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It's all in the preparation

Starting the journey towards making a UCAS application is just around the corner. Abi Price looks at how to get ahead

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 24, 2015 | Teaching

In sixth form, Kings Monkton School approaches applying to university as a marathon rather than a sprint. This means we take a proactive approach to motivating our pupils to take an active interest in their applications early on and get them familiar with courses, locations and deadlines before they’ve even begun the procedure. Here are my tips for getting through the applications period. 

Give them the onus early on

With UCAS applications, it’s crucial to make sure pupils are aware of the responsibility ahead and the need to manage their own application from start to finish. This includes researching as much as possible about the places they hope to apply to. At Kings Monkton, we have unlimited access to an ICT suite and make sure students take advantage of this to undertake research on courses, locations and even things like accommodation and the societies they can join. This includes making sure they are familiar with the UCAS website itself. 

Run plenty of workshops

As head of sixth form I run a series of workshops on everything from the application process to how to write a personal statement. To kick this off, I visited the UCAS HQ in Gloucester to receive up-to-date training on things like writing that all-important statement which can make the difference between getting a place on a course or not. This advice has been further supported by a range of outside experts working with individuals and groups of students to support their decision-making and applications. This has included one-to-one career interviews with bodies like Dragon Careers Associates. These interviews are held in the spring term to allow students time to reflect and arrange relevant work experience. 

Students at Kings Monkton

Let them hear from universities and local businesses

Throughout the year, we arrange for experts from a range of universities and businesses to deliver talks to the students. These talks have varied from universities outlining what they would look for in an application to a current third-year student talking about her experience as an undergraduate. Additionally, professionals working in sectors like health and business have come in to talk to the students about what their jobs involve on a day-to-day basis. 

Get parents involved

Parents are also involved in the process, attending  a UCAS evening when they’re given guidance on how to support their child through the application process. This has been supplemented by frequent communication with individual parents regarding their child, encouraging them to attend university taster and open days. 

The extra-curricular edge

The need for a broad and varied statement is also emphasised. For those young people who have represented their county or country at sports or music, there is a huge opportunity to discuss the experience and skills that such honours offer. Likewise, reminding them how highly-regarded schemes such as Duke of Edinburgh are and the skills these develops is crucial. The most important feature to shine though in an application, however, is real enthusiasm and commitment to the course applied for. This can come from raw passion, work experience placements and wider reading on a subject and it is important these things are included just as much as extra qualifications. 

And finally

To round off the process, each member of sixth form has a one-to-one review in the final week of term. This is to evaluate things before commencing work experience placements, discuss the progression of their application and set individual targets for the summer holidays. 

With it being such a difficult and challenging process, and thousands of potential courses in so many locations, decision making can be very daunting and so we are doing as much as we can to alleviate this. We’ve found that planning and preparing early in year 12 is the key to success in completing and reducing the stress of undertaking applications. It is for this reason that the application process for 2017 will begin in the coming weeks for year-12 students. 


Abi Price is head of sixth form at Kings Monkton School.    

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