UCAS's blog

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

Problems paying for your application?

Make sure your card is registered for online payments.

Here’s how…

If you are the cardholder, you can do this on your bank’s website.

  1. Search on the bank’s website to register your card for online shopping or online payments. For Visa cards, search for ‘Verified by Visa’, for Mastercards or Maestro, search for ‘Mastercard Securecode’, and for JCB cards, search for ‘J/Secure’. Your bank may call it something else, but find the result that closely matches registering your card for online shopping or online payments.
  2. Complete all the questions required by your bank, and set a password so you can use your card for online shopping or online payments.
  3. Once you’ve registered your card, return to your UCAS application and click ‘Pay/send’ to complete the process. 
  4. On the payment page, you’ll be asked to enter selected characters from your password.

If your payment method is still being declined after registering for online payments, you will need to speak to your bank directly and ask them why they are refusing your payment for your UCAS application fee. If the bank confirms that your card should be OK to use, return to your UCAS application and try again.

If the card does not belong to you, you will need to speak to the cardholder.

Things to Do Whilst You Wait for Uni Decisions

If you’re like me, you might be itching to get started on your new course that you’ve enrolled for. I sometimes find myself scrolling through the university course page of my choice, thinking about what the contents of the course may be about, and wondering what type of things I’ll be doing when I start that topic.

Starting university is exciting, but in January there’s a long way to go before September starts and your new course begins. Whilst that does seem like ages away, there is still a few more things to consider doing, and I highly recommend doing them.

Attend an open day
With new students applying to new courses for 2018, the universities will be organising open days. Open days are a great opportunity for students to attend the university and not only find out more about their chosen course, but to also discover the campus and the local area. Whilst I stayed pretty local to my hometown, I still attended an open day, as I had never been to that area before. The open days are very informative, telling you everything you need to know, from what’s expected of you on your course to where you can visit the best restaurants in the evenings.

Student finance
Student finance is definitely something you should be thinking about. It’s recommended that the earlier you get your student finance application in the better. Check on your university web page, or keep checking your emails, as you university can advise you on when is best to apply for student finance, and where to go when applying. You definitely want to make sure there are no unexpected problems once you’ve enrolled in university, as your student loan is very important, especially in your first few weeks in your university campus and you have rent to pay!

Student accommodation
If you’re staying at home during university, you don’t need to worry about setting up student accommodation. However, in your first year, halls go quick, and applications need to get in fast. Your university will offer a selection of rooms that are on campus, or at least very close to campus, and you need to factor in how much these rooms cost and whether or not student halls are for you. Going back to the open day, it is important to attend, as you may even get to see these halls and decide in person if the halls are for you.

Research your topic
You may think you definitely know what you want to do, but have you considered that there may be a course that is more tailored to your specialist subject? Consider you want to go into nursing. Would you rather do mental health nursing, or focus on midwifery? It’s important that you check every subject available to you, and decide if one course is better. There are five choices, and you don’t need to panic if you’ve submitted your application with only one or two choices. Whilst universities decide on whether or not to give you a place, you are able to keep adding choices. So don’t rule everything out just yet. Keep looking at what’s available to you.

Get some experience, if you can
Whilst you will be gaining valuable knowledge and hopefully valuable experience on your course, these next few months are a great opportunity to truly gain experience in your chosen field. If you’re studying journalism, why not set up a blog, if you haven’t already, and get posting some articles? It’s a great thing to have for when your interview is scheduled, if of course you are required for an interview, and it’s an even better thing to have in nine months time at the beginning of your course, as you are already a step ahead. It shows enthusiasm to have experience, and it will enhance your CV.

One final thing: keep in touch with your uni. 
Don’t be afraid to email your chosen university with any questions you may have. The staff available to help are used to answering every question, and will do everything they can to ensure you have enough knowledge. Going to university can feel like a big step, but there is plenty of support and enough help to get you going, and keep you enthused for what is to come.

Five Ways to Prepare for Student Life

For most people University is the next step before attempting full-scale adulthood out in the big, bad world. The summer before is often filled with excitement and anxieties but this is the best time for you to start preparing yourself for your degree and moving away from home. I’ve listed my top five ways to prepare yourself so that you can keep up with your degree and enjoy your time at Uni!

