Melanie Hall, 6th form specialist careers adviser & tutor, and ex-university lecturer and admissions tutor, explains why the mid-January UCAS deadlines are misleading and that early Autumn is the season in which to complete and send off your university application. It really is the early-bird applicants who get offered the best courses at the most prestigious universities…
Oh dear, it’s that time of year again, amber, bronze and gold strewn paths scrunch underfoot, the first damp chill fills the air and parents, teachers and tutors are nagging you about filling in your university (UCAS) application form. So annoying, the deadline is not until mid-January, so what’s the rush?
Well, the main deadline for ordinary courses may be January 25th 2020, but for many specialist courses the deadlines are earlier:
Musicians are the worst off – If you want to do a music performance degree course in a conservatoire (the best place to study music!) then your closing date is 5th October!
Then of course there are those who want to study at Oxford or Cambridge: the deadline for these universities is 15th October. But did you also know that if you want to apply to study Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry, and some other specialist science courses the deadline is also 15thOctober!
Great, so you’re not doing any of these courses, you can relax now, right?
Sadly, its not that simple! You have to factor in the “I’m only human” issue. A busy university admissions tutor could receive anything from 300 – 3,000 applications and will have to read them all, on top of their normal day’s work. If 20 forms turn up on my desk in October, when my teaching duties are lighter and I don’t yet have any course work to mark, I can put my feet up, have a cuppa and read the forms thoroughly. I might even start an unofficial list of the “good” applicants to whom I will offer a course place! If I get 1,000 forms in January when I am setting and marking exams and course work, I will have less time to read them carefully and I may have already filled my course with those early applications I had time to read properly. I am also predisposed to think that the early applicants may be more truly committed to my subject and course just because they did bother to get their form in early! I am only human after all!
If you are interested in a popular degree course, then it figures that you will need to compete for your place and get your form in early. Not sure what are the popular, most competitive degree courses? You can find out by using the Brian Heap book “Degree Course offers”, (there should be a copy of this in your sixth form careers section at school), but usually the popular courses are considered to be Physiotherapy, Medicine, Nursing (especially child nursing), Teaching (especially primary level and PE), Psychology, Law, Drama, English, Accountancy and many of the Art courses. Some other courses are also classed as competitive because there are few courses and not many places available on them, e.g. Police Studies, Paramedic Sciences, Optometry.
So best advice is to complete your UCAS form and send it in early, especially if you are applying for the popular, competitive degree courses where the admissions tutor is likely to be swamped with applications