This week really is the final call for anyone who is considering studying in the UK or Northern Ireland. The deadline for the majority of applications to UCAS — the British equivalent of the CAO — is normally January 15 but, this year, the deadline has been extended to January 26. This excludes applications to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary studies, as well as all courses in Oxford and Cambridge, the deadline for which was October 15.
The UCAS application is quite different from the CAO form. The CAO does not call for any significant personal information from applicants. ndeed, the most challenging part of completing the CAO is considering the courses for which to apply and in what order to place them. The UCAS application is quite different and institutions want to know much more about the individual candidate. They gather this information from tools such as a personal statement, an academic reference and predicted grades. As a result, it can take longer to complete an application to a good standard. So, if any individual is still considering applying to UCAS, it really is time to get it completed if you have not already done so.
All UCAS applications are made online through ucas.com. Students should first use this website to search for courses and institutions in which they may be interested. Secondly, they should contact the institution to enquire about Irish Leaving Cert entry requirements, fees and any other requirements such as aptitude testing. Students may apply for up to five courses in a normal UCAS application.
Applicants are required to submit information about their education, including Junior Cert results and Leaving Cert subjects. They should list any work experience they may have and enter personal details. The main difference, however, is the emphasis placed on the personal statement, academic reference and predicted grades. Personal statements benefit from redrafting and input from adults such as parents and teachers.
A personal statement is the applicant’s chance to sell themselves to the college and should explain why the college should choose them. While including any work experience or extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the course is important, applicants must also give the college an idea of their academic interests and work style. Showing that the applicant understands the skills, qualities and aptitudes necessary for a particular area of study or work and examples of where the applicant has used or developed the same skills, qualities and aptitudes is very helpful.
Those applying in the ‘individual applicants’ category will be required to enter the email address of a referee. Applicants should ask the person they would like to be their referee before entering their email. The referee can be any person who knows the student well but they should be able to comment on their academic ability, work rate, style of learning and problem solving etc. Therefore most applicants ask a teacher. This person will also be asked to enter predicted grades for every Leaving Cert subject the student is taking. Predicted grades are a teachers’ best guess at what the applicant might achieve at Leaving Cert in June. The applicant should check with their school to be advised on how they might collate this information. Given the amount of work involved for teachers in supporting a student’s UCAS application and the wish that all teachers have to support their students to the best of their ability, allowing the teachers as much time as possible to complete this work is essential. It may also be helpful to provide the referee with a copy of the personal statement and information on the applicant’s achievements and experience to support them in their work. With a week to go until the deadline, it is time to make the decision about a UCAS application and work hard to get it done, or move on and focus on other aspects of the final school year.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin