not at uni for the summer?

If you're leaving your halls or rented accommodation and moving back home for the summer, there's a good chance you won't need your TV licence if there's one at home. You can see our policy and apply for a refund online.

What if I don’t need a licence?

If you don’t need a TV licence, you should let TV Licensing know so they can update their records. They won’t then send you any letters for approximately two years.
 

Apprenticeship funding facts

How are apprenticeships funded? Will you be paid? Here are the answers to all your funding questions.
  •  You’ll be paid for your working hours (generally 30 hours per week) as well as your training. This includes holiday pay, for when you need those all-important breaks
  • The national minimum wage for apprentices under the age of 19, or in their first year of an apprenticeship, is £3.50 (from April 2017). Take the time to assess your options, as on some higher apprenticeships,you can earn as much as £300 – 500 per week.
  •  Apprenticeships are funded by the government and employers. This means you’ll graduate debt-free!
  • If you’re over the age of 24, you’ll have to contribute to your own training costs. However, the government offers Advanced Learner Loans to support you.
 
There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there, so why not browse your options now?

Think you know apprenticeships?

There are a lot of myths about apprenticeships. Here, we separate fact from fiction.
  •   Fiction – Apprenticeships are not for everyone.
  •   Fact – No matter your interests or how old you are, you can find an apprenticeship to suit you. There are apprenticeships available at all levels, in a huge range of sectors.
Apprenticeships start at Level 2, so you could study an apprenticeship instead of taking A levels. Equally, if you are already in full-time employment and want to change career, you have the chance to do so with an apprenticeship.
  •   Fiction – Apprenticeships are like volunteering.
  •   Fact – You get paid on the job, as you learn.
Apprentices are paid the national minimum wage as standard – while this might not sound like a lot, it will go a long way to alleviating money worries.
  •   Fiction – Taking an apprenticeship will make me less employable than a university graduate.
  •   Fact – Many apprenticeships share content with full undergraduate courses. You can learn the same things you would with a degree, but will pick up valuable experience at the same time.
While some employers favour those with a traditional degree, this is changing. Strong performance on an apprenticeship can make you stand out from the crowd – unlike many graduates, you’ll have direct workplace experience alongside your qualification.
  •  Fiction: I will have fees to pay back.
  •  Fact: All apprenticeships are paid for by the government and employers, so you’ll graduate debt-free!
From April 2017, apprenticeships will be funded by the apprenticeship levy. If you’re concerned about getting value for money out of your studies, an apprenticeship could be for you – get all the skills and experience you need, without the debt.
 
There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there – if you are interested in taking one, start looking at your options now!

Six things you didn’t know about an apprenticeship

Thinking about an apprenticeship? Take a look at these six reasons why it’s such a great option.
 
1)    You won’t have to pay fees
Worried about the long-term cost of uni? As an apprentice, you’ll graduate debt-free! Apprenticeship fees are paid by the government and employers.
 
2)    Higher and degree apprenticeships are assessed by employers
Apprentices study for a national vocational qualification (NVQ). You’ll get tested on practical, work-related tasks, so you get to see first-hand how you’re progressing.
As NVQs are assessed by employers, they really are the ideal way to get job ready. If you already know the right career for you, an apprenticeship could give you the skills and experience you need to get there.
 
3)    There are four different types of apprenticeship:
  •  Intermediate (Level 2) – roughly equivalent to five GCSEs.
  •  Advanced (Level 3) – roughly equivalent to two A levels/Highers.
  •  Higher/technical (levels 4 to 7) – equivalent to a Higher National Diploma (HND). With a higher apprenticeship, you have the opportunity to carry on to a foundation degree.
  •  Degree/professional (levels 5 to 7) – equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. You’ll combine on-the-job learning with lectures, seminars, and independent study, and will graduate with a fully accredited degree. You can even progress to master’s level.
4)   Apprenticeships often have higher entry requirements than employment
Be realistic about which apprenticeship you apply for – some might have higher entry requirements than others. As the entry requirements are controlled by employers, they might sometimes be flexible. For example, if you don’t hold the required grades or qualifications, try persuading them with your transferrable skills. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so think about what you have to offer.
 
