As part of the Young Academic to all things UCAS, we can reveal that blogs detailing the ups and downs of applying to university, written by six teenagers from around the world, are now part of UCAS Connect, the digital resource for anyone thinking about choosing higher education.
UCAS Connect (www.ucasconnect.com) already hosts UCAS’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, where experts reply to applicants’ queries in real time. It also offers advice videos on UCAStv, and links to yougo (www.yougo.co.uk) the UCAS student network.
Now, prospective students can also read what other applicants are making of the whole process on the blog section.
Among the sixth-form writers are Chris Rowlands from Wrawby, North Lincolnshire, Zoe Hodgkinson, from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, Emma Alexander, from Oxford, and Amelia Marchington, from Weybridge, Surrey
Alina Ludviga is from Aluksne, in Latvia, but recently moved to Nottingham, while Thomas Chan is from Hong Kong Island.
They represent a cross-section of the hundreds of thousands of people applying through UCAS every year and offer a real taste of what it’s like to be progressing through the six steps to applying.
UCAS Online Experience Officer Giles Ursell explains: “The blog page has been devised to allow UCAS applicants the opportunity to read and follow the experience of others in the same position as themselves.
“We hope the blogs allow UCAS applicants to share their experience, engage with each other and help each other through the application process.”
One of the writers, Emma, wants to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at university in 2012. She has gone through multiple drafts and reworked her personal statement several times.
Her experience has given her some useful ideas that other applicants should think about: “Firstly, utilise all 4,000 characters. There’s an urban legend about a pupil applying for geography who made their personal statement into the shape of a tree using appropriate spacing. It’s funny, but the content suffers.
“Also, instead of just listing your various achievements and endeavours, every university stresses how important it is to reflect on these experiences and really demonstrate what you gained from them that makes you a more prominent applicant.”
Giles added: “It’s always good to feel you’re not alone and that’s exactly what the UCAS Connect blogs page does – it allows UCAS applicants to realise there are other people who are experiencing the same feelings and emotions as themselves.”
Chris, who is applying to study law writes: “At times, the stress gets to you. When it does, talk to others: it might be a cliche, but you really aren’t alone, so speak to friends, to family and to teachers, go on UCAS Connect and share your feelings.”
The blogs also provide some useful insights from international applicants. The process can involve additional work such English language tests and ensuring qualifications are recognised.
Thomas, applying from Hong Kong, wrote: “Studying in the UK is an absolutely invaluable lifetime experience for me as an international student.”
His advice is to make sure you have everything ready to send in advance of the 15 January deadline to allow a “cooling-off” period.
The applicants will be updating their blogs throughout the UCAS application cycle. Readers can also take part by giving their opinions.
One visitor to the site wrote: “Thank you so much for this blog! I too am applying to university this year and it’s nice to hear that someone else is having the same worries as me.”
Giles and the team won the Most Effective Use of Social Media title at the Customer Contact Association (CCA) Excellence Awards this month.
Liam Burns, NUS President, said after the award: “It is unusual for organisations to engage with social media in such a proactive way and to genuinely change procedures off the back of their social media interaction.”