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How to ensure your students make the most of their 5 university options


Campus or city? Rural or urban? Close to home or far, far away?

For students, the decisions required when applying to university might seem overwhelming – and with the pressure to make choices that they’re being told will define their future, it’s easy to see why.

For some, the process might appear so confusing or vast that they don’t go about it as effectively as they could. Students who don’t utilise all five of their UCAS applications risk limiting their choices, as well as missing out on potentially great opportunities further down the line.

So, why is this? And how do you ensure that students are making the most of all their potential options?

Ensure they’re getting their information from the correct places.

For a 17-year-old, a recommendation from an older cousin who had an amazing experience at X University three years ago and came out with a first might seem like the most important thing in the world – but it’s likely they’re not asking the right questions. Were they on the same course, or even a similar one? What made that particular university so great? Do they actually want the same things from their university experience?

Ditto, friends who settled early and decisively on their desired universities and had their UCAS forms sent off before Christmas.

That’s not to say that peers don’t have an important role to play when the decision is being made – but strong views from friends or family members near in age might skew the process somewhat. Yes, it’s hard for teenagers to leave their friends – but they know, deep down, that their future academic decisions shouldn’t be based on staying close to what they already know.

Research is more valuable when it comes from campus visits, conversations with potential course tutors, and discussions with, yes, parents. Teenagers might not believe that their parents know what they need, but it’s likely that they’ll come to the university conversation without bias and with only the student’s best interests at heart.

So, with valuable research under their belts, why not encourage your students to angle their five options like this? After all, university application is all about strategy...

Reach university

Sure, they’re unlikely to get in. But there’s always a slight chance that, with a killer Personal Statement and a supportive tutor on their side, they just might. With five universities to apply to, there’s space on the UCAS form for a university they’re reaching for. The main barrier to applying for top tier universities, as long as the student is capable to start with, is confidence.

Viable option #1

The university that they’ll hopefully end up attending, where the grades required align with what they’re predicted and the environment, course and facilities are likely to give them the best chance of achieving their goals.

Viable option #2

Ideally, their insurance choice – somewhere that they’d be very happy to go, that they’ve visited and read up on and like the sound of, and that (importantly) they’re likely to exceed the grades for.

Viable option #3

Again, somewhere with a course and environment that feels right for them – with grades that are more than achievable.

Guaranteed fall-back

Just in case things don’t go as planned, because it’s always good to have a safety net – or, in this case, a Plan C.

The most important thing for students applying via UCAS is a plan – and with the above choice structure, alongside reliable research from the most important sources, you can give them the best possible chance of success at university and beyond.

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