UCAS applications involve so much more than just your predicted grades. Here are our top tips to make yours really stand out from the crowd.

1. Read the right books

One of the best ways to show your interest in a subject is to read about it. Find the most important books related to your subject and read as many of them as you can. Better yet, get your hands on the books and articles written by academics at the universities you want to apply for. This preperation will usually help you stand out when you begin your course and may even free up time for you at university.

2. Start a society

Does your school/ college/ local area have a society related to the degree that you want to do? If not, start one! This is a great way to show initiative and passion for a subject. It may be a challenge but you can guarantee that very few of the people you're competing against will have even tried something like it.

Student working at laptop with book

3. Volunteer

Any kind of voluntary service is a good addition to an application, but it’s best if you can get something relevant. For example, consider doing some voluntary teaching on your subject to young children. This will show the people reading your UCAS application that your passion for the subject extends beyond your academic life.

4. Reread your application

It may be tedious checking through your application over and over, but it's the best way to spot mistakes and rethink what you’ve written. The admissions officers reading your applications will usually notice the thoroughness.

5. Make a timetable

Leaving your entire application until the night before you submit it is sure to stress you out and harm your chances. Set out well in advance when you want to have each section completed and then stick to the timetableOrganising your time better will allow you to focus on every part of your application evenly and the end result won't be rushed or uneven.

Students working in library, perhaps on a UCAS application?

6. Get a second opinion

Ask a parent, teacher or friend that you you trust to read through your application and give you honest feedback. Listen to criticism and see how what improvements you can make. This is especially useful for spotting grammatical or spelling errors that are easy to miss. But remember that it is still your application and that you have the final say.

7. Do Some Research ABOUT your COURSE

There are loads of online resources that provide detailed information about different university course, what they will be looking for in a student, and about undergraduate life in general. Take the time to do the research in order to form a clearer picture of what you’ll actually be doing day-to-day on your course. You can then reference this in your UCAS personal statement and demonstrate a clear knowledge of your chosen discipline. For example, if you are studying English consider talking about how much you enjoy the opportunity to focus on coursework over exams. 

Student researching their UCAS application

8. Choose Your Priorities

You can’t fit your entire life story into a personal statement (and UCAS probably wouldn't want to hear it anyway). Make a list of the things you think are worth mentioning in your application and order them by importance. For instance, you should definitely mention relevant extracurricular activity but probably won't need to talk about your sporting achievements unless they are connected to your degree. Fit as much into your statement as you can, but make sure the things at the top of the list come first.

9. Make SUre YOU Have your evidence

Every claim you make about your skills and experience should be backed up with evidence (ideally something that you’ve done or read). Draw up a table with two columns: write down your strengths in the left column and put the relevant evidence on the right. You can then refer back to this when you need to prove one of your strengths in your personal statement or in an interview. This will make you stand out from people who make claims about themselves that they cannot prove.

10. Pause for thought 

When you’re in the middle of the UCAS process, it can be easy to get frustrated and lose sight of why you are applying for your course in the first place. Make sure you take time to reflect and think carefully about why you want to go to university in the first place. Also be sure to give yourself time to rest and have fun. If you can stay in touch with a genuinine interest in your subject, your passion will often show through what you write.

A student unwinding after finishing work

This article originally appeared in our comprehensive guide to UCAS applications, The Essential Guide to Applying to University. To get the complete ebook and for more useful resources to help you through the higher education process, sign up for our resources here

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