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UCAS as an Individual


Face-first into Britain's worst webapp

UCAS as an Individual

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I do not believe I am wrong in saying that the majority of university applicants go through UCAS as part of their sixth form experience. In fact, I did the same thing back with Christ the King: Aquinas.

References and statements

I found writing my personal statement to be relatively straightforward compared to obtaining a reference from one of my previous teachers. Your general options for getting people to look at your statement are to either bother your friends or try and crowdsource it by involving, say, the entire London Enlightened community (Enlightened of the Ingress variety).

One thing to note when writing your personal statement is that the 4000 character limit is not exactly the source of truth - it has to be something along the lines of 4000 characters across 47 lines under their line-breaking algorithm, oh and if you use a new-line character it will count as two because of the \r\n convention.

So while the UCAS Apply, uh, application is a whole failboat’s worth of WTF in and of itself (more on that in a future blog post), I think one of the most difficult parts of the process is getting a reference. Unlike a regular character or personal reference, this one should underline the applicant’s learning ability and passion for the subject they chose. It is not trying to convince an HR person to hire somebody, but rather an admissions tutor to offer somebody a place at university. Therefore, I believe that good quality references of such type are more likely to come from one’s teachers rather than an employer or colleague. Obtaining such a reference whilst at college is hard.

Getting one when you’ve already left the college is much, much harder.

Pick your referee.

This should be someone who remembers you a lot, and that you trust to write a solid, high-quality reference. Unfortunately, those teachers are usually swamped by other students’ requests for references and help with personal statements, which they have to prioritise.

Prepare to email them. A lot.

One of the oft-repeated phrase at Chaser is “polite persistence pays”. While I can’t easily use this product for my current need (I’m chasing a reference, not an overdue invoice), the principle itself is solid.

I am now sending up to 4 emails per week, to multiple members of staff in the college. Some of them are general purpose reception emails which means I get to perform miniature ‘amplification attacks’. As of me writing this, it is still not enough.

Have backups.

I sincerely hope I’ve managed to get enough people to remember me in case I need to ask someone else for a reference at the last minute. I hope to send off my application by the end of November. If I can’t get the reference from my primary person of choice by then, I’ll have to ask someone else.

Half of the month has already gone past. Tick tock.