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Britain Bound: An Insider Guide to Applying to Universities in the UK

By Localiiz 17 March 2014
March 17th 2014 Yes, it’s only March, but if you or your child is planning on applying to universities in the UK either this year or the next, it’s time to get moving with that dreaded application. As more and more Hong Kongers look to gain their higher education qualifications overseas and the competition gets ever fiercer, school placement and consultancy experts ITS Education Asia give us their top tips for standing out from the crowd and making the grade. The amount of Hong Kong students accepted into UK universities is growing year-on-year. From just 2,615 in 2008, the number reached 6,452 in 2012 and then 6,780 last year. Despite the increase in supply however, demand is also growing accordingly, making the quest for the perfect application more pertinent than ever. Here are some things to consider before and during the process. Do your Research All applications for full-time courses at UK universities are made through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. UCAS advisers visit Hong Kong, its second largest international market after mainland China, twice a year. There are often university fairs hosted in Hong Kong, and these can be an excellent way of finding out what is involved with individual courses and what the courses at particular universities would entail. Universities usually send Admissions Officers to the fairs, so there are people on hand to answer specific questions about courses and other areas such as accommodations. You should also review a school’s rankings in the league tables. Candidate should consider a certain geographical location or a certain style of university. For example, think about whether you would prefer a campus-based or city university. Get the Grades Candidates need to consider what senior secondary curriculum he/she will study, because this will have an impact on the likelihood of being accepted to the preferred universities. For example, many Economics programmes in the UK now require students to have a good pass in Maths at matriculation level. These schools usually accept A-level Maths, but not IB Standard-level Maths. This means that an IB student would need to take IB Higher-level Maths in order to fulfill the entry requirement. Some schools also administer the IB in ways which can be limiting to the student. For example, with the IB it is generally possible for a student to elect to do two science subjects – a virtual must for a student considering a course in Medicine or Vet Science. However, some schools don’t allow for two science subjects, and instead insist on a creative subject to be taken in Group 6. In this case, a potential medical student would need to either consider taking the additional (usually required) science as an add-on (possibly as an A-level) or change schools to one which gives students the flexibility to take two science subjects. Match the Requirements Candidates should try and establish whether their chosen course has any requirements other than grades that will need to be fulfilled prior to applying. The entry requirements are set by the course providers as a guide to the kinds of qualifications, subjects and exam grades a candidate needs. As well as these, your overall suitability to the course will be considered. Course descriptions often mention other desirable skills, interests or experience. Applications can be quite competitive, so look out for these extra details. Examples of other requirements are International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores, the Law Aptitude Test (LNAT), BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). You might also be asked to pass an admissions test, interview, audition, or even a health check. The Application Process Students at International schools in Hong Kong will generally use their school as their UCAS centre. Some local syllabus schools in Hong Kong are also UCAS centres. If a student is unable to use their school there are other options. Some other places, including ITS Education Asia, have status as UCAS centres, and can act in the same way as a school would, guiding the student through the process, offering advice about choices, helping to write the personal statement and replies to offers, and providing the student with a reference. Students can also apply as independent candidates, but there is more risk in this as there might be a number of unknown factors and the student will have virtually no access to guidance in this case. Candidates may apply to up to five university courses, and the majority of applicants make full use of this. Candidates apply for a specific course or programme. There are no options to apply with an undeclared or undecided major. Candidates should choose a ‘reach’ school, one that they would like to attend but which might be difficult to gain acceptance to; two schools that they would be happy to attend; and two safety schools (high probability of success). Once the candidate has offers from the universities, he or she will know what they need to achieve in order to gain the place. The Personal Statement Arguably the most important step in the application process is writing a personal statement. A student’s personal statement is designed to showcase the student to the universities he or she is applying to, explain the student’s reasons for choosing the particular study programme and show how the student’s choice of academic subjects at senior secondary level will contribute to their suitability. Candidates write only one personal statement for all of their choices. For this reason it is quite important that the candidate’s five choices are broadly similar. For example, it is virtually impossible to write a personal statement in support of an application to study French at one university and Engineering at another. While it might be useful to also give details of extra curricular activities and work experience the student has completed, nothing is more important than the academic side of this application. A carefully prepared personal statement can contribute a great deal to the student’s success, and for this reason some guidance and input from experienced counselors can be very valuable. There are also very precise word limit requirements that need to be adhered to.

If you need more help and advice applying to universities in the UK, call +852 2116-3916 or email ITS Education Asia via their Localiiz profile page.

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