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A parents’ guide to applying to UK universities – 3 things you need to know

Why go to university?

The UK is safe and stable with a long history of university education dating back to the 15th Century. There are more than 140 universities of all types and there really is something for everyone. With the cost of tuition fees and ever-expanding alternatives to UK university (university in the USA or EU), as well as apprenticeships or other direct employment schemes, the first question to ask is why go to university at all?

  • University is a great choice because your son or daughter will be immersed in an academic or vocational subject, and they will have access to world class facilities and technology.

  • Universities have great links with industry which feeds into graduate employment opportunities through partnerships and networking.

  • Living alone for the first time helps students to be confident and independent and they will build lifelong personal and professional relationships.

Find out how to choose the best UK university here!

What’s involved in the UCAS application process?

The application is through one central portal and students make 5 choices only (4 for Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science). The application is submitted at the beginning of Year 13. It’s important to understand the whole process and to start early with the UCAS process (start at beginning of Sixth Form). Students should build evidence of skills, experience, passions, interests, and course choices for their application over a period of 12 to 18 months. The process requires a complete academic record including GCSE results and predicted A Level, IB/BTEC grades if applying in Year 13. UCAS accepts alternative qualifications from all over the world.

The personal statement (4000 characters including spaces) is a motivation statement and is a very important part of the UCAS application. Some universities and courses require additional testing, audition or portfolio and families should allow plenty of time to prepare and fine-tune. Finally, an academic reference is required, usually from your school and that should support what the student has said in the personal (motivation) statement.

How to choose best fit universities?

This is such an important and time-consuming part of the application but, to have the best chance of receiving offers and your child loving their time at university, the research needs to be done thoroughly. The final 5 choices need to feel right to your family. Spend a lot of time on research using the UCAS portal and Unifrog (access to included in packages if you work with TIEC). Create a spreadsheet to look at all aspects of each university including course structure, costs, location, clubs and societies, travel links, campus type and size, accommodation options, teaching reputation, student feedback and employment rates.

Students should make sure that they are likely to meet the academic requirements of the course and it’s important to take a deep dive into the course structure to make sure it matches preferred learning and assessment styles. Some courses are exam focussed and others assess through coursework so it’s important to make sure the course is well suited to each student’s individual learning preferences.

Would you like further support with your child’s university application?

Our Careers and Higher Education advisory services are designed to take the stress out of career and higher education decision making, by building on careers guidance and research done in school. Get in touch with our expert team to find out more!

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