“Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.” - George Bernard Shaw
There are 2.3 million students in the UK. Many of these students will have been thinking about what they wanted to study since before their GCSEs, but not every one of them will be happy with their choices. Higher education can be an absolute minefield and with 130 different universities in the UK (not to the mention the thousands around the world), it can be difficult working out what you want to study, where you want to study it, and what career you'd like once you graduate.
There are many organisations, resources, and services you can use to get more information on making choices for your studies and career and in the UK, UCAS deals with providing information and dealing with university applications.
UCAS is technically a charity that earns its money from application fees, capitation fees from universities and colleges, and its subsidiary UCAS Media Ltd. It originated as the Universities Central Council on Admissions (UCCA) in 1961. When the UCCA merged with the Polytechnics Central Admissions System (PCAS) and the Standing Conference on University Entrance (SCUE) in 1993, the single UCAS service was formed.
In this article, we’re going to look at UCAS, how you can get information, find out about your educational options, find courses, and the other educational services available.
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Finding Out About Educational Options with UCAS
While undergraduate applications make up most of UCAS' remit, UCAS Progress service is for those aged between 13 and 19 and a way for them to find and compare different academic and vocational courses.
Similarly, you might want to pick up a university prospectus, attend open days, or get in touch with a university's admissions team for your chosen course and find out what their admissions policy is. The UCAS website has information on further, undergraduate, and postgraduate education as well as alternative studies and career information. If you're still in school, there's information on A Levels, BTEC diplomas, and NVQs as well as career ideas and information for those thinking about university. You can get more information about further education.
Still not sure what you want to do?
Consider an academic appraisal,
Finding Courses with UCAS
If you're applying to UK universities, you're probably going to have to go through the application process with UCAS. You can use their course search to find more information on different courses and undergraduate admissions and track the progress of your application once you've done it.
While you can find out the entry requirements, application deadline, and contact the admissions office for a university via their website, you'll probably feel like you're living in the UCAS website as the application deadlines approach.
Before you apply, look at the points awarded for different subjects to see whether you have a chance of being offered a place. The exams you do count for UCAS tariff points and are used for university applications if you're given a conditional offer. This means that if you get enough UCAS points from your exams or diplomas, your university application will be accepted. You can find out more information about UCAS Tariff points on their website.
Keep in mind that you're also free to decline a place even if you have been accepted onto a course. The London School of Economics, Edinburgh University, St. Andrews, Southampton and Manchester University get a lot of applications per place while there are surprisingly few graduates competing for places at Durham University, Oxford, and Cambridge.
Whether you're applying to undergraduate courses, postgraduate courses, or are an international student, you'll still need to go through the application system. You can use UCAS Track to keep up-to-date with your application online and you'll be informed if your application is accepted, rejected, or subject to a conditional or unconditional offer.
Once you've decided on the course or courses you want to apply for, you'll have to pay the UCAS application fee (£18 for a single choice or £24 for multiple choices). It's worthwhile making an insurance choice if you don't get your first choice. For some, it's more important getting onto a course at university than going to one uni in particular.
For example, rather than applying to several top universities all with similar entry requirements, you may want to apply to a university with strict entry requirements, a mid-tier university, and somewhere you can get an unconditional offer. That way, you'll have a place on a course regardless of your exams and if you do well, you can go to your first choice.
However, for some students, even though tuition fees are all very similar, not all universities are the same and they'd rather wait and reapply later on. There might only be a few degree courses that you want to do and that's fine, just make sure you get the exam results you need!
Find out more about Prospects.ac.uk.
Other Educational Resources from UCAS
UCAS handles applications for universities, conservatories, Initial Teacher Training, and postgraduate courses as well as the undergraduate degree applications that they're most famous for.
If you need more help putting together a personal statement, doing an online application for a particular UK university, school, or college, or finding out more about student finance, you might want to consider getting in touch with some private career tutors or academic support tutors.
It doesn't matter whether you want to apply now or submit your application later, it's always a good idea to do your research before you apply to university because points are awarded for your exam results whereas mature students may receive an offer based on their exam results from school or career.
Need more career advice?
Find out about the services from the National Careers Service.
Getting Career Information from UCAS
In terms of career services, job seekers in the UK are spoilt for choice. While there mightn't be plenty of job opportunities in certain fields, there are online job services, career assessment services, and career counselling available to those who need help working out what they want to do or finding out how to do it. Of course, before you can get into the world of work, you need to think about education and training. This is where UCAS comes in.
If you're not sure what you want to do for a career, you could always take their career quiz. This can give you a better idea of what type of person you are and some jobs that suit your personality.
On Superprof, you can find life coaches, career tutors, and academic support tutors. Generally, there are three types of tutorial available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each type of tutorial comes with its pros and cons and you'll need to think about your budget and your goals when choosing which one to go for.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and your tutor. As the only student in the class, you'll benefit from tailored sessions and your tutor's undivided attention. While these are often the most costly type of private tutorial, they're also the most cost-effective thanks to how much time your tutor can spend focusing on you.
Online tutorials are similar to face-to-face tutorials in terms of the tutor-student ratio but your tutor won't be in the room with you. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can now get private tutoring via webcam using video conferencing software such as Skype. While not ideal for hands-on subjects, online tutorials are great for academic subjects and they're often cheaper than the face-to-face tutorials since the tutor doesn't need to factor travel costs into their rates.
Finally, group tutorials, as you may have guessed, are when you're taught alongside other students in a group. With several students footing the bill, these tutorials often work out cheaper per student per hour. While cheaper, it does mean you won't get as much attention from your tutor as they'll need to focus on several students at once. Unfortunately, this all means that they can't tailor their sessions to you as they'll need to take the other students' needs, strengths and weaknesses, and goals into account when planning their lessons.
Think carefully about your goals, budget, and learning style before deciding what type of tutorials are right for you. Don't forget that a lot of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour of tuition for free so you can see whether you get along with them and whether their approach is right for you!