Tips for writing a winning UCAS application

student using computer

With the UCAS application deadline for undergraduate courses approaching, we wanted to give you some tips to help you write a winning application. 

Writing and submitting an application can be daunting and stressful, from choosing what degree you want to study to crafting an original personal statement, there is a lot to remember. 

Basic tips for writing a good application 

Do your research and consider the following questions: 

  • Think carefully about what you want to study, why do you want to study that subject? 
  • Does the university offer the programme you’re looking for? 
  • Do you have the grades needed for the programme you want to study? 
  • Will it help you achieve your career goals? Will you enjoy it? 

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, you should be well placed to begin your application. Make sure you take your time and don’t rush it. This will allow you to complete the form to the best of your ability, giving us the information we need to assess your application as a whole. Rushing might mean you miss out on some key details required for assessment. 

It’s important to remember to double and triple-check your application. Minimising errors will allow you to produce the best application possible. 

If possible, you should aim to submit your application early e.g. once you are happy with your application and the UCAS form has been fully completed. We receive a large volume of applications on the equal consideration deadline (Wednesday 26th January). Submitting early allows your application to stand out more, increasing your chances of getting an offer. 

What qualities are we looking for in applicants? 

Here are some of the things our admissions team will be looking for when assessing your application:

  • A-Level grades that meet our programme requirements. If you’re completing A-level results this year, then the conditional offer will be based on your predicted grades from your school. 
  • A good and well written personal statement means showing us your enthusiasm for your chosen programme of study, along with any achievements you’re proud of and how they relate to your chosen programme e.g. If Law, maybe you’ve raised money for a refugee charity, taken part in Model United Nations at school or a conference). You should also mention the subjects at school that you have a passion for and any wider/further reading you’ve undertaken to gain further understanding of the subject, e.g. online courses, short courses you’ve studied, Ted Talks, Open Days, etc. Although, make sure these are relevant to your chosen programme. 
  • Ask your tutor or teacher to provide you with a reference. This gives us an idea of not just your academic abilities, but also your character. The reference should show you in a positive light, so make sure the teacher or tutor is someone you have a good rapport with and someone who knows you well. 

Common mistakes to avoid making on your application 

Mistakes on your application can play a part in whether you’re made an offer or not. Here are some of the common mistakes people make that you should avoid: 

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Incorrect information e.g. Address, Date of Birth, wrong A-level subjects
  • Mentioning the name of the university, unless you only want to go to your first choice 
  • Using a personal statement relating to a different programme. If you’ve changed programme or are applying for another subject at another university, please submit a new personal statement if possible
  • Submitting an incomplete application
  • Reusing previous personal statements e.g. Maybe you applied last year and then changed your mind and reapplied this year. Make sure you update or change your personal statement and reference 
  • Submitting an application late. Remember, the UCAS equal consideration deadline is 6:00 pm on Wednesday 26 January. 

Useful links

If you’re still undecided about what you want to study, we have a few useful tools you can use.

Request an undergraduate prospectus

Ask a question about studying at SOAS

Ten Top Tips: The perfect personal statement


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