The deadline for applying to UCAS is approaching quickly, but Career Guidance Counsellor Rory White from Careers Advice Northwest is here to help, particularly with the all-important personal statement.
So what is UCAS?
UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Application Service for higher education courses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the equivalent of the CAO system here. The website is www.ucas.com
Is the application process the same as the CAO?
No, it is quite different. Students can choose up to five courses and will be required to achieve specific grades rather than CAO points. Predicted grades for your Leaving Certificate and an academic reference will need to be supplied by your school guidance counsellor. However, perhaps the most important element of the UCAS application is your personal statement.
Why is the personal statement important and what should I consider when putting it together?
The personal statement is very important indeed and worth paying time and attention to. Its purpose is to make the most suitable candidates stand out. You should get your passion for your chosen area across. It should be engaging and personal and highlight the experiences and interest you have shown in the particular career area you are applying for. Any work experience or volunteer work you have done should be included as should any information sessions you have attended- this all demonstrates that you are serious about pursuing a career in the area.
Writing a vague personal statement, for instance if a student is interested in a couple of career areas, might hinder your application. Do not even think of using a sample personal statement that you have found through Google, you will be quickly found out!
Finally, get someone to look over and proof-read your statement before submitting. There are several good videos on the UCAS website that offer good tips.
What about costs and can I still apply for a SUSI grant?
The application for UCAS costs £20 if choosing one course and £26 for more than one (up to a maximum of 5)
Currently fees for courses in Northern Ireland are typically £4,395stg and up to £9,250stg in the rest of the UK.
Students eligible for the SUSI grant can still avail of the maintenance element of the grant, but SUSI will not pay for course fees. For the fees, many students avail of a student loan which can be paid back after completion of your degree, at a very minimal interest rate and when earnings are over approx. £20,000.
How and when will I know if I have been offered a place?
This is not an exact science as each college and course can be different, it is best to keep checking into the track facility for correspondence. When responses have been received from all choices made, the applicant will be given a date by which to respond to the offers. The applicant can then choose one course they have been offered as their ‘Firm’ choice and one as their ‘Insurance’ choice. All other offers must then be declined. Most offers made will be conditional and entry will be based on meeting the conditions of the offer.
Rory has been a Guidance Counsellor at Finn Valley College for the past 10 years and is a member of the Donegal Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
He also offers advice for students on careersportal.ie
Applying for college or changing careers is one of the most important and exciting decisions someone can make, and Rory will be here to offer advice and top tips on the many options that are available.