In UCAS you can apply to a maximum of five university courses.  Make sure to pick the right choices by having the answers to these 9 questions.

1.  What Are the Course Details?

When selecting your UCAS choices, don’t make the mistake of choosing the courses with the best titles.  A course title on its own doesn’t tell you much about what you will study.

Courses can have similar titles and be quite different. Or courses can have different titles and be very similar.

Before selecting a course to include in your UCAS application, have a close look at the course details to find answers to these questions:

  • What is the overall aim of the course?  What will you gain by studying it?
  • Who is the typical student?
  • What modules and topics will you study? Is the course very specialised? Are there any electives?  Is the course practical or theoretical – or both?
  • How will you learn?  Will you have lectures, seminars, workshops, laboratory work, course work or exams?
  • Does the course offer any additional opportunities like a year abroad or an internship?
  • What are your career options? What jobs did the previous students get?
  • How many students are on the course?
  • What is the ‘student to staff ratio’.  Some will say a lower ratio is better.  So, a ratio of 10:1 is better than a ratio of 20:1, because there are fewer students in the classroom. However, not everyone agrees with this. We recommend that you look at the SSR, but that you decide for yourself how important it is compared to other factors.

2. What Are the Entry Requirements?

To select the right courses to include in your UCAS application, have a good look at the admissions requirements. Only apply to courses that you have a realistic chance to get into.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply to a course if your grades are slightly lower. If you still have exams to take or have additional qualifications that you think will help, have the confidence to apply.

In the UK, universities set their own entry requirements and can be flexible.

However, if the entry requirements are a lot higher than what you’ve got or than what you predict you’ll achieve, ask yourself if it’s worth applying.

3. How Many Years Is the Course?

In the UK, undergraduate degrees last three years, but there are many cases where they can be longer. Just to list a few examples:

  • At Scottish universities, undergraduate degrees take four years to complete.
  • Courses in some subjects, such as medical subjects and engineering, are also longer than three years.
  • Courses that involve a preparatory year, an internship, or a year abroad will be longer.

4. When Is the Next Intake?

When selecting courses to apply to, it’s always useful to check when the next course start date is.

In the UK, undergraduate courses usually start at the end of September or in early October each year. However, a number of UK universities also offer a January or February start for at least some of their courses.

So, if you’ve missed the autumn intake and don’t want to wait another year, you may be able to find suitable courses that start sooner.

5. How Much Will It Cost?

When you select the courses to apply to, you will no doubt also consider the course cost.  By course cost, we mean the total cost of the degree,  not just the tuition fees.

Course tuition fees can vary a lot from university to university.  However, living expenses – and rent in particular – will be higher or lower depending on location.

Also, think about how you will pay for your studies.  Could you fund your entire degree without a scholarship?  International scholarship schemes are available, but the application process is competitive.  Also, many scholarships help with only a small part of the cost.

6.  What Is the University’s Reputation?

We would like to say two things about university rankings:

1. League tables aren’t everything when choosing a university or course.

2. Ranking and reputation are not always the same thing.

Yet, understandably, rankings do matter to many students. They can also matter to employers, as well as other universities, should you decide to apply for a Masters after graduating.

So, looking at university or subject rankings is absolutely fine and we would also recommend it.  But when deciding what courses to apply to, do consider other factors as well, not just rankings.

When looking at ranking tables, do pay attention to what areas they actually assess.  Ask yourself, how is this relevant to you?

If a university website says “Voted Best University…” or “No. 1…” always look at the details: What is the university best in? Who decided?  In which year? What about other years?

Above all, how does this matter to you and your future plans?

7.  Where is the University Located?

This may sound obvious, but a university location is very important when selecting the courses to apply to.

Perhaps you would prefer to be in or near a big city. Or you find smaller towns or the countryside more attractive.  If you’ve visited the UK or have family and friends here, you may be looking to live in a specific part of the UK.

Many universities have a single campus, others don’t have a campus at all and their facilities are in different places within the same city or town.  Yet others will have more than one campus.  Either in the same city or in different cities or regions in the UK.

8.  What Is It Like to Be a Student There?

Your study abroad experience is about more than just your degree. You will not only study your course for at least three years, but you will also live in a new place, meet new people, and experience new things.

So, have a good look at the student activities available at the university, such as the clubs and societies run by its ‘students’ union’.

Also look at the university’s facilities.  Are there any student accommodation halls, a gym, shops, and a choice of places to eat on campus?

What is the local area like?  Is there a well-connected train station nearby?  And is there a good choice of shops, cafés and restaurants?

All these things will make a difference to your life as a student.  Do consider them when selecting the courses to apply to.

9.  What Do Other Students Say?

Hearing directly from other students can be helpful when deciding on the courses to include in your UCAS application.

Most course websites will have messages from happy students talking about their great experience there. These views are real.  But you won’t know what it’s going to be like for you to study with a university or on a specific course based on a short testimonial from a student.

If you think this would help you, see if the university can put you in touch with a student from the course you’re thinking of applying to.  Many universities have student or alumni ambassadors that may be able to help with some of the questions you have.

Or you could consider posting a message on the university’s social media pages where other students will be able to reply to you directly.

Summary

In your UCAS application, you can include a maximum of five courses to apply to.  You, therefore, have to select your UCAS choices carefully.

Not only should you ask yourself if you would be happy to study any of the courses if you were to get an offer.  Consider also your chances of getting an offer – Always be ambitious but also realistic.

The only way to select the right UCAS choices is by getting a good amount of information and details before you apply.  In this post, we’ve given you 9 questions to get answers to.  You may have some more.

If you can’t find answers to any of your questions, don’t be shy to contact the university.  They will be happy to help.

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