The essential guide to the university application process for parents

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As the new school year begins, it might be a good time to start thinking about your child’s future if they want to go to university in 2023. With 164 universities in the UK and thousands of different courses, trying to narrow the endless choices down to five options may seem impossible.

Supporting your child through this stressful time at every step in the process will help to ease their anxieties (and yours!), as well as giving them the best chance of getting into their dream university.

How do you know if a university is “good”?

There are many different things to consider when deciding which university to apply to. The Guardian has a league table of the top-ranked universities in the UK, based on student satisfaction, staff numbers, spending, and career prospects of that institution, if you would like to see objective facts.

Of course, other things should also be considered, such as travel options, the courses available, the cost of living in the area, and the facilities offered by the university.

What should you focus on during university open days?

University open days are the perfect opportunity for you and your child to ask any questions you have. If you are unsure about what the course will entail or the quality of the teaching, this is the perfect time to meet the academics teaching the course and quell any concerns.

Another thing to make sure you do on a university open day is to talk to students currently studying there. They understand the student experience, so they can answer questions that staff may not know the answers to, such as telling you about the societies and social life.

Open days also allow you to see the different types of accommodation available, so you can decide which type of room your child may be interested in.

Finally, make sure you check out the city where the university resides!

Look out for grocery shopping options – affordable shops such as Aldi or Lidl are perfect for students on a budget – as well as public transport. Distance is an important factor in choosing a university, as your child may want to remain close to home, or they may want to see the other side of the country.

What should your child include in their personal statement?

Once you have decided which universities your child would like to apply to, it is time to start the application process. The personal statement is your child’s opportunity to convince the university to give them an offer – and you only get 4,000 characters to do it in.

The focus of the personal statement should be on your child and their passion for the subject they wish to study further.

  • What skills do they have that apply to their chosen subject?
  • Why does it interest them?
  • What are their plans once they graduate from university?

Once you have convinced the university that your child is interested in the course they are applying for, you should then move on to why they will be an excellent student.

  • What skills have they learnt from extracurricular activities?
  • What are their achievements?
  • Do they have work or volunteering experience?

Once your child has written their personal statement, make sure you go through it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors, which can distract from the point they are trying to make.

Personal statements, along with the rest of your child’s application, are usually due in around October for certain subjects (such as medicine, veterinary science, and dentistry) and January for the rest of applicants. Check with your child’s teachers for exact dates in case their sixth form or college has an internal deadline for applications to be submitted.

How long does it take to receive offers?

This is dependent on many things, such as the university and course your child is applying for, as well as any extra information the institution might need. Universities often request interviews with their applicants, and certain subjects sometimes require a portfolio of work. The sooner these are completed, the sooner the university can come to a decision and make an offer.

An offer can be made in as little as a few days to several months, but most students receive responses after a few weeks.

How do UCAS points work?

Some university offers will use UCAS points, rather than the more familiar letter grades. For example, a university might offer your child a place if they obtain 120 UCAS points, rather than BBB grades.

An A is equivalent to 48 UCAS points, a B is equivalent to 40, and a C is equivalent to 32.

You can use the tariff point calculator on the UCAS website to calculate the number of UCAS points a student gets for letter grades.

When should you apply for student finance?

To guarantee your child gets any financial support that they are eligible for, the application needs to be submitted before the end of May preceding the year they go to university.

You can start the application as soon as your child has selected their firm and insurance choices, and it usually takes around six weeks to be processed.

What other options are there?

If your child is unsure whether university is the right option for them, then consider discussing the other paths they can take once they have completed their A-levels.

One of the most popular options for students who are not sure that university is the correct choice for them is a degree apprenticeship, which allows you to study for a degree part-time while also working in the industry your child is interested in – with all the tuition fees paid for!

Other options include going into entry-level work positions, doing work experience or internships, or simply taking a gap year.

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