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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds We would expect that you are excited to continue your study at university level, that you’ve done some research so you know what to expect in terms of the course and institution that you’re applying to; that you’re motivated or enthusiastic. We like to see applicants who know about the subject that they’re applying to and also who are able to contribute something to both the subject and to the university. So, what are they able to bring, what sort of arguments what sort of discourse or interest are they going to bring to that particular subject. Students who get the most out of university are those who arrive with an open and enquiring mind.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds So, people who are willing to listen to others’ arguments, people who are willing to question what’s normally accepted knowledge about a particular subject. They really find it an exciting and dynamic environment in which to learn. I think the first thing to say is don’t worry, don’t panic, there’s no pressure for you to make a decision immediately. People come to their own conclusions about university at completely different times. It’s really important to find out as much as you can about university if it is something that you’re thinking about. There’s a wealth of information both about the subjects available and the universities that you could study at.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds It’s really important to think about what you want to study before you think about where you want to study it. So think about what you currently really enjoy at school or what you have enjoyed previously; what your strengths are, where your skills lie and also think about maybe what you don’t enjoy so much or what you might perform less well in at school because that might help rule certain areas out. I’d advice going to a university open day – even if it’s not one that you necessarily want to go to, to explore a little bit about what a university’s like and what sorts of different options that they offer you.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds I think some could benefit from maybe doing a little bit more detailed work on exactly what the course is. So, if it’s a course in history that can differ from one university to the next, which periods do they look at, which areas of the world do they look at? So, looking in detail at what that subject’s all about at that particular university gives applicants a good idea of what they’re applying for. Then they can make the right choices to the course that’s really going to excite them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds At Bristol, for example, all of our programmes have departmental admissions statements which contain all of our selection criteria, the information we’re looking for in personal statements, the entry requirements, the profiles of our students. And, they contain an enormous wealth of information for applicants before they start considering exactly what they want to do and where they want to study it, but also can be used as they put in their application through UCAS. So, applicants can ask us about anything at all and we’d really encourage you to do so.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds So, if you want to know about entry requirements, course content, visit opportunities, disability or access needs, student funding, accommodation, requesting feedback, what it’s like to be a student at the university, we can help you find the answer. We might signpost you to an expert in the field but we will always be able to provide you with the information that you need, and we’d encourage you to have those conversations with us so you’re making the most informed choice about the subject and the university. Every application we receive is considered on its merits and it’s considered holistically – so bringing together the background of the student, their personal statement, the reference from their teacher or tutor and the qualifications they’re studying.

Skip to 4 minutes and 24 seconds So we always look at a very broad level of what that student can bring to the course, and quite often that may mean that they’re bringing different qualifications, different experiences, but all of those experiences are valid and all of those count towards what can be a successful application. We’re looking for evidence that they want to study the course and perhaps some evidence of how it feeds into their future life or their future career. Where can this course take them? What is it going to do for the student having studied on that particular course?

Skip to 5 minutes and 1 second But it’s also important to remember that we’re looking for potential and we’re looking at the whole person so we will be interested to know whether you have overcome any difficult circumstances, and we’ll take that into consideration. We’ll look at the context in which you have been studying in and potentially reflect that in the level of offer. Admissions staff are used to dealing with applications from applicants with a wide range of qualifications both within the UK and outside the UK.

Skip to 5 minutes and 36 seconds Many of them will list their international qualifications on their websites and their prospectuses but if you can’t find yours, or if you have any questions, just get in touch with the admissions office and explain what it is that you’re currently taking. If they need any further information about it, they may come back to you or to your school or college, so don’t worry if it’s not immediately obvious from the website, just get in touch with them, they’re always very happy to help. And it’s really important to check with all of the universities or colleges that you’re applying to because they may view things differently so don’t just assume that the answer you get from one will apply to all.

Skip to 6 minutes and 8 seconds Do make sure you check with all of your choices. Check the entry requirements of each of the universities or colleges that you’re applying to, most of them will have a section on their website for vocational qualifications so have a look there first. If you’re doing a combination of qualifications, so if you’re doing say A levels and BTECs, it may be that that particular combination isn’t listed because they can’t always list every possible combination of qualifications, so just get in touch with them, speak to the admissions office, explain what it is that you’re doing and they’ll be able to advise on what would be expected in terms of the entry requirements.

Skip to 6 minutes and 45 seconds And, do that for each of your university or college choices. Students apply to us with a whole range of different qualifications, sometimes in combination and that can include BTECs, it can include A levels, anything really. So we’re very much used to seeing all of those different combinations. What’s important to find out is whether a university is able to accept you given the qualifications that you’re studying. So please do contact the university in advance, explain what you’re studying, what combination you’re studying and see whether it’s appropriate for that particular course. We’re looking for people to succeed on our course, so each course will look for different skills that will make a candidate successful.

Skip to 7 minutes and 34 seconds So if you’ve undertaken a very vocational programme, you might want to look at examples to demonstrate where you’ve been able to do some extended writing or an essay in order to fulfil the requirements for a particularly academic course. That said, there are some courses which don’t require those particular skills but each course will have their own particular requirements and it’s important to understand what those are before you apply. When thinking of applying to university or college the best thing you can do is find out as much as you possibly can so you can make a really informed choice about what and where you’re going to study.

Skip to 8 minutes and 17 seconds My top tip for students applying to university is to go along and visit the place. It’s the only real way you can get a feel for the institution and this is somewhere where you’re probably going to be saying for 3 years, maybe 4 or 5, so go along, have a look round, get a sense of the atmosphere and the environment of the place, talk to your future tutors and talk to some of the students that are there as well to make sure that it’s exactly the right place for you. For international students, I’d really recommend that they engage with the university as much as they can.

Skip to 8 minutes and 50 seconds Many universities run virtual open days, some of them will run webinars or conferences online so that you can get a real detailed look at the university and ask those important questions that you need to ask before you come over and join us. So my top tip to students before they go to university is not to worry and to look forward to what I hope will be an absolutely fantastic experience.

Skip to 9 minutes and 16 seconds I wish I had known before I started university that it was normal to feel a bit anxious, it was normal to worry about whether you were going to cope on the course, but that I should have had the confidence, as the university has on behalf of all of its students, that they will do brilliantly on their course, they will make friends, that people want them to succeed and will do absolutely everything they can to ensure that that happens. Going to university is a really exciting next stage in most people’s lives, most people have an absolutely fantastic time and universities will do all they can to make sure that happens.

Tips and advice from university admissions teams

Every university and college has an admissions department with experienced teams who manage and process your application. They work to codes of practice and aim to ensure the admissions procedures are understood, transparent, and fair. They are also there to guide and support you through the process, so that you can be successful in your application.

They carefully consider and assess every application and decide, with help from tutors and subject specialists, how suitable applicants are for the course. Many also have international offices which are there to offer guidance about studying and living in their location. They can also help with visa and immigration queries.

We asked some university and college admissions teams to answer some of the key questions young people have about applying to higher education. Watch the video to find out what they want to tell you.

You can also download the Q&A with admissions teams resource at the bottom of this page, with more answers to questions you may have, along with a flowchart showing the journey of an application. If you want to, you can revisit the video later, and we’ve got a range of short videos on the ucas website covering each of the key topics.

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Smart Choices: Broadening Your Horizons