Our aim for this section is to provide information and clarity for all staff working with students who are applying to university. The resources here are collated to offer insight into the admissions process and serve as a destination to help school staff feel more confident about supporting students.
The application process is largely controlled by UCAS but each university has their own admissions criteria. To help students make the most of higher education opportunities it is important that deadlines are explained, followed and met.
We have a clear breakdown of the timeline of a typical application cycle. Take a look at our application cycle breakdown to find out more.
It is essential that students meet the deadlines to be given “equal consideration”. This means universities must consider all applications received by this deadline equally and universities applications after this deadline will only be considered if there are spaces remaining.
If a student misses the initial deadline, don’t worry, there may still be opportunities to secure a place. Please note that for very competitive courses these options are more limited.
The quality of an application is still as important, even if a student uses one of these alternative routes, please encourage students to carefully consider courses and personal statements.
- Late Applications: If a student hasn’t applied to any university but decides they would like to attend, some courses may still accept late applications. Don’t be afraid to check with the university the student is applying to.
- UCAS Extra: If a student submitted 5 choices but isn’t holding any offers, they might be able receive one extra choice for free. It’s important this is a choice they think carefully about and might meet typical entry requirements.
Most students take their time to consider what they should include in a personal statement and they’ll often seek support from their teacher, tutor or adviser.
Make sure your students have a look at our dedicated personal statement webpages which are packed full of guidance.
Here are some quick tips to help you answer your students’ questions and ultimately support their applications:
Why is a personal statement important?
- Insight - they act as a university’s window into each student’s character
- Good practice - most job opportunities require a written statement or application
- Control - they’re an aspect of the application that students can directly control
How should they start a personal statement?
- Quotations - should only be used if a student can directly relate them to their own knowledge or experience
- Interest - demonstrating clear enthusiasm for the subject is a key part of this task
- Direct - encourage students not to waste words; every sentence counts
How do you make best use of your experiences?
- Skills - students should signpost transferable skills in all experiences
- Style - link current skills to the applying courses’ teaching style
Share this video with your students for additional help
Here are some good examples, based on the areas students tend to struggle most with.
Starting a Personal Statement
I started studying Chemistry seriously at GCSE with a session focusing on polymerisation, it acted as my hook which has led me to pursuing the study of chemistry at university. Acting on my curiosity for organic chemistry, I started to consider the relationship between the creation of polyethylene and the practical implications of chemical production to environmental detriment, particularly on air quality which is a pressing issue in my industrial hometown. I want to utilise my undergraduate study to analyse the intersections of organic, atmospheric and green chemistry.
Example - Student applying for BSc (Hons) Chemistry
The example demonstrates a clear relation to personal experience and motivation to study. There can be no doubt about the subject this student wants to study.
Using Extracurricular Activities
As a member of my school’s football and tennis teams I have crafted my teamwork skills and built an acute understanding of how to support my teammates. I’ve learnt the critical nature of effective communication which I will deploy in my Politics degree to help with small group research and to articulate my own academic arguments succinctly. In addition, I undertook fundraising work for a mental health charity. My role was to lead the project planning and logistics. It was a hugely rewarding, altruistic (or effective altruistic) experience but acted as a learning curve. I had to carefully balance my time management and self-discipline over a two month period to keep the project on track, meet fundraising targets and give sufficient time to complete academic essays. Building on this learning curve, I feel more prepared to tackle the complex aspects of academic essay construction at university.
Example - Student applying for BA (Hons) Politics.
The strong points here are the linking of extra curricular activities with skills and the course.
The Department for Education is still finalising plans for examinations, results and Results Day for students entering university in autumn 2021. Please do check our latest news for information.
Results Day is a key date in the university admissions calendar and is aligned to the date that A level results are released to students in UK schools. The exact date changes every year but is typically mid-August. UCAS keeps updated with key dates. For students studying BTECs or Scottish Higher courses, these dates vary slightly but university places will still be released on A level results day.
University insider tips:
- In preparation for results day make sure your students consider if they need a UCAS nominated contact. Universities will want to speak to the student directly where possible
- Make it clear that students must collect their results before contacting universities on Results Day
- Encourage students to sign up for vacancy alerts and to check the email address they signed up to UCAS with
There are fantastic places available in Clearing. To ensure your students make the most of the opportunities challenge them to research three or four universities and perhaps sign up for updates. You could save them valuable time by compiling a list of universities’ Clearing phone numbers which you could then send out on the morning of results day. The first step is taking a look at our clearing and adjustment pages.
