Applying to university

Higher education and careers guidance

Outstanding support, guidance and encouragement is provided throughout a student’s time in the sixth form, especially during the all-important period of university application. The sixth form team and careers staff are on-hand to offer individual guidance on personal statements and the application process, and there is a thorough and carefully designed programme to guide and support each student through the entire process of making post-school and career choices.

The school careers department offers information and advice on every possible route after leaving the sixth form. Our well-resourced careers library is open daily for students from 8.30am to 4.30pm during term time. Sixth form students are welcome to use the resources and arrange individual guidance appointments during free periods.

It is important to start researching well in advance of making an application. Students are advised to supplement their on-line research by attending carefully selected university open days or taster courses.

Choosing the right course at the right university

In order to make the right choices students should expect to do a considerable amount of research as each individual will have a different set of criteria when finding the right course for them. Questions to ask include:

  • Which subjects really interest me?
  • What are my talents?
  • What grades will I realistically achieve?
  • Would I like to combine subjects or concentrate on just one?
  • Would I like some experience in the workplace as part of my course?
  • Would I like to study abroad as part of my course?
  • Would I like a vocational course to prepare me for a particular career?
  • How would I like to be assessed – exams, coursework, practicals?
  • Do I want to live close to home, a different part of the country or go abroad?
  • Do I want to live on a campus, in a big city or a rural location?
  • How much will it cost - tuition fees, accommodation, living expenses, travel?
  • Which universities are good for my subject?
  • What are the facilities like?
  • Is there a good range of clubs, societies, social events?
  • What are my career goals?

Only after considering these sorts of questions to establish the criteria on which the choice is being made can a student start to find the right course at the right university for them - one where they will be happy and successful. There is no single university that is "best" for everyone.

We encourage students to talk through their ideas with family, friends, teachers, careers advisers and university admissions tutors (remembering that not all the information they receive will be impartial) before weighing up the evidence and making their decisions.

Applying to university

UCAS, the official site for all UK universities and colleges offering higher education courses, is a good starting point for course research. The site offers guidance on choosing the right course and has links to the websites of all the higher education providers.

Applications to universities are made on-line through UCAS Apply. There is a step by step guide on how to apply and track an application. There is information for parents on how to support students to research and apply for courses and the option to sign up for regular newsletters. University prospectuses can be viewed on-line and there is usually the option to request a hard copy. Current prospectuses are also kept in the school careers library.

Entry requirements

When choosing suitable courses it is important to understand the UCAS tariff system, which is listed below, but the majority of Russell Group universities require specific grades to be achieved at A level in their offers to potential students. For others the newly introduced tariffs are as follows:

A Level

A*56 UCAS points
A48 UCAS points
B40 UCAS points
C32 UCAS points
D24 UCAS points
E16 UCAS points


A*28 UCAS points
A24 UCAS points
B20 UCAS points
C16 UCAS points
D12 UCAS points
E08 UCAS points

In addition to A Level entry requirements, students should check well in advance of their application whether they need to fulfill additional requirements. For example, many medical and dental schools require applicants to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test or Biomedical Admissions Test as part of the admissions procedure.

An increasing number of universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have their own admissions tests for specified subjects or may even require specific average UMS scores. Some law schools require students to take the National Admissions Test for Law, while students applying for music and performing arts courses may need to prepare for auditions. Those applying for art and design related courses may be asked to email a mini portfolio shortly after submitting their application as well as providing a full portfolio of work if they are selected for interview.

Writing a personal statement

The personal statement is an opportunity to tell universities about your suitability for your chosen course. It is important to provide evidence of enthusiasm and commitment, and demonstrate how you stand out from other applicants. Students begin work on personal statements as part of the post-school choices programme during lower sixth and receive on-going support from tutors.

Financing your degree

Information on the latest position regarding tuition fees, grants and loans is provided by Student Finance England. Bursaries and scholarships are also available from universities and other organisations such as charities and businesses for students who meet specific criteria. Details of university funded bursaries and scholarships are available on individual university websites; The Scholarship Hub contains a useful database of scholarships based on a range of eligibility criteria such as academic merit, financial need and special skills.

Guides to student finance for both full-time and part-time students are produced by Martin Lewis together with Universities UK and can be downloaded from the MoneySavingExpert website. Tuition fee loans, but not maintenance loans, are now available for students studying part-time for an undergraduate degree. Details of course fees and ways to pay for an Open University qualification are shown on the OU website.

Sponsored degrees

A number of companies offer sponsored degrees which involve a combination of study and periods of employment. There is no official register of these and they are generally displayed on individual company websites. Details of many current schemes are available in the careers library and on Student Ladder.

Sponsored degrees can be a very attractive option for those who know what career they would like to pursue as they often provide full degree funding, work experience, a salary and a graduate role on completion. However, they may not provide the same sort of experience as full time university study.

Applications are usually made directly to the company rather than through UCAS so students can apply for these schemes in addition to their five UCAS choices. The application procedure will often involve online-tests, assessment centres and interviews.

Useful websites

Students are advised to regularly check individual university websites for the most up-to-date information on courses and entry requirements. The following websites are useful sources of information for students as they progress through the process of researching choices and making an application. There are also some excellent subject specific websites listed in the careers information section of our website.
The official universities and colleges admissions website. A massive site to keep coming back to. Students use Apply and Track to make and monitor their online applications.
A questionnaire to help identify courses linked to a student’s interests and ability.
This graduate website is also a fantastic resource for sixth form students considering university courses. Start with the options with your subject section to research the type of careers that different degrees can lead on to.
An independent site from Which? to help students make informed choices. You can refine searches by subject, location, interests etc and it includes data on graduate salaries, number of applicants receiving offers and much more.
Includes information on university choices and applications, league tables, student finance and examples of personal statements.
Independent UK university league tables and advice on university and subject choices.
The official website for comparing higher education and courses.
Provides a quick way to order printed prospectuses or view on-line versions.
A calendar of university open days.
A database of university taster days.
Free online courses from leading UK and international universities.
Information about tuition fees and student finance.
A sixth formers’ guide explaining how student finance works.
The NHS business services authority site includes details of the NHS Student Bursary Scheme which is available to eligible students on some healthcare related degree courses.
Search for UK scholarships, grants or bursaries on this comprehensive database.
Independent guide to UK universities, open days, gap years, student life and finance.
Details of the UK Clinical Aptitude Test for admission to some dental and medical schools.
Details of the national admissions test required by some law schools.
Includes podcasts of university lecturers speaking on topics related to the A level curriculum and information on careers related to subject areas.
Advice for parents on the range of post-18 options.
Guidance from the Russell Group of UK universities aimed at year 11 students making appropriate post-16 subject choices for a wide variety of university courses.