UCAS (University and College Admissions Service) is the centralized application website for applying to universities in the UK (http://ucas.com/). A student may apply to a maximum of five universities or a combination of various courses in a couple of universities. Most of the information below pertains to students applying to the UK with their anticipated IB Diploma as their qualification for admission. However, it is possible to apply (and be admitted to) a UK university without the IB Diploma. In general, universities will consider applications from students earning an American high school diploma with the addition of two or three AP exam scores of 4 or 5, plus the SAT. Students considering the UK who are not IB Diploma candidates, are encouraged to contact universities directly to find out what is required to apply for a specific course of interest.
Students without the IB Diploma or AP and SAT scores may still apply to the UK. These students will be required to a Foundation Year prior to entering a three-year university course. Foundation Year programs are most often associated with a specific university. After successful completion of the Foundation Year, students may matriculate into their desired course at the same university or transfer to another three-year institution.
Choosing a Course
Taking time to carefully research courses, find out which universities offer the course you are looking for, and review specific entry requirements is an essential process. The UCAS website is easy to navigate and contains all of the information needed to complete your application to the UK. It is highly recommended that students planning to apply to the UK begin this research as early as grade ten and certainly no later than the spring of grade eleven.
The UCAS Application
The deadline for most courses in the UK is January 15th; however, students are strongly encouraged to complete their application no later than mid-December. The application deadline for applying to Oxford, Cambridge and all courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Science, is October 15th. In setting up a UCAS application account, a student will prompted to include their high school and enter the Buzzword associated with their school. This enables the student’s UCAS application to be viewable by the counselor, who will send it to UCAS when all sections are complete and carefully reviewed for accuracy.
The UCAS application itself is relatively simple; students enter their personal and academic information, indicate their five course choices, and submit a personal statement. The goal of the personal statement is to convey that you would be a great student in the course. Note that the same personal statement is for all courses, so avoid mentioning universities by name. In addition to the UCAS application, some universities or courses will require an interview, an audition, a portfolio, or that applicants take a standardized test. Most commonly, additional testing is required for students applying to Law, Medicine, and Mathematics.
Students must request an academic reference from a teacher that has taught the student in a course that is aligned with the intended course of study. Once the student has completed their part of the UCAS application and paid the application fee, counselors will then add the reference letter and then submit the completed application to UCAS. All teacher recommendations are confidential and therefore not shared with the student.
Predicted IB Scores
Counselors and the IB Coordinator will collect predicted IB scores from teachers and this information will be shared with students applying to the UK. Using their predicted IB scores, students are able to select courses for which they will likely meet the entry requirements and thus maximize their chances of getting multiple offers of admission. Once the student has completed their part of the UCAS application and paid the application fee, counselors will then enter predicted IB scores and then submit the completed application to UCAS.
Applying to “Oxbridge”
The competition for admission to Oxford and Cambridge is extreme and students are not permitted to apply to both institutions. In addition to the earlier application deadline of October 15th, there are additional application requirements depending on desired course and citizenship of the applicant. For example, anyone applying to to Cambridge University from outside the EU must complete the Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA) by the application deadline.
Applying to Medical Courses
The UCAS application deadline for all medical courses is October 15th. Students applying to study medicine in the UK may apply to a maximum of four courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Science; their fifth application must be to an alternate course choice. In addition to the application, sitting for the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) or UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is often an additional application requirement. The BMAT is a 2-hour, pen-and-paper test to assess the skills and knowledge that applicants to Medicine and Veterinary courses are expected to have already. The British Council Office in Delhi administers the BMAT. The UKCAT is a 2-hour computer-based test to assess the skills and knowledge that applicants to Medicine and Dentistry courses are expected to have already. In Delhi, the UKCAT is administered by Pearson test center.
Many students hear back from one or more of their universities within a few weeks of submitting their UCAS application. As mentioned earlier, applying in advance of the deadline (ie. submitting before winter break for January 15 applications) is a plus. Students will receive all decisions by mid-March. Students can use Track to find out the status of their applications. Nearly all offers of admission are “conditional” which means that they are based on the student achieving specific IB scores. Less frequently, an applicant has met or surpassed the entrance requirements and will receive an “unconditional” offer.
Replying to Offers
When decisions are in, the student can only accept one offer firmly. If it is a conditional offer, the student may then accept a second offer as “insurance,” in the event they do not meet the scores needed for their first choice. IB exam results are released in the first week of July. If accepting an unconditional offer, the student is committed to that school and may not make a second choice. Students who are declined offers for all five of their choices can use Extra to apply to other universities that have openings.