UCAS Applications and Interviews

Making the most of your application

Writing a Personal Statement

The personal statement that you submit with your UCAS application is one of the most important parts of your application. If your chosen course does not carry out interviews, it is your main opportunity to sell yourself to course tutors. If there is an interview component, a well-written Personal Statement is vital in getting you to the interview stage and will then form the basis of part of your interview. It is therefore crucial to tell the truth about your accomplishments, interests and reasons for wanting to do the course you have applied for!

What to include

Your course choice: Discuss why you have chosen to apply for the course(s) concerned. Admission tutors want to see that you are enthusiastic about your chosen subject. It may be that the course is directly relevant to your intended career, or perhaps you have studied it at GCSE or A-Level and found it particuarly enjoyable. Or perhaps your interest comes from outside the classroom? If you are applying for more than one course try to explain your reasons for each of them.

School and college life: Include details of what you studied at school or college, as well as any sporting or extra curricular activities, and positions of responsibility that you held. Universities want students who will bring not only a passion for the academic, but who will also fit into and get involved with wider university life.

Work experience: This could include work experience placements and any part-time work you have done. Work experience shows your dedication and commitment to your future career, while part time work shows you are disciplined and organised enough to hold a position of responsibility. It also means that you can balance the time spent working with your college or school commitments. If you haven't had any work experience, then it might be crucial to try and gain some, even if through volunteering. If you can demonstrate your willingness to gain experience in an appropriate field you will stand out from others who haven't!

Interests and activities: Make sure you include any other activities you are involved in outside of school such as volunteering in the community. music, team sports and any other hobbies or leisure interests. If you are taking, or have taken a Gap Year, it is useful to say why and what you gained or are hoping to gain from the experience.

Things to remember: Good spelling and grammar is incredibly important; you could be fighting for you place with other like-minded individuals and it's a simple mistake which can mean the diference between an offer or having to go through clearing.

A number of teachers are available to check your personal statement for errors and give you advice on what to include, leave out or adapt.

Make sure you give evidence to your claims - don't just say you have good leadership skills; try to give examples of why.

Don't be tempted to copy parts of someone else's statement or lift ideas from the web. UCAS has a Plagiarism Detection Service which checks forms against a statement library and web sources to ensure all statments are personally written.

Make sure you keep a copy of what you've written - if it is referred to at interview it's important that you can remember what you wrote in the first place. You can also amend it for future job applications.

Preparing for an interview

In advance: We are able to set up practise interviews for you if you wish. Speak to Mr White if you feel you would benefit from receiving this support. You may also have a member of your family or a friend who has had experience of this type of interview - ask them to help!

Make sure you have looked at the prospectus/website and know a reasonable amount about the University and course. All universities will expect that you have done some background research, and you should prepare to ask some questions which demonstrate you have taken an interest. Don't ask, 'how much is a cheese sandwich in the canteen?' though! 'I see that you are about to embark on planning and building a new IT centre at the University. Is this something that I could be involved with as an Architect undergraduate?' sounds far more like it!

Prepare questions for some of the most common interview questions such as why you have chosen that course and what your plans are for the future. Many universities have a student forum - you could try to get some inside infomration form a primary source!

Try to get a good night's sleep beforehand - if you stay up half the night preparing you won't be at your best on the day.

On the day: Dress smartly - jeans and trainers are not a good idea! You don't have to wear a suit and tie, unless you want to, but you should look like you have made the effort. You may have to wear something specific for a practical interview such as Dance or Physical Education for example, but your letter inviting you to interview should tell you what you need to wear in this instance.

Ensure that you have read the date and time right and know exactly where you have to go. Most Universities have very large campuses, sometimes spread across different parts of the city! Mrs Baker applied to Brighton University and was very surprised that her interview was at the Eastbourne Campus!

Aim to arrive in plenty of time - one hour early is better than one minute late!

Remember to bring your Record of Achievement with you, as well as any other specified work such as a portfolio, and be prepared to discuss these with the interviewer. Also, make sure you can remember what information you put into your application as you are bound to be asked about this.

During the interview: Whilst academic qualifications are really important, so are your interests and activities outside of school or college. It helps give a more rounded picture of your personality.

Employability is also highly important, so be prepared to talk about any work experience, relevant volunteering or part-time work you have done.

You are bound to be nervous so listen carefully to the interviewer and pause before answering. They won't mind if you have to ask them to repeat the question either. And if you can't answer a questions because it is too challenging try not to be put off; some universities like to find out how you will react in certain situations.