1. Set up a student bank account
As a student from Northern Ireland I had an account with a bank back home which was a problem when I began University in England. I would highly suggest setting up a student account with a branch close to your Uni. This saves a lot of stress if something goes wrong and you need to pop in! There are a lot of different offers available to students such as a free 4 year railcard or an interest-free overdraft. Make sure to do your research on which best suits your needs and has a good reputation with students!

2. Learn the basics of adulting
Have you ever used the washing machine, cooked your own dinner or paid your own bills? If not you should definitely become familiar with these things before you begin Uni life. Learn to cook some easy meals that you can rotate (ready-meals are not your friend). Sit down with your parents and ask them about bills and have a go at some chores! It won’t be particularly fun but it will be necessary and you’ll be glad you learned later.

3. Learn how to budget
Everyone thinks they’re loaded when they get their student loan but the truth is that it often doesn’t go as far as you’d think once you take out rent and food. Give yourself a crash course in budgeting so you know how much you can spend each week and how much you have to enjoy yourself! It’s always wise to save up some money before you start and during the year if possible. If you need to have a look at job opportunities at the end of the Summer!

4. Use Social Media
Social media is the best way to make some friends and get to know people on your course before arriving. You can often get in touch with flat mates in halls and get to know each other before moving in or plan some events together for Freshers week! Most Universities and courses also have accounts on facebook and twitter you can follow to find out what you can expect from your degree! Use social media to your advantage!

5. Decide what to take with you
Contrary to popular belief you do not need to take the entire contents of your bedroom to University. Pack only what you need, you can always take more things later in the semester. Make sure to check your accommodation and course information for any other items you need. I would recommend chatting with your flat mates to organise what cooking items you need as you all might bring a full kitchen supply kit that isn’t actually necessary!

How to Get the Most Out of Your University Open Days

Whilst planning to apply to university, I thought it would be very important to visit as many of the universities I was interested in as possible. After having received and looking through dozens of prospectuses, I picked out 5 universities that had courses that I liked the sound of as well as having entry grades that I found to be achievable. The following are tips as to how to get the most out of your university open days.

1. Be sure to make a list of the dates of the open days you want to go to well in advance. Do not forget that many open days start in June and July so you should start to look for dates in around May. This will allow you to ensure that you do not miss an open day for a university that you wish to look around. Universities also have multiple open days so the earlier you look, the more likely you are to not have open days that cross over.

2. Check the university website to see if there are talks for your subject. Going to a talk or seminar about your subject is the best way to gain the information you need – some universities had out extra information booklets at these talks as well.  This is another reason why you should look for open days early as well because often these talks will have limited numbers and will fill up quickly. Don’t worry if you cannot get to one of these talks however because most open days also have information fairs.

3. The information fair should definitely be one of the B lines that you make on a university open day! Play a sport? Find out about the universities teams and clubs. Enjoy music or drama? Find out the societies available. Want more information about admissions? Go to the information fair! These information fairs have loads of extra information available about the university and the area that it is in. If you have questions; they are the people talk to.

So you’ve been to a talk about your course and you’ve been to the information fair, where to next?

4. Visiting the student union should be another of the places that you spend some time looking at. This is the place you can meet new friends, join societies and get food. You may be able to speak to students in here about what student life is like in the university and in the city.

5. The library is a fantastic place that you will spend most of your time ;) No matter if you are a crazy party animal or a hard core studier, at some point you will need to visit the library to pick up books for your course. Look round the library and see how many books they have for your subject as well as looking at the spaces that they have for studying and group study areas.

6. Another place you will spend a lot of time is of course your accommodation! Universities often have a wide variety of accommodation choices – both on and off campus. There is no need to look around all of the accommodation options – that would take hours. Choose a few different ones – ensuite, catered, self-catered – the combinations are endless. Have a look at one of each and then you should be able to get a feel for what it is that you would prefer.

7. Whilst you’re walking to each of these places in the university you should be able to get a good feel for the campus and its open spaces for recreation as well as generally chilling out with your friends!

8. The final place I would suggest visiting on the campus is the sports centre. If you fancy joining a team or the join whilst you are university, this is the place to find out everything you need to know!

Once you’ve visited all of these places, I would strongly recommend walking the route from the campus into the city and see how long it takes. If it takes a long time, does it have good transport links? If it’s a short walk, where in the city does the walk bring you? I would also suggest taking your parents along to show them what the city you may be living in for 3 or 4 years is like!

