A step-by-step guide to filling in your UCAS form

UCAS form application

By Nicole Correia,

Filling in your UCAS form and applying to university can seem stressful and long-winded, but if you are organised and have done your homework, the process will be seamless. Preparation is key.  It is important to have done some prior research to make sure that your application is successful, and to ensure that you do not miss any of the deadlines set by UCAS.

The research needed is personal to each individual student; it involves noting down which universities offer the course of your choice, the qualification requirements for these courses, as well as your predicted grades and schooling achievements to date. This is just the start. The guide below will help you through the process, the research, and those much needed moments when you draw a blank filling in the UCAS form.

Before we get started, the most important thing to do is check the deadline date for your application. This may seem a given, but dates differ for criteria including the university and course you are applying for. If, for example, you wish to study at Oxford or Cambridge or within the fields of medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine/science, the UCAS application deadline will be earlier than others. Make sure your application deadlines are clear and that you work ahead of them.

Preparation before filling in the UCAS form

Once you have decided which course(s) to apply for and which universities you aspire to attend, you should begin to plan for arguably the most important part of your application; your personal statement. This is your chance to stand out from the mass of applications and sell yourself to the university. Note, it needs to be original. UCAS use copy detection software from past and present applications, so don’t try to be too ‘clever’!

Personal statement tips:

  • Note down points on what you wish to include. Try and create an ‘all-rounder’ image for yourself. Grades are important, but with thousands of students applying it is important to introduce yourself positively, as an important individual.
  • Start with reasons for your choice – if you are opting to continue on the same path, explain why. If Joint Honours, explain why you see the link between the subjects as beneficial. 
  • Mention extra-curricular involvements, awards, and interests, as well as any qualifications and positions of responsibility you have held. 
  • Get opinions from others who know you - speak to one of your subject teachers. They are likely to know you fairly well at this stage, and should be willing to help run through it with you. Show your first draft to another for a second opinion; compare their comments. There will no doubt be some discrepancy, but it’s good to get different viewpoints. This is your statement, so you should make the authoritative decision.
  • Your statement cannot be more than 4,000 characters, and you have 47 lines to use. However, UCAS have said that occasionally there is a problem with the last line and it can get lost in transmitting it between universities. Be as concise as you can to avoid this risk and don’t stretch to the last line.
  • You can use quotations if you feel they add something, but ultimately universities want to hear from you; not just what others have said about you.
  • Proof-read your statement carefully – a couple of spelling mistakes could make the difference between you getting your first choice or not. Is it really worth the risk?
  • Remember, your personal statement will not be ready overnight. If it is, it’s likely it will need re-working. Give yourself a couple of weeks to perfect it.

Filling in the UCAS Form

Once you have a final draft of your personal statement, you need to register with UCAS. A few pointers here:

  • You will need an ‘appropriate’ email address - admissions officers see these, so drunkdave22@hotmail.com wouldn’t be the best choice
  • You’ll need your ‘buzzword’- a password provided by your school or college - be sure to write it down somewhere safe
  • Make sure you have to hand your:
    • GCSE results 
    • Any other certificates of achievement (including Duke of Edinburgh, dance or musical grades)
    • Passport
    • Payment card details 
    • Someone to read it all through to check for mistakes

You do not have to complete your UCAS application all at once; you can save it and come back to it at various stages. The most important thing is to have filled it in carefully. It will also be worth creating a ‘University’ folder on your email account - to organise all your UCAS emails and university information. It is important to know where to find these pieces of information, especially after your application goes through and you want to organise your offers and make important decisions.

Alix Delany, Assistant Head of Admissions at UEA, spoke to us about her her experience with UCAS applications and gave some crucial advice for prospective students. Alix told us that the “most crucial mistake an applicant can make is to make assumptions.  For instance, a student might not think it is important to put in that extra AS because they thought it wasn’t a very good grade.” With this in mind, it reinforces the fact that you must have all your achievement certificates ready as this could be the difference between an offer or rejection: “If the student is being reviewed after results because they have not quite met the conditions of their offer, that additional AS or GCSE could make all the difference.  So, my advice would be give your full academic history, no matter what the grades are or how irrelevant you think they might be to the University, as you could be missing an opportunity.”

Clearing up some confusion

There are some parts of the UCAS application which are not quite so clear, and many students are unsure as to how to proceed. The key thing here is not to ‘guess’ – seek advice and speak to the appropriate person. Do not call UCAS admissions for this purpose; you will need to speak to your school or parent/guardian. Think about it; this is the next three years of your life – definitely worth a couple of hours of research.

  • Student support number - ‘Homebe students’ are students that apply within the UK. Most home students need 02 (Local Education Authority) as their student support number on the form. (01 is for private finance and 99 is for other.) Be aware of the importance in getting the small details correct.
  • Parents’ occupations - you need to provide the occupation of the parent with the higher-earning wage. If they are temporarily unemployed or retired, simply fill in their last occupation.
  • Achievements - make sure you are accurate with the titling. There are many different qualifications for similar subjects and you want to be recognised for the one you achieved.
  • UCAS Track password - it may seem trivial but it is important to remember your password for UCAS Track. If you forget it numerous times you will be blocked and unable to access your university offers.

What happens next…

University of Exeter’s Head of Admissions, Ian Blenkharn, advised is on what happens after you have applied through UCAS: “When you have received decisions from all the universities to which you have applied, you will need to notify UCAS of your decision; you will need to select one firm (i.e. first choice) university and, if your firm choice is a conditional offer and you have been made other offers, one insurance choice university.” The deadline for this decision will be a date provided by UCAS Track, but for most applicants it is in May.

It really is important to take your time filling in your UCAS form and make sure you've done your research properly. If the grades aren't what you expected on results day, whether it be good or bad, if you've researched and looked at your options properly then you'll quickly have to hand who you need to contact next about your options. On behalf of theunipod, wishing you the best of luck during your exam period and with  progress for UCAS Track! See you on the other side!