Fundamentals of Applying to University and College

Home | School Students | S5Hub | Fundamentals of Applying to University and College

Fundamentals of Applying to University and College

If you are thinking about applying to university or college, the key thing is to get prepared! Leaving it all until the last minute means that you risk making some wrong choices or bad decisions. It’s best to start your preparation towards the end of S5, and carry it on over the summer and into S6.          

Although you will have had a couple of years of disruption in school, don’t be worried about moving forward in your applications to higher education. You have gained some excellent skills from this experience, for example, independent learning, adaptability, working remotely, coping with new technology and resilience. There are also many people ready to support you on the path. Families, friends, teachers, the LEAPS team, careers advisers, university and college staff are all available to help you get this right.

In this blog post, we will cover a few fundamental things to start to think about as you prepare to apply for this next step.

Online resources and support from LEAPS

Go and check out our online space for S5 students, the S5Hub.

The S5Hub contains blogs posts on all sorts of information and guidance for pupils starting their university or college research. Lots of what is covered in this short blog post is covered in much more detail on the S5Hub, as well as links to other opportunities and sources of information and support. The blog posts cover topics which are directly relevant to you, for example, looking at the importance of open days, how to read a university prospectus, and mental health and wellbeing resources. We update it regularly, so make a point of checking it out as you go through the process.

The basics of applying to college or university

When you come back to school in S6, your school will be encouraging you to start completing your applications for university through UCAS. Why we feel it is important to introduce this topic in S5, is that it gives you time to get prepared and be ready to make some strong applications when the time comes.

You will have 5 choices on your UCAS form. There is a difference for Medicine or Vet Medicine applications, where you can only use 4 choices for those subjects and then one choice for a different back-up subject. But for all other subjects, you can have 5 choices. There are thousands of courses to choose from, and remember you are not limited to what you have already studied at school.

The UCAS equal consideration deadline is usually late January, but schools usually want things done much earlier; certainly by the Christmas holidays. Some courses have earlier deadline, so check the UCAS website to be sure.

If you are applying to college, then you will apply to colleges directly at a slighter later time; usually December or January. This means you can apply to as many colleges as you like. Many people apply to both university and college, as this gives you more than one option and it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan.

Choosing – Key Questions

It’s likely you’re in the process of trying to decide what you want to study at university or college. It can be a tricky decision to make and it’s really key to get it right so you can enjoy your college or university experiences.  Here are some key points you might want to consider when choosing what to study and where. Click on the arrow at the start of each point to discover some helpful tips!



Entry Qualifications and Routes

Make sure you are clear on the entry requirements asked for by the university or college. You need to make sure you have the right subjects for Highers. Also check if any Nat 5 qualifications are required; for example Nat 5 Maths can sometimes be necessary. Some courses require Advanced Highers, but the majority of courses do not need you to have these. Have a good look at the university website and read all the small print to make sure you have got this right.

LEAPS can discuss this with you at any time, but specifically in S6 at your LEAPS Pre-UCAS Interview. But it's important to make any school subject changes as soon as you can, so try and plan ahead.

University courses tend to need 4 or 5 Highers for entry, and college courses tend to need 2 or 3 Highers for entry.

Remember that if you go to college for a HNC or a HND course, you can use this course to get into university and you may even be able to go straight into second or third year of university. Find out more about college and alternative routes into a degree here.

Subject and Career Exploration

Once you’ve decided on an area, and the courses you are going to apply for, bear in mind that admissions teams at university and college like to see evidence that you have researched your course and that you understand what you’re applying for. Many courses are linked to careers, such as health professions or law, and it might be useful to try to undertake some career exploration or work experience. Other courses like to see evidence of you looking more into the subject, maybe with some reading or by attending relevant events. Have a look at our Career and Course Exploration blog post to help you. Also have a look at our blog post on Strengthening your Application to University and College.

This course exploration is time well spent. It can show whether the course is right for you, or whether you need to think again. It can point you in a new and different direction, which might end up being the right one. It’s easier for you to change direction in your research stage than half way through a course!

Good luck, and remember you can contact LEAPS at any time using our email address, phone number or social media channels.

Here are some more blog posts you might like to read!

Strengthening your Application to University and College

University & College Contact Details

Career and Course Exploration

The Student View

S5 Parents' & Carers' Information Session