I hope that this article has helped you somewhat in planning your open days and I wish you the best of luck in beginning your search for a university you love! As I have been writing this, Oxford Brookes University has made a very exciting amendment to my offer!

To find out a little bit more about me and to come along on the route with me to university, follow me @katieharcourt on Instagram!

How to Start the Search for Universities

Starting to look for a university as well as a course can seem like a very daunting task to begin with however I am going to offer you some advice to help you on your way to finding the course of your dreams!
 
1.    To begin with, I suggest thinking about what interests you – business, maths, science, law? Having a broad subject area is fine to begin with! Once you’ve done this you can start thinking about which areas of these subjects you enjoy the most: for example in business it could be marketing, accounting or human resources. This is the point where you should start to look at which universities offer the course that you want to study.
 
2.    UCAS.com – UCAS will become your best friend whilst you are looking for university courses! Not only does it have a wide range of information on there about each course but it also gives entry grades and links to the university websites. All you have to do is type in a key word in the course you want to study - for example marketing – and it will bring up all the courses that have marketing in the title. There is a map option which is also very helpful when you want to see how far these universities are. From this I would suggest reading through the course content of the universities that are within the distance that you are willing to travel. Then any courses that interest you, write down a list with their names and entry grades!
 
3.    League tables are also a good thing to look at once you know what it is that you want to study. The universities at the top of the league tables are worth a research into because there’s a reason they are at the top!
 
4.    Once you’ve done this, order some prospectuses of from the universities that sound most interesting to you. They are free and you can easily order them from the university’s website and there is often an online version! This prospectus will offer more information on the course and the university as well as showing open day dates – which I will be writing about in my next blog post.
 
I hope that these steps help you to start the mountain that is looking for the right university for you! Don’t worry if you can’t make a decision straight away – I have a pile of about 15 prospectuses under my desk all of universities I was considering!
 
To find out a little bit more about me and to come along on the route with me to university, follow me @katieharcourt on Instagram!
 

How to finish your UCAS Application

Starting your UCAS application is the easy part but finishing it is 64,972 times more difficult so I’m here to provide you with some helpful advice on how to nail that application before the deadline dates.
 
Sit down and get to it
 
It sounds stupid but just setting time aside, sitting down and cracking on with your application is probably the best way to get it finished. Once you start you’ll realise there isn’t nearly as much to do as you may think in fact, the hardest part is completing your personal statement and once that bit is done everything else seems to come so much easier. My top tip would be fill out all the sections before the personal statement section in one or two sittings, then it’ll all be done apart from that bit section.
 
Depart from the procrastination station
 
Procrastination. Possibly the single most used word to describe filling out your UCAS application and probably a word you’re tired of hearing. “Stop procrastinating” or “procrastinating won’t get you anywhere” is what you’ll have heard a million times already but it’s pretty true. Once you knuckle down and start writing you’ll realise you could’ve done this a long, long time ago. 
 
Know what you’re filling in
 
Okay so a slightly odd one here but please know what you’re applying for. Once you have your choices picked and know exactly what course you’ll be applying for, you’ll find that the application process becomes so much easier. You’ll be flying in no time.
 
Well there’s my advice! I wish everyone all the success in the world in filling out their applications. You got this, good luck!


How to prepare for nursing interviews

Hello all fellow aspiring nurses,
 
First of all, I hope you are well and enjoying the university application experience so far.
 
As I have noticed whilst looking at the UCAS bloggers website there aren’t many blog posts relating to nursing and as this is a true PASSION of mine, I thought why not write a blog post about attending a nursing selection day/interview!
 
Before I go on about preparing for your nursing selection/interview day,I would just like to CONGRATULATE you on being selected to attend a selection day/interview! YOU are halfway to achieving your dream of getting your place to study nursing!
 
So, let’s start considering the various ways in which you can plan ahead for your selection day/interview. Below I will put the things in order,as to what I believe are the most important things to consider first.
 
1. Do you know how you’re going to get there?
 
If not then you need to talk to parents, friends, or relatives to see if they can help you to attend your selection day. If no one can take you and you don’t drive, then I would highly recommend you book your bus/train tickets in advanced as these can be slightly cheaper-saving you extra money!
 
2. Need somewhere to stay the night before or after the interview?
 
I would highly recommend booking at a travel lodge or somewhere similar as it won’t cost you a lot of money, especially if you book in advance!
 
