Applying to universities in the UK involves a little more than filling in an application form and hoping for the best. Applicants need to search for courses, be aware of deadlines, and spend time on writing a glowing personal statement which knocks the admissions tutor off his or her feet. The first article in this mini UCAS series outlined my conviction that doing lots of research, putting questions to university and UCAS representatives and attending UCAS conventions early are all key components to finding the right course and attending the university which suits a student’s needs and expectations. I will now shift the focus to the ins and outs of filling in the UCAS application form, writing an impressive personal statement and building a positive relationship with referees. Filling in the UCAS application The first step is to register on the UCAS website in order to enter personal details, create a username, as well as set up a password and security information. For international students, there are six sections to complete: 1) Personal details; 2) Choices: there’s no preference order, and choices are hidden, meaning that universities cannot view students’ other choices; 3) Education: current and pending qualifications; 4) Employment: full- or part-time; 5) Personal statement; and 6) Reference. I cannot overemphasize the usefulness of the “nominated access” function. Essentially, one or two nominated people – a teacher, adviser or parent – can contact UCAS on an applicant’s behalf to discuss the application if the applicant is not in a position to do so. These names can be entered at the bottom of the personal details section. A convincing personal statement The most important part of the application process is the personal statement. From my experience dealing with concerned students who want to write a convincing personal statement, it is vital to approach it as if it is an essay. Applicants should first put words or small phrases – relating to reasons why they are excited about the courses they wish to study – on to paper. These reasons can be developed into headings, and these headings can be supported by bullet points which list supporting evidence to support their optimism for the courses. Headings and the supporting bullet points make paragraphs, and paragraphs make the final product. Supporting evidence includes work experience, extracurricular activities and relevant soft skills – for example, evidence of leadership. Structure is key. The first part of the statement should be somewhat catchy, full of enthusiasm and excitement, and an understanding of what the course entails. The main body of the statement details the evidence to support your interest in the course (in other words supporting evidence). The closing paragraph should contain a clear and concise statement which states why the course is right for you – and why you are well-suited to study the course. The drafting and redrafting process should then come into effect. Check, check and check again. Plagiarism should also be discouraged as UCAS has some very nifty systems to detect it. Trustworthy teachers, advisers and friends can also be called upon to check and give feedback on personal statements. One area in which Hong Kong students may slip up when writing their personal statements is the need to stress English language ability. Universities need to know why you can successfully complete a course that is taught in English. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with informing admissions tutors of past studies which have been examined or taught in English or of any other extracurricular activities where English has featured. Getting a referee on your side Referees have to predict your grades in your current level of study. This assists universities to see if candidates are expected to satisfy the entry requirements for the course. A further key point surrounds the need for applicants to foster a positive relationship with their referees. This means asking for advice, being courteous and punctual for meetings. Referees would like to see reliability displayed in real life. Samuel Chan is the managing director of Britannia Study Link Source: Student StandardTuesday, 6 June 2015 For more informational about British Boarding School. Email Samuel@britannia-study.com or call 3184 0152.