Note: all of the dates below apply if you are applying for 2018 entry (i.e. you will be starting university in September 2018). The key dates I will refer to can be found on UCAS’s website.
Waiting for university offers
If you’re applying to universities, then you’re probably using UCAS to submit your application. The 2018 deadline for most applications was 2 months ago, but there is still plenty of time before universities are obliged to respond. The decision deadline for universities is 3rd May, so they could reply as early as the day you apply, or as late as May. From today (15th March), that could leave as much as 7 weeks of waiting time.
If you receive an offer from a university, the temptation could be to immediately accept the offer before they take it away from you! Fear not, if you receive an offer by 31st March, you have until 2nd May to either accept or decline the offer. Offers received after 31st March must be replied to by 7th June. My advice here would be to take as long as you need to make the right decision. Ensure you consult your family, friends and teachers for advice regarding your own unique situation; deciding where you want to spend the next 3 or more years of your life isn’t an easy decision.
Research the universities you’ve applied to
Hopefully, you will have already researched into the universities you’ve applied to, but there is no harm in researching after applying. After all, you’ve still got to decide between the universities you receive offers from. My top tip for research is to attend lots of open days, preferably subject-specific days. I found attending open days to be far more informative than internet-based research because you can ask questions and get an immediate response.
As well as the academic side of universities, it’s very important that you’re aware of the other factors such as location, societies, accommodation and facilities for other areas of interest (such as sport). For example, if you want to be within reach of home, you may find it helpful to draw up a table of the travel time and cost. Speaking of travel cost, make sure you’ve got a 16-25 railcard. They only cost £30 per year and they get you a ⅓ discount on off-peak train tickets, including the London Underground. If you’re travelling by train for university open days, this can save you quite a lot of money!
Your offer will probably be conditional
When universities give offers, they are usually conditional based on your A-Level grades. For example, university A may require you to achieve AAA (an A grade in 3 subjects) whereas university B may require ABB. Bear this in mind when you choose your options, having a lower grade requirement as your backup choice can leave you a fallback if your exam results weren’t as good as you were expecting. If you’re lucky, you could get an unconditional offer which means your A-Level grades don’t matter - you’re guaranteed a place. If this happens, make sure you still work on your A-Levels because your grades will follow you beyond university.
Once you’ve chosen your university choices, consider the grade requirements to be your goal. I find target-setting to be a very helpful strategy. My advice is to research the grade boundaries for your subjects so you know approximately what percentage you need in the final exams. While revising and working on past exam papers, aim to exceed your required grades because exam nerves are real and they could affect your final results.
In conclusion, there is plenty of time between now and September, don’t rush your decisions. Make sure you do lots of research into the universities you’re applying to, you will be spending the next few years of your life in the same place. Do you have any tips of your own for students applying to university? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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