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The UCAS process: Applicants’ and Advisers’ expectations

Continuing our Dear Headteacher series, we share the following agreement between pupils and staff at Sherborne School, laying out the responsibilities that pupils and the School’s Careers Department will adopt during the university application process.

While Career Department staff across the UK do a huge amount to support university applicants, this example of an agreement makes it clear that pupils are expected to take charge of their own applications.
Does your school have a similar “contract”? If not, would it help to have one like this?

What we, in the Careers Department, expect from the student:

  • To check your emails on a daily basis and act as soon as possible on any request to come to the Careers Dept.
  • To draft a Personal Statement and start your UCAS form by the end of the summer term of Year 12; and to update it before the start of the autumn term.
  • To put in a UCAS application in Year 13, unless you have a very good reason for not doing so. Many years of experience have shown us that it is much easier for you to learn the system while you have daily support from us. Remember: you are not committing yourself to going anywhere or to studying any subject, until after you have received your A Level/IB results.
  • Oxbridge, Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary applicants to complete UCAS form by 30 September.
  • Others to complete UCAS form no later than 1 week before the autumn half term break. Submission in November runs the risk of losing offers.
  • To check whether or not you need to sit entry tests (e.g. LNAT, BMAT) and to ensure that you are entered for these.
  • To submit a paper copy of the UCAS form the Careers Dept. for checking before you click on “Pay/Send”.To take the initiative in discussing the progress of your research and application with members of the Careers Department.
  • To discuss your application with subject teachers: in particular, to discuss the predicted grades for your A level subjects to go on your UCAS form at the very beginning of the autumn term. If you have under-performed at AS, you might ask them to give another prediction by 30 September, after they have seen your progress in September.
  • To keep your reference-compiler up to date with the progress of your application and to remind him/her of any factors which you feel should be included in the reference (e.g. anything which contributed to a disappointing AS performance or characteristics which admissions tutors for your chosen courses highlight in the prospectus/website).
  • To take responsibility for:
    • conducting research into courses and universities (including whether they will allow you to defer offers later in the year, if you have not declared a gap year from the outset)
    • acting (or not) on advice which has been given (e.g. attending “taster” courses)
    • entering correct information on your UCAS application (deliberately supplying false information can have serious consequences)
    • ensuring that your Personal Statement does not contain any material taken from or given to a Personal Statement of another applicant. UCAS has very sensitive anti-plagiarism software and will report instances of copying to the universities applied to by those involved. This is likely to result in disqualification from the UCAS process.
    • checking that you have the right qualifications for the courses applied for (e.g. that you are offering A Level Maths for those Economics courses which require it)
    • applying for the courses which you intend to apply for (when we are checking the form, we might spot contradictions or omissions, but we cannot read your mind!)
    • the final content of your Personal Statement (including accepting or rejecting suggestions made by us at any stage of the process)
    • replying to UCAS and universities by the deadlines which you have been given by them
    • updating UCAS and your chosen universities on any changes in examination subjects to be offered after you submit your application (e.g. deciding to opt for AS Further Maths, rather than full A Level)
    • informing UCAS of your change of address for correspondence before you leave school (NB Every year some pupils run the risk of losing university places by failing to do this).
  • To recognise that, when you have finished your part of the form, it is not immediately sent; that reference-compilers are busy people, and increasingly busy towards the end of term; that you are one among scores of applicants.
  • To discuss your offers with the Careers Department before you choose your Firm and Insurance offers (as you may be unaware of some issues) and visit any universities under consideration.To give contact details for A level results day; to show exact details of your Firm and Insurance offers to the Careers Department; and to answer our Year 13 Questionnaire promptly.

What you, the student, should expect from the Careers Department:

  • To have as our focus helping you to find the courses which seem best to you and guiding you through the application process. We should not tell you where to go or what to study!
  • To offer a structured programme in June of Year 12: to take you on a university visit, get you launched on UCAS Apply, help you to conduct further research and to write a Personal Statement.
  • To see you individually both in June and September at designated times, and to be available at other times on a sign-up or drop-in basis.
  • To make Year 13 pupils our priority until the autumn half term break. NB In November we interview the whole of Year 11 and many of Year 12, and Year 13 pupils should recognise that we have correspondingly less time for them.
  • To offer advice on courses and universities by giving recent evidence, or to admit that we do not have recent evidence.
  • To provide materials and guidance for your further research (e.g. survey replies about HE; notes from our own university visits; “Choosing Your Course” sheets).
  • To offer advice on Personal Statements based on what, in our experience, we believe the likely reaction of an admissions tutor to be – we might suggest improvements in expression, but we shall not write it for you!
  • To get your form (including the reference) checked twice before it is submitted to UCAS and to discuss the form with you, or the reference with the referee, if we feel that it might be presented in a better way.
  • Individual mentors to be responsible for Cambridge and Oxford applications. Their role is to offer advice and to encourage you to be well ahead of deadlines in submitting any separate university application forms and any written work required.

A final note from Sherborne School Careers Department on the UCAS process:

Please note that pupils’ interests are at the heart of what we are trying to do. We welcome the opportunity to discuss applications with pupils, and their parents, at any stage.

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Posted by Dear Headteacher on Fri, 10 Feb 2017

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UniBox's 'Dear Headteacher' series brings together a complete set of guidance articles created by the Director of Higher Education and Careers at Sherborne School, Philip Rogerson, based on his 20 years' experience of helping pupils get the university places they deserve. 'Dear Headteacher' is part call to arms, part hard-headed advice and all good practice. We hope that schools across the UK get some hugely valuable insights out of this 2-week series, especially in terms of supportive advice.

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