5)   Apprenticeships are for all ages
Apprenticeships are for everyone. You don’t need to be a school leaver to take on an apprenticeship, but equally, you can start straight after your GCSEs, or after taking your A levels. If you are already in full-time work and want to change your career path, why not retrain with an apprenticeship?
 
6)   You will learn the same things on an apprenticeship as at uni
You might find that apprenticeship course content is actually very similar to a traditional university course. When combined with the valuable experience you’ll gain along the way, you’ll be in a great position to get that job you want.
 
If you think an apprenticeship might be for you, start exploring at your options now.

Thinking of applying to teacher training programmes?

Thinking of applying for teacher training programmes? There are lots of things to consider before you apply, and it can be quite daunting to know where to start.

Here’s our top five places you should check out, full of advice on how to apply.

1. Our website

The first place to start is our website. You’ll find out information on how to pick the right programme for you. Get in-depth information on which route into teaching fits you.

2. Video wall 

Our video wall is full of advice on many topics you’ll need to know about when applying for teacher training programmes. Need a hand filling in your application? Not sure how to prepare for interviews? We’ve got it covered on our video wall!

3. Free UCAS Teacher Training pack

Our teacher training pack is a must if you’re applying. It’s a free online pack, containing all the information and advice you need to apply, and what to expect after your application has been sent.
 


 
4. Our dedicated blog page


We have a range of advice on our dedicated UCAS Teacher Training blog. It covers subjects from advice on applying, to case studies from current teachers – to give you an insight into what to expect.
5. Get into Teaching

Finally, register with Get into Teaching for tailored advice and support. You can also follow them on Twitter for info on getting into teaching, and to keep up-to-date with any upcoming events or changes in the sector.

If you have any questions about applying for teacher training programmes, get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll do their best to help.

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.
 

Accepting an unconditional offer

You might have heard stories about unconditional offers, and how a friend-of-a-friend’s next-door neighbour’s cousin received one before they got their exam results. In the past this would probably have been an urban myth or at most, not the whole story. However, some universities are now making unconditional offers to exceptional applicants who don’t have their results yet.

Mark Newman, UCAS Adviser, explains what you need to consider if you’re thinking about accepting one of these offers, which remain relatively rare.
 
Mark Newman, UCAS Adviser

Having an unconditional offer from your favourite university at an early stage of your application can be very reassuring. It means that if you select them as your firm choice, you will definitely be accepted on to the course, regardless of what grades you get in the summer.

But there can be a bit of confusion about accepting unconditional offers, so before you select one as your firm choice, make sure you know the facts.

If you accept an unconditional offer as your firm choice:

1. Your exam results won’t affect whether or not you get accepted but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Here’s why:

  • When you apply for work placements and jobs, you will be asked about your qualifications. Often there are requirements from pre-university qualifications.
  • When you start at uni you’ll be straight into assignments, coursework and for many courses, exams. The qualifications you’re studying for at the moment are essential preparation for this and are the foundations of your future studies.
  • Your new course mates at uni are likely to have completed relevant qualifications before they’ve started the course, so you’d have to play catch-up from the moment you arrive if you chose not to finish your A levels or equivalent. That’s not easy when you already have so many new things to learn. 
  • Sometimes things don’t go to plan. If you arrive at your chosen uni and decide it’s not right for you, you may choose to reapply for other unis or look for jobs instead. Leaving gaps where your education is concerned could have a negative impact.

2. You cannot have an insurance choice. Because ‘unconditional’ means you’ll definitely get a place on the course, you don’t need the option of another choice. If instead you accept a conditional offer as your firm choice then it’s OK to accept an unconditional offer as your insurance choice. That said, a university may stipulate that their offer is only unconditional if you make them your firm choice, so be sure to check any terms attached to their offer before you reply.

 
3. You can’t just go into Clearing to accept a different university if you decide on results day that you no longer want the place. By accepting the offer you’re entering into a commitment with the university, so it’s really important to make sure you pick your favourite choice to be your firm choice. If your insurance choice is unconditional, you also need to be prepared to be accepted by that university if you are unsuccessful with your conditional firm choice.

If you need help deciding which offer to accept as your firm choice, speak to your tutors and careers advisers. Family and friends can also offer alternative perspectives you might not have considered, and reading blogs from current students already at your university choices can provide a valuable insight into what it’s like to be part of their student community.      
 

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...

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