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UCAS deadline – it’s “make your mind up” time

Do you have pupils who still think that university isn’t the right way forward? Even with only a couple of days until the UCAS deadline for applications, it could be worth doing the paperwork, just in case.

This young woman did – she got her application in just hours before the deadline only because her teachers pressed her to. She didn’t make the final decision to go until A level results day. Hear her out:

So while pupils have been told all along that they need to be ambitious and clear-headed, that they must show passion for their chosen field of study, and so on, the truth is that universities want to fill places and they are very good at seeing beyond the application forms and identifying candidates’ abilities.

Despite all your efforts to cajole them, they may not know what course they might study or what university would suit them best. But getting on a course that’s not quite right, or going somewhere they’re not sure they will like, is surely still best if the alternative is drifting away into not doing very much at all. It’s usually possible to change courses later if they really don’t like what they have enrolled on.

It might be best to bite the bullet and just meet that deadline, even if the pupil isn’t yet sure they will actually go to uni should they be offered a place. Missing the deadline isn’t the end of the world, but then you end up in Clearing or having to put a lot of graft into contacting universities directly – something undecided pupils are unlikely to find a sudden motivation for.

Roshan Walkerley, a higher education adviser at the University of East Anglia, said: “You can withdraw your application at any time and you only lose £23, but applying after the deadline can put you at a real disadvantage.”

So there are important questions pupils should ask themselves if they think three or four years at university isn’t what they want.

What would they do instead?

  • Get a job – If they have work they can get into without difficulty, and they know that not having a degree won’t be a hindrance, then great.
  • Take a gap year – This can be very valuable learning in its own right, but they should consider applying now and deferring entry. Having a start date for a course makes that gap year a self-contained thing, rather than a year off from which they may never return to study. For some it might be a chance to get some money in the bank, for others it may actually be quite an expensive year. Here are some considerations for those wanting to take a gap year.
  • Do an apprenticeship – This could be the best option if they are set on a particular occupation, know what they want to achieve and are eager to get on with it. Be aware that some apprenticeships are more competitive to get into than a place at Oxford.

Do they need a degree?

If they want to go into work, or workplace training, that’s all very well. But if they want to pursue a career in a particular field or industry, is a degree important if they really want to make a success of it?

It might not matter what they study, just as long as they get a degree. If they haven’t yet found that out about the careers that interest them, they still have a chance to do so.

Should they be worried about the cost?

Yes, going to uni sounds expensive, but student loans are a very cheap way of borrowing money, as we have explained on UniBox before.

There may be bursaries or sponsorships that can help them, though at this stage of the process those are unlikely to be things they can factor in for this year.

Can they do it in a non-traditional way?

If the pupil is concerned about being away from home, they could apply somewhere local.

Perhaps they have circumstances that make it seem impossible to commit to a degree course. They could look at whether a part-time degree or an Open University course would allow them the flexibility they need.

Have they heard what others have to say?

They can start with this video by the Times and Sunday Times on the pros and cons of going to university:


There will be lots of links, alongside that video, to videos made by young people talking about their own experiences and choices. These may be much more influential that what a bunch of men and women in suits have to say.

Follow UCAS on Twitter for more information about getting that application done.

Posted by Nicholas Manthorpe on Tue, 14 Feb 2017

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Nick was a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and its sister weekly titles in Norfolk and Waveney, then served as Media Officer for North Norfolk District Council for 13 years. He now works as a writer and PR and media relations consultant. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an associate member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of East Anglian Writers.

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