Image of a teacher giving advice to students

 by Claire Forsman
, posted On 31 Dec '16
 Head of Undergraduate Recruitment (UK/EU), University of Edinburgh

UCAS advice for teachers: What do universities look for in a student?

By Claire Forsman, Head of Undergraduate Recruitment (UK/EU), University of Edinburgh

A head for academia

Universities look for students with the potential to do well: those that have the right skills and knowledge to succeed on their chosen course. So academic profile is always going to be a key part of any admissions process.

Students need to check the minimum requirements for any courses they are thinking about. It’s easy to miss an important piece of information. So they must take the time to check, and double-check, requirements carefully.

For courses where levels of competition for entry are high, students should be aware that universities may have ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ offer levels significantly higher than the minimum.

And some institutions may look for specific skills and qualities that are important for certain subjects, including aptitude tests, portfolios, auditions and interviews.

The right ‘fit’ for a degree programme

Universities like students that want to get the most out of their course and their time in higher education. The UCAS Personal Statement and Reference goes a long way to showing admissions staff that a student will do just that.

Personal Statements can help identify those students best suited to HE courses, and here universities are usually looking for evidence that a student has a strong interest in their chosen subject area.

The UCAS Reference is highly valued by universities as it provides a well-rounded view of an applicant, and helps put a student’s achievements in context.

With so many changes taking place in the school curriculum across the UK, references should highlight any specific school policies which may have affected a student’s subject choices, as well as any important information about the school itself.

Information provided by subject teachers can also help demonstrate the suitability of an applicant for their chosen course.

Don’t hide lights under bushels

Some students tend to underplay skills developed through part-time work, or volunteering in their own schools or local communities.

As a teacher, you can play an invaluable role in helping students identify the key skills they’ve learned through these activities – whether communication skills, team work or simply good time management.

Understanding their profession

If applying for a vocational course, students need to demonstrate a good understanding of their chosen profession.

This may be through relevant work experience, volunteering or shadowing, and it’s often useful for students to reflect on what they’ve learned from these experiences – both about the profession itself, and also about their own attributes.



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This Teachers’ Guide has been produced by UniTasterDays.com in collaboration with HELOA. It has been developed based on the higher education system in England.

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