If your students are wondering what it's like to use Clearing - Meet York student Matt, who can talk to your students through his experience of Clearing.
The supporting reference is a key part of the UCAS application and provides vital insight for university admissions teams from trusted educational professionals. The reference will allow a university admissions team to verify any skills or attributes that are mentioned in the personal statement, understand the context behind an application and get more detail beyond predicted grades.
Whilst universities don’t tend to see many negative supporting references, we do still see some poor examples and this could contribute to a student not receiving an accurate offer or not being accepted onto their chosen course.
Information about your school/organisation.
A good reference should give an indication of the type of school the student attends, what typical teaching provision might look like, an outline of a typical student’s experience with higher education and any barriers the school/college might have faced. The staff that assess these applications cannot remember the context of every school/college - it’s up to you to provide it.
Comments on subjects and grading
In the supporting reference we do not need confirmation of the predicted grades (these sit elsewhere on the UCAS application form). It is valuable to detail any discrepancies for being given a particular predicted grade and to give in indication of the academic trajectory of that student though. Also, given the changing world of qualifications, it can be useful to select two or three key curriculum areas that have been covered, particularly if the student has taken non-traditional qualifications.
Skill sets and attributes
If you can successfully demonstrate the core transferable skills and traits of a student the supporting reference is more likely to be successful.
Student A is an able student and is developing her ability to tackle demanding problems. She is enthusiastic about the study of physical history and interested in the complex questions this study can raise about historical understandings. Her practical work in Science is good and she clearly organises the presentation of results, analysis and evaluation. In her History studies her understanding of historiography is improving. She is keen to apply these skills to communicating and expressing her own conclusions. She participates keenly in all aspects of group work and likes the satisfaction of solving problems. She has natural flair in the application of her essay construction and I am confident that she would deploy this effectively at degree level.
Example - Student applying for BA (Hons) Archaeology
This reference clearly focuses on the subject being applied for and relevant skills form multiple subjects which would benefit the study of Archaeology.
Student B is without a doubt one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic students I have encountered. Last year our Sixth Form was in a partnership with two other educational institutions.Student B had six different staff from the local college teaching her Law, was taught the wrong social context for her English module and had to change institution and syllabus from OCR to Edexcel in Maths. Consequently, she was not initially entered for her A level Mathematics qualification. It is all credit to Student B that she demonstrated an amazing perseverance to succeed despite these adversities and has returned to continue all four of her advanced level courses. It also explains why her module results are lower than her predicted grades. I am sure that this year, with more settled and consistent teaching, Student B will improve her initial module grades through re-sits and thus give her the opportunity to achieve her full potential at university.
Example - Student applying for BSc (Hons) Economics and Finance
This reference is an example of giving context to an applicant's grades and the school/college dynamic. This information can help inform admissions teams, particularly at results time.
Some of our academic departments interview their applicants and we have a detailed page with advice for students on how to make the most of an interview. The Hull York Medical School also offers detailed advice for medicine interviews and what students might expect at their interview session.
All universities will interview applicants differently so it can be difficult to prepare students for the exact questions they might face. However, every interview is a two way process, it is as much about the student understanding the course in detail as it is about the university understanding a students strengths.
It is important to remind students of the following:
- Students will be contacted by the university if they are required to interview
- Students should read instructions carefully, there will be advice and guidance on what they can expect
- Students should express their personalities but relate answers to the skills needed to study that course
If you feel your student has experienced personal, social or domestic issues that have affected their studies and their application to a university it is important to discuss this with them. You should make yourself aware of each university's policies on accepting mitigating circumstances and use this to direct students to the appropriate information point.
It can be possible to mention these circumstances in your supporting reference as succinctly as possible and we would advise that you ask your student’s permission to include this. Students should know that the inclusion of this information is vital in helping our admissions teams build a picture of a student’s educational achievements.
At York students can complete our mitigating circumstances form if they would like to let our admissions team know about their educational challenges. Sometimes this information can have an impact at the offer-making stage or on Results Day when confirming student places.
Find out more about mitigating circumstances