Strengthening your Application to University and College

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Strengthening your Application to University and College

This blog post will look at how to strengthen your application to university or college, focussing on your personal statement.

When you apply to university or college, your application will be considered by course selectors or admissions staff. In most cases, institutions will receive more applications for a course than there are spaces available. This means that it’s important that you submit the best and most competitive application that you can.

What are the selectors looking for and how can you make your application stand out?

Some things that selectors will look at are:

Grades (both achieved and predicted), Relevant Subjects and School Reference

You will need certain grades to be considered for entry to your course. You will also need to make sure you are sitting any subjects that are specifically asked for. You can check subject requirements on university and college websites. 

Your school will also write a reference for you that will be attached to your application form. This reference will include your predicted grades for S6. Some universities use these as part of their selection process, so it’s important to work hard from the start of S6 and not leave all your efforts to nearer exam time.

Personal Statement

This is a part of your application to college or university, where you get to talk about you and your experiences in relation to the courses you’re applying for. You work on this in S6, and it is another part of the application that selectors really look at. You should be looking to include some things that are directly relevant to the course you want to study, and you will also want to include things that give you great transferable skills i.e. time management, leadership, independence and communication.

Things that people typically include in their personal statement are:

  • Evidence of practical skills i.e. for things like music, dance, drama, journalism.
  • Enthusiasm for the courses you are applying for.
  • Career exploration or evidence of interest in the subject.
  • Motivation and attitude to study.
  • Experiences and achievements e.g. buddying, prefect, playing sport competitively.
  • Certificates or qualifications from outside school: lifeguarding qualifications, first aid, Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Here are a couple of case studies to show you what kind of things should go into a personal statement for college or university.

 

 

 

Case Study 1: Graphic Design.

If you were trying to make a personal statement to support an application to a course in Graphic Design, the list below might give you an idea of what could be good to include.

Things that would be directly relevant to the course would be:

  • Dabbling at home on Photoshop/other design software.
  • Following designers on Instagram and posting some of your own work.
  • Completing a photography course at school.
  • Making films with pals at the weekend.

Things which would give good transferable skills could be:

  • S1/S2 reading buddy in school.
  • Part time job.
  • Spending time learning a musical instrument.

Case Study 2: Nursing

If you were trying to make a personal statement to support an application to a course Nursing, the list below might give you an idea of what could be good to include.

Things that would be directly relevant to the course would be:

  • Helping in an additional support needs unit at school.
  • Work experience in a community hospital.
  • Becoming a befriender at a care home.
  • Health care setting work experience.

Things which would give good transferable skills could be:

  • Training to be a barista at a local café.
  • Walking neighbour’s dog regularly (paid).
  • Long distance running.

Case Study 3: History

If you were trying to make a personal statement to support an application to a course in History, the list below might give you an idea of what could be good to include.

Things that would be directly relevant to the course would be:

  • Interest in current affairs/reading.
  • Doing some reading about specific areas of History that are of interest.
  • School debating society.

Things which would give good transferable skills could be:

  • Volunteering in Oxfam shop.
  • P7 mentoring.
  • Mountain biking in spare time.
  • School film club.
  • Charities committee.
  • School rugby team.

Reflect

Think about yourself for a moment. What skills and experiences do you have that you could put into your personal statement? Do you have things that relate directly to what you hope to study? Do you have things that can demonstrate your transferable skills? Or do you need to work on picking up some more opportunities.

Remember, our Career and Course Exploration blog post is a good place to start. You can use your time between S5 and S6, over the summer, to strengthen your application.

If you still feel you don’t know what you would like to study, have a think about the following questions:

  • Look at your experiences and interests so far – do any of them point to something you might want to study?
  • Look at the subjects you currently enjoy at school and see how they are taught in colleges and universities. Does that lead you to new bits of these subjects that you didn’t know about before? Does any of this sound interesting?
  • Speak to your family, friends and teachers. Do they have any ideas? (Remember it’s great to take advice but in the end it has to be your decision.)
  • Visit universities and have a look round. Universities and colleges run open days every year. It’s good to attend as many of these as you can to get a feel for what is available to you and where.
  • Read our Fundamentals of Applying to University and College blog post, as there is more choosing advice included there. There will be other posts on the S5Hub that can help too.
  • Remember, LEAPS will be available to call on Results Day, if you want to chat over options with us at that point.

 

 

We also have a blog post on Starting your UCAS Personal Statement and one on Editing your UCAS Personal Statement which you might find helpful.

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

Fundamentals of Applying to University and College

University & College Contact Details

The Student View

Career and Course Exploration

S5 Parents' & Carers' Information Session