3. What do you want to wear?
 
I know some unis state on their interview offer letters what they would like students to wear to their interview and MOST of the time they will ask candidates to dress in smart-casual clothing! In my interview experiences I have always worn a blazer,blouse and black trousers to my interview,as this gives the right impression to the university that you’re taking things very seriously. Of course,if you don’t feel comfortable in wearing a suit you can always wear something more casual. Don’t forget to wear smart black shoes too!
 
How do I prepare for the actual selection day/interview?
 
Tests
 
Depending on what your interview letter states,you may be asked to sit a maths and English test. You will be required to sit any tests stated in the interview letter,even if you have already got your maths and English qualifications!
 
To prepare yourself for the tests I would highly recommend that you go onto google and type in ‘university nursing selection day tests’ and a whole list of various sample tests will come up on various university websites. Print or save these onto a word document and try and work through each unis sample selection test for around 20-30mins everyday. This is to familiarise yourself with what kind of questions you could be asked during your test phase of your university interview!
 
At some universities, you will be asked to wait after completing the test papers,so they can be marked on the same day! Other universities will mark the papers in due course and you will be notified via email/track whether or not you successfully passed the tests and will be invited to the second phase (interview) of the selection process!
 
Interviews
 
I know the word interview can scare us,but honestly the majority of interviews are just a little chat, so to speak, about why you want to be on that course,why that uni etc.
 
Every uni is different,some will have a group interview to access how your team working skills are and others will have a 1-1 interview or mini interviews. Below I will explain each interview and how you can prepare for whichever one you will be taking part in:
 
Group interviews
 
In all the times I have applied to university I have only ever had ONE group interview & it honestly isn’t as scary as it may seem.
 
You will be put into a small group of around 6 people and be asked a question for you to discuss .
 
Tips for a group interview
 
1. Make sure you talk,but not too much
2. Listen to what other people are saying
3. Make sure you don’t talk over one another (although this can be difficult, I know.)
4. Work as part of a team
 
One-on-one interviews
 
During this interview you will be asked a number of questions. A good tip is to research what kind of questions you could be asked and think about how you would answer them in the interview. Be confident and passionate about why YOU deserve the place at that university!
 
Mini multiple interviews
 
These interviews are very similar to the 1-1 interviews but are mini 2-3 minute interviews with various people,which could include: Professionals,service users and lecturers from the university.
 
1. Do your research on the university and course you’re hoping to study.
2. Complete research on NHS issues in the news I.e sepsis
3. Be confident
4. Be passionate
5. Be yourself
6. Smile 
 
Enjoy this experience of applying to study nursing,as your ONE step away from securing your place at University!
 
Good luck!

My UCAS Experience

Going to university can be very daunting, but with the help of UCAS everything was simplified and easy to complete as it gave me all the information on how and what to fill in each section. I was always curious about the whole UCAS experience because it was my first time applying to university using UCAS (as well to University in general) and was hoping that things will turn out okay.
 
The process started off by registering on the UCAS site which  I think was so simple to do really because it didn't take a while to register on the site. Then when logged on, it gave me sections where I had to fill in my details about my personal information, education and other things that has to do with applying to university. Once that was completed, there is a button "completed" or something like that which then highlights with a green at left side of the page, this means the section has been completed and can then move to other sections.There is an option to view the whole application to make sure that everything was done. Once everything is fine, then it has to be paid for which is £24. After it has been paid for, UCAS then sends your application to your school so that they can check to make sure that everything was filled in right. After they have put your references on your application, they then send your application and it's processed through UCAS. Although it took me a while until all my references were done, I was quite happy to wait because I knew patience was going to be key.
 
After a couple of hours they send you some details about UCAS track where you are able to see the outcome and can change the university if you like but usually has to be done within 14 days. Whenever I had a question about anything, the first thing that I would do was to call UCAS because they have all the information and they can be able to assist you with anything.
 
This is when things got interesting for me, after a couple days I got 3 offers and 2 declines which was fine because my first choice university had also offered me to go for an interview. The ones which had declined were just back up just to make sure that I had put 5 options down. Now I have an unconditional offer to study for Physiotherapy which is really good because the university were very pleased with my grades. After making my mind up about which university that I wanted to go, I managed to declined my other offers as I was pleased and happy with one offer that I had received. It is quite nerve racking but there is hope because they is always Clearing, which is whereby universities take on people that had some low grades but have potential. The best thing for me is the ability of finding out my outcome online which was really easy, anyways most things that you need to know can be found out on the UCAS website. I found the whole experience educative, exciting and enjoyable. Overly  my experience was really good and if I would do anything different next time maybe probably take more time doing some research. 
 

