10 steps to getting into a top UK university
The UK is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world, making it a popular choice for many students looking to continue into higher education. As is the case in most countries, the UK has its own application process. To help you navigate this new territory and to give you a few pointers on what makes a successful application, we’ve put together an easy-to-follow list of 10 steps you should follow to get into a UK university.
1. Do your research
The sooner you start researching universities and courses, the better. While figuring out what you want to study is fun, choosing a course is a very important decision. Bear in mind that you’ll be working towards a degree in the subject you choose for at least three years – you want to make sure it’s something you’re genuinely interested in. Look into the structure of various courses and read as much as you can about the ones you’re interested in taking.
2. Choose your universities
Once you’ve figured out what it is you want to study, you can start deciding which universities you want to apply to. Look into UK university rankings, but don’t get too caught up in aiming for the top unis for their “prestige”. It’s worth researching which universities offer the top-rated courses in your specific subject of choice and reading up on student reviews.
3. Familiarize yourself with UCAS
UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) operates the application process for British universities. This is the platform you’ll use to research courses and to apply to a maximum of five universities of your choice.
Once you’ve registered, you’ll be able to fill out your personal profile – go to the website and carefully read through and follow the instructions there. Once your applications are complete, you’ll be able to follow their progress through UCAS’ Track feature, which will update you if and when the status of your application changes.
4. Prepare yourself
For students applying for degrees in medicine, veterinary science, dentistry and to courses at Oxford and Cambridge: be prepared for the fact that you may be invited for an interview. This is where your passion for your subject of choice should really shine through. Be ready for difficult questions that require detailed answers and be sure to do a few practice runs with a teacher or member of family beforehand. The best way to be fully prepared is to begin reading books and academic journals within your subject of interest well in advance. Not only will you be more informed and better equipped to answer tricky questions, but you’ll feel more confident throughout your interview.
5. Brush up on your English
UK universities require students to have a certain level of English. While the standard required to gain entry into a UK university varies between institutions, if English is not your native language, it’s important to have certification of your proficiency.
Universities will often list their English proficiency requirements in a variety of different tests, including Cambridge English, TOEFL and IELTS (if you don’t know which English exam you should take, read up on your options here). To make sure you do well in your test, invest in your learning; learning English in an English-speaking country is one of the fastest ways to make progress and get to the required level.
6. Get some experience
As with applying to new jobs, any relevant practical experience you can add to your profile boosts your chances of getting an offer from a UK university. Whether it’s tackling a new internship, taking a summer course or spending some time volunteering, universities look favorably upon efforts to broaden your horizons and strengthen your skills. Any new experiences will help bolster your personal statement (more on this in a sec!) and your CV.
7. Visit universities
Once you’ve settled on a few universities you like the look of, it’s worth planning a visit so you can take a tour. Seeing a university and experiencing the location can really help to shape your opinion of it. If you have the opportunity to visit the universities you’re interested in on-site, research open days and try to fit as many as you can into one trip.
This may not always be possible, especially for students living far away from the UK. Many universities offer virtual tours, taking you on an online walk through their institution – this can give you a good feel for what the uni is really like. It’s also helpful to look up reviews to gauge how students have found their time studying there.
8. Write a stellar personal statement
The aforementioned personal statement is one of the most challenging parts of the application process. It’s essentially a one-page text on why you want to study the course you’ve chosen and why you’d make a great student. Due to the sheer mass of applications the average university receives each year, it’s important to write a compelling, original personal statement, that will set you apart from the rest.
A personal statement can make or break an application, so it’s important to dedicate enough time to it. Seek help from teachers, family or advisors to make sure the quality and content are as good as possible. Once you’re happy with it, make sure to give it back to said teachers or advisors to proofread.
9. Secure a reference
All applicants are required to include a reference letter, often written by a teacher, advisor or guidance counselor. Your referee should be someone who knows you well and can write a detailed, accurate recommendation about you. They should also be able to check in with your teachers so they can vouch for your academic strengths and achievements.
10. Send it off (and know your deadlines)
Once you’ve chosen the universities you’d like to apply to and you have your predicted grades, reference letter and a great personal statement, you’re ready to go!
Before you send your application off, remember to proofread it a few times to check for any errors or inconsistencies. It’s worth giving it to someone else to look over one last time before pulling the trigger. Once you feel confident, send your application on its way.
Remember: Deadlines are as follows: 15th of October for medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and students applying to Oxford and Cambridge, and the 15th of January for all other applicants. Good luck, everyone!