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UCAS: My Course Selection Tips

UCAS: My Course Selection Tips

Sorcha Kennedy

Applying to UCAS from Ireland can feel like a bit of a minefield, but the course options and having a safety net incase the CAO doesn’t work out for you can make it worth the hassle.

If you are unsure of what UCAS is and how it works, check out my article which explains the process and provides some useful tips!

Here are some of my tips from my own personal experience on how to research courses in the UCAS system and how to narrow down your course selection to find the course for you…

Applying to college in the United Kingdom is a great option if you can’t find the exact course you want here. My dream was always to study fashion communication, but I never thought a course like that would exist. Then when I started researching I found that you can study it at over 40 colleges in the UK.

If you’re looking for a “niche” or specific course but can’t find it here, you’ll probably find it through UCAS. However, there is so much choice that it’s hard to search through. You need to find the perfect course and college that suits you, which sounds daunting but really all you need is some guidance. So here are some lessons I learned from my own course search that I hope will help you!

What do you want to study?

UCAS is different to the CAO where you can put down 10 courses from 10 different subject areas. For UCAS it is advised that you choose 5 courses in similar subjects, so your personal statement can be specific to that area. Spend time exploring certain areas and subjects that you’re interested in and possible careers.

My tip for choosing a subject to study is to use LinkedIn! Find people with your dream job and see what those people studied. You’ll probably find a common theme amongst most of them, but remember your primary degree is not everything.

Let’s make a list

The UCAS website is great because it allows you to search for courses by using keywords and by subject area. My suggestion is to go through all the courses in your subject (which may be a lot) and make a list of those that stand out to you. The next step is to cut these courses down by first looking at the entry requirements for the course. Then you should look at their location and the reputation of the course/university.

Narrowing it down further

Now you should have the choices down to 10-15 choices, and it’s time to focus on the university itself. It’s important that the uni is a good fit for you as well as the course. There are lots of online events, including open days, where you can get information and ask questions. These are a great way to get to know the environment, without actually visiting the school.

I also suggest reaching out to current students or past graduates from the courses you’re interested in. They can give you a real insight into life at that university and on that course. This can be a little daunting but these people will be happy to help so don’t worry. You can find them on LinkedIn or you can post something on a question board like The Student Room.

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Making the final choice

It’s time to choose your final five choices (eek). You don’t have to use all five but why not? I’m a big believer in dream big. I put down my dream course that I never thought I would get at the last minute, and guess what? They gave me an offer, which is proof that never say never. I definitely think you should include one or two “dream big” courses on your application. These are courses that may be prestigious or highly competitive, but you think that you might have a chance of getting.

Then I definitely recommend including 1 or 2 “easy” courses that you think you have a high chance of getting an offer from. If UCAS is your backup plan, you definitely need to ensure at least one offer. However, these should still be courses you would love to do, not something to settle for. You can then fill the last few spots with some middle of the road choices, that are slightly more unrealistic than the easy choices.

Allow yourself the space to change your mind and explore other options. My choices when I first started researching were very different from my final choices, and that’s ok. It will all work out, and hopefully, these tips make it easier!

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