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UK university admissions: The gateway to leading universities

If you’ve done your research, you’re confident that you’re going to get the required grades and you’ve decided that studying in the UK is right for you, then you have already made the most difficult decision. 


Now you need to go through the process of actually getting into the university of your choice. This can seem like a daunting task, but university admissions in the UK can be a straightforward process if you follow some simple steps.


While filling out an application is an important part of the process, it is also important to understand what it is that leading universities admissions departments in the UK are looking for. 


What can you do to help your chances of being admitted to your chosen university? In this article we will explore these questions, as well as the UK university admissions process.

UK university admissions: A step-by-step process

Choosing to study in the UK is a big decision, so it’s important to understand the process you will need to go through in order to apply. The following is the step-by-step process for UK university admissions:


1. Choose your university and course

It is important to read as much as you can about the range of courses and universities that are available to you. University rankings can be a helpful starting point when trying to choose a course and a school. Researching thoroughly will help you make an informed decision based on what you want to achieve, and will help you to find the right course for you. It’s also important to research entry requirements for different courses, which are readily available on university websites.


2. Register and apply for admission

Applying for a university degree in the UK is a simple process. There is only one place to go and register and apply for all UK institutions, and that is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Here’s how it works:

  • Start your application on the UCAS website;

  • Write your personal statement. This is your opportunity to tell the university admissions about why you’re interested in the course, your skills, achievements and life experiences;

  • Include a written reference. This should be from someone who can confirm your ability to do the course, such as a teacher or tutor; and

  • Ensure that you meet the application deadlines throughout the year - there are different deadlines for certain applications.

3. Accept your offer

The universities you’ve applied to will contact you to tell you whether or not you have been successful and received an offer to study. If you’ve been accepted with an unconditional offer, this means the place is yours and can you accept the offer immediately. If you receive a conditional offer, this means the place is yours subject to meeting certain extra requirements, usually achieving your predicted exam grades.




What do UK university admissions departments look for? 

When writing your application for university it is important to understand what admissions officers look for. In addition to academic qualifications and grades there are certain attributes they try to identify when they are reading the thousands of applications they receive each year. For the most part, your personal statement will be the best place to showcase lots of this information.


Here are some of the key things they look for:


A positive attitude

Students must demonstrate that they are ready to work hard, that they will be able to cope with the workloads of their chosen course and do well at a higher level of education, and complete their degree. Showing the ability to manage your time and workload is important too.


A passion for your chosen subject

Students must demonstrate a passion for their chosen subject. It’s beneficial for students to show how learning within and beyond the classroom links to their chosen course.


An ability to think and work independently

Admissions departments will look for a student's ability to think and work independently. They will be looking for a well rounded student who has the desire to study outside of a syllabus and instigates learning for themselves, seeing these as indicators of having what it takes to succeed at university.


Determination

Students need to demonstrate commitment and determination. Universities are looking for indications that students will complete their course and have an understanding of what it entails. If you are a member of a sports team, involved with any committees or school councils, or even have a part-time job alongside your studies, this is all worth mentioning in your personal statement. All of these roles show a sense of commitment and an ability to take responsibility for tasks.


Curiosity

Almost all university admissions officers look for evidence of an inquisitive mind in students’ applications. Have you taken the initiative to read around your subject outside of the classroom? Have you researched more about a theory you were introduced to in class?


A good standard of English

Make sure you check that every word and sentence of your personal statement is spelled correctly, that sentences are phrased well, and that your writing is grammatically correct. Ask as many people as possible to proofread your application, especially those who have experience in applying to a UK university themselves.


Teamwork

Another key skill to evidence in your application is the ability to work effectively in groups. Many courses require group work, and universities will want to see that you can contribute to the institution overall. So if you are part of a team, committee, club or any other group where you work with others, include this somewhere in your application to show that you can be a good team player.

These are just some of the attributes that university admissions look for. Whatever you choose to include in your application, make sure you present it clearly.



How to strengthen your UK university application

If you’re applying to a top UK university, then making your application stand out is key to success. These universities receive thousands, if not tens of thousands, of applications per year and their admissions departments will look for the smallest details to differentiate between the applicants who receive an offer and those who don’t.


A clear way of strengthening your application is by engaging in super-curricular activities. These are activities that are above and beyond your school syllabi, but are still specific to your chosen subject. They might include essay competitions, further reading or independent research projects, all of which will help you stand out from other applicants, especially with the top universities.


Having a strong personal statement is critical to your application and while there’s no ideal way to structure your statement, it’s a good idea to make it easy to read. There are also a few things to consider to make your statement stand out.

  • If there’s anything in your application that’s unusual, then explain why

  • If you’re applying for a vocational course, make sure you show your commitment to the profession and the experience you’ve gained

  • If you’re applying for an academic course, you need to show passion for the subject and explain why you want to study it

  • Be specific in what you write

  • Be concise, you only have around 450 words in which to make your statement.

Completing pre-university courses in your subject, such as those offered by Cambridge International Academy, are also a great way to demonstrate your commitment to your studies.


Your personal statement is your opportunity to show who you are, what you do and why, outside of your academic grades. It’s important to make the most of it, and a good one will strengthen your application.



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