UCAS – What it is, what it does and why you need to know
If you are thinking about applying to university in the future, the chances are you’ve already heard of an organisation called UCAS.
UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is a centralised service that prospective students use to apply for higher education (HE) courses in the UK. UCAS is responsible for managing and processing over 2.7 million applications each year from around 700,000 UK, EU and international students who are applying to study at 395 different UK universities and colleges.
As an applicant, you can use UCAS’s online services to research, select and apply to a maximum of 5 courses at universities. This is primarily via the ‘Apply’ function, through which you submit all the required components of your application before UCAS sends this electronically to your chosen universities. On receiving your application, the universities then decide whether to offer you a place to study there or not.
UCAS is designed to help students find the right university and help universities to find the right students (whilst ensuring that the process goes as smoothly as possible). To find out more about UCAS and explore the full range of HE courses available, you can visit the UCAS website.
Personal statements explained
The personal statement forms a vital part of any UCAS application and can play a significant role in whether an applicant is offered a study place. It’s a short reflective essay that aims to explain to universities why you are the perfect candidate for the undergraduate degree course you’re applying to. It’s a chance for you to articulate in detail why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills, knowledge and experience you possess that show your passion and suitability for your chosen field. The university admissions tutors (staff who read personal statements and allocate places) want to know exactly why they should select you!
It’s important to note that you only write one personal statement, which is seen by all the universities you apply to. There is also a strict word limit - you have to write your statement in just 47 lines or 4,000 characters, which means you have to be concise and make every word count!
Whilst there isn’t a definite formula for a successful personal statement, there are some helpful points to bear in mind. Firstly, before you start writing it is really important to be clear in your mind about what course or subject you want to study. Without this specific focus firmly established, it is very difficult to write a clear statement.
Being enthusiastic about the course that you are applying for is also vital. It is important to convey this inspiration and drive through outlining any relevant activities and experiences you have had (such as work experience, voluntary work, wider reading around your subject or extracurricular activities), what you’ve gained from your involvement in these and how this relates back to your course.
Be aware that writing a quality personal statement takes time, so it is definitely a good idea to start the process early to avoid rushing and missing out important information. Taking your time will also allow you to produce a number of drafts and to gain useful feedback from your teachers/tutors prior to submission.
The personal statement forms a part of the overall UCAS application, which includes personal details, educational and employment history, HE course choices, any special needs or disabilities and references from school or college staff.
For more advice on writing your statement (including do’s and don’ts, structuring your statement and subject specific personal statement guides), please see:
Which University Personal Statment Guide
UCAS' Personal Statment Guide