How to make the most of university open days

I know what you're thinking: I don't even know what course I want to do, let alone which university I want to go to! At least that's pretty much what me and a lot of my friends were thinking once our sixth form began telling us about open days. But believe me, these visits are for so much more than seeing university buildings and campuses. Here's how to make the most of uni open days, no matter how much you know about your future:
 
Ok so I know I just claimed that open days are about much more than visiting campus (and that's true!), but this element is still important. For a lot of people, this is the place they're going to live for at least a year! So make sure you have a walk around, check out the accommodation and see what the campus has to offer. If it's a city university you're visiting, then take a look around the city itself to make sure it's somewhere you'll enjoy being (this can be helpful for campus universities too!). Even if you're staying at home or in private accommodation, you'll most likely be spending a lot of time on campus anyway, so still take a look. Most open days will provide maps of the campus/city so use these to prioritise the places that are important to you. So for me, a complete English geek, the library was top of my list, closely followed by the Students' Union, mostly because I wanted to make sure I went to a university with a Harry Potter society...
 
Now for the actual EDUCATION. This is what you're paying for, so you want to make sure you're learning about what you're going to enjoy most in a way that suits you. If you already know what you'd like to study, great! Prepare some questions to ask the subject lecturers and current students so you can learn about exactly what their university's course consists of as it might differ from others. Get all the information you can so you can make an educated decision and don't be afraid to talk to people from other subjects and courses if they look interesting - you still have time to change your mind! And if you don't know what you want to study...do exactly the same thing. Talk to as many people as possible and go to talks about subjects you haven't yet considered. This is how one of my best friend's found her perfect course - she didn't even know it existed until that open day!
 
Finally, find out what other opportunities are available. A lot of open days will have some sort of area with stands that aren't subject specific just to tell you what else the uni offers. For example, do you want to study for a term/year abroad? Maybe get a job on campus? Or volunteer? Or play a sport competitively? Or maybe just for fun? Speak to staff that know the answers to these questions. Sometimes these extra opportunities are enough to sway you towards a certain university in the future.
 
So that's it! Whether you have an idea about what course you want to do or not, visiting some universities can often help you decide, as well as helping you choose where you might like to apply later on. Long story short: open days are your friends. Happy visiting!

Last minute application advice

So, it’s that time of year again, when UCAS deadlines are looming. But there’s no need to panic. Hopefully you’ve completed the majority of your application by this point, so all that’s left is a few tweaks. Here are my top tips to make your application the best it can be:
 
1.     Double check your information
Imputing your details, like your GCSE grades and address, was probably one of the first things that you did as part of completing the UCAS application. However, you may not have checked it since. Just take a couple of minutes to check that these little details are right; the last thing you want is a university querying your grades or sending information to the wrong address!
 
2.     Ask others
If you’re like me, and can’t see your typos, why don’t you ask family or friends to double check your application? They’re sure to want to help, and hopefully will be able to spot little errors you may have missed. And any feedback they give you on a personal statement could also be beneficial.
 
3.     Avoid personal statement panic
It can be easy, especially as the UCAS deadline is coming up, to start panicking about your personal statement, wondering whether you should have put in that piece of work experience, or your opinions on that book. But remember, with the character limit, you can’t write about absolutely everything you’ve done. Instead, check over your personal statement to make sure it flows well (reading it aloud can really help) and that you’ve expressed how enthusiastic you are about your chosen course. Aside from this, check that your statement fits the character and line count on the UCAS form, particularly if you’ve been drafting your statement in Word: the last thing you need is to suddenly find out that your statement is too long and you need to quickly panic edit!
 
4.     Make sure you’ve got those references
The one part of the UCAS application that you won’t be able to do yourself is the references, so make sure that your teacher or head of sixth form/college has written it for you. This is a really important part of the application so it is worth making sure that the references are done before the eleventh hour.
 
5.     Don’t worry
If you’ve double and triple checked your application and personal statement, got those references, and checked that you’ve put in the right five unis and courses, it’s time to hit the send button! Although it can feel like very daunting, remind yourself that you’ve put a lot of effort into your application, so relax and wait for those lovely offers to flood in!
 
Enia x

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