December is always a busy month. Secret Santa, socialising with friends, stocking up on mince pies, wrapping up the presents. The list is never-ending. But if you’re in year 13 you may well be facing a whole new stress level this Christmas: university applications.
If so, the 15th January is no doubt etched in permanent ink on your calendar. It’s the deadline that UCAS (the University and College Application Service) has set for applications.
Your parents, cousins, aunts and uncles may well be keen to help. But, even if they are university graduates themselves, it may be some time since they had to go through an application process themselves. So, for an extra helping hand, here are our top tips for navigating your university application this Christmas:
Plan your time
Whilst a January deadline may seem cruel, the timing’s not really that bad. Think about it: better to finalise your applications when you’re having some relaxing down time with family than during term-time with all the stresses and strains of the school day. Try to plan out your Christmas break so you can spend sufficient time on your application as well as building in quality time for activities with friends and family.
Take the opportunity to think about what you want to study and why
You’re going to be investing significant time and money in your university career so do your research! Think about why you’ve chosen your particular subject area/s. What you would enjoy about the subject and how might it relate to your ideal future career? What appeals to you about the way in which the subject is taught? Will it provide the opportunity to undertake project work or gain hands on experience? Thinking around these areas can help you determine the suitability of your chosen courses as well as help you create great content for your application.
Remember: you only write one personal statement so if you’re applying to study different subjects then focus on the broader subject area, along with your interests and future aspirations, rather the details of a specific course.
Big up your experience to date
Universities don’t expect 17 or 18 year olds to have heaps of experience but they do value students who have shown initiative and gained some experience. This could be work experience, a part-time job, volunteering or club activities. If it relates to the course then big bonus points. But even, if you feel it is completely irrelevant, such as a taking part in a sport or a Saturday job in McDonalds, it still shows that you have gained valuable skills like a strong work ethic or how to be a team player.
Blow your own trumpet (but don’t blast it)
Since you were a toddler you’ve been told not to brag or boast and so it may not feel natural to talk about your strengths and all the great things you’ve done. But applications are your time to highlight all these good things so make sure you’re not doing yourself down. This said, always be honest. Never make stuff up or exaggerate – it’s usually pretty obvious when someone’s over-egged it so don’t take that risk!
Don’t copy and paste some glowing personal statement from the internet or copy what your friends have put. Stay true to yourself and your application will naturally stand out from the crowd. Sure, there are boxes to be ticked like we’ve mentioned above, such as why you want to study your subject and what experience you have gained already. But don’t copy other people!
Check your grammar and spelling.
This goes without saying but it’s worth reading your application through several times and then getting someone else to read it through. Ask that person to comment on readability, as well as spot mistakes, and to say whether your strengths are coming through strongly. It’s a good idea to use grammarly or another grammar and spelling checker, and also read it out loud as it’s harder to skim over mistakes that way.
Finally, good luck and have a Merry Christmas!