What Universities Want
What Universities Want
Catherine Baldwin (Head of Recruitment and Admissions) gives expert video advice on: What is the first thing universities look for in an application?; Will universities be interested in my career plans?; Is it a good idea to take a gap year? and more...
What is the first thing universities look for in an application?
When the application forms come into the universities, the universities probably, first and foremost, will be looking to see that you meet the minimum entry requirements for a course, whether those minimum entry requirements are in terms of scores or grades at A level, or in an alternative vocational qualification. And all of those will be written, the predicted and actual scores will be written on the application form.
Will universities be interested in my career plans?
Universities will be interested in the career plans of a student, but not excessively so. There's an opportunity for students to write that into a personal statement but the personal statement shouldn't really focus too heavily on the career plan.
Is it a good idea to take a gap year?
The issue of gap years varies from univeristity to university and from course to course. Some coursed in universities are actually very keen on students who have perhaps taken a gap year and have that extra year of maturity. Or have some relevant experience under their belt; relevant for the course they want to take. However there are other universities that are equally happy to take students straight from A-levels. So what I would recommend is students who are thinking of taking a gap year just take a look at the institutional web site to see what the policy is of the institution or course on students taking a gap year.
Will universities want to know about my extracurricular activities?
Universities will want to know about a student's extracurricular activities. And there's an opportunity in the person's statement for students to write about that. But what's important to do in the process, when writing about extracurricular activities, whether it' s sports or debating or even working in a shop or in a law firm or anything like that, it's important to stress what the student has derived from that experience. We don't really want to see a list of, "Well, I've been the football captain, the debating team captain and in my spare time I underwater basket weaving.” if the student doesn't link that to what they've gained out of it, the skills that they've got out of it.
What are the most common mistakes made in applications?
The most common mistakes in applications are probably inattention to detail and inadequate planning and structuring, really in the personal statement. On a UCAS form most of the answers can be slotted in very obviously into certain parts of the form. The part of the form where the student has much more freedom is actually the personal statement, and that is where most of the mistakes will be generated. So they may be obvious mistakes like punctuation or grammar mistakes, which universities will pick up on, and then they can move into simply badly structured personal statements, or personal statements that focus too much on information that universities really aren't that interested in.