10 things to check before you send off your UCAS application

The deadline of 15th October is looming. Personal statements are being proof read for the last time, final university choices are being made and stress levels are high. Take a deep breath. Applican's motto of 'don't stress' is important right now. You are in control and you still have time. That said, finding a mistake on your application the day after you submit it is extremely frustrating. Moreover, an uninformed university choice can really be the make or break of getting an offer to study medicine. Therefore, taking that extra time to make sure everything is perfect is important. To help you out just as you are reaching the end of your tether, the team at Applican HQ have put together a checklist of 10 things to ensure your application is absolutely perfect.

1. Is your personal statement the correct length?

The positive thing here is that UCAS won't allow you to submit it otherwise. However, this can still be something that stresses people who wait until the last minute to paste their personal statement into UCAS. The maximum limit is 4,000 characters. However, this includes spaces. This is a mistake many people make and it can cause a lot of last minute stress if you are very close to the deadline so keep this in mind early and make sure you are working towards this short character limit.


2. Have you capitalised 'doctor', 'nurse' or 'medicine' in your personal statement?

This is a common mistake which is not the be all and end all but if you want your application to be perfect then scrap the capitals for common nouns like these frequently used words. They should always be lower case apart from if you are naming a particular doctor such as 'Doctor Applican' but you shouldn't be doing this in your personal statement anyway. Similarly, medicine does not have a capital M. Attention to detail is important as a doctor - you won't really be penalised if you have done this but it is a pet hate of ours at Applican.

3. Have you put your commas in the right place in your personal statement?

Those who love grammar will notice this so double check all your commas. 'The patient's needs' refers to a single, isolated patient. 'The patient needs' refers to patients as a general concept as in the needs of each individual patient. 'Patients' needs' refers to the needs of a group of patients. Three very similar phrases with really the only thing different being the placement of a comma and yet they mean very different things - get it right! Another common place that people get commas mixed up is when talking about work experience. 'During two weeks of work experience' does not need a comma because 'weeks' here is just a common plural word. However, 'During a week's work experience' requires a comma because the work experience belongs to the week. Hopefully you are still following...

4. Is your spelling correct in your personal statement?

It is very common to be unable to confidently proof read a document you have spent hours formatting and developing. You have looked at the text so many times that you can predict what the sentence says. However, proof reading is essential. Spelling mistakes are unacceptable and you want to have absolutely nothing that could affect the first impressions of the person scanning your personal statement. Therefore, Applican advise giving your personal statement to three people who have not looked at it before. Often people get somebody to proof read their final draft who has read a previous draft and given some feedback. Even these people are not as good at proof reading as someone completely fresh. When you give it to someone make sure you make it clear: 'This is my final version - would you do me a favour and look for any spelling or grammatical errors. I am not editing it any more but just want a fresh eye to look for any mistakes in these areas'. This makes it clear you do not want lots of new opinions and suggestions - you just want them to be a spell checker. Also you can use spell check too but even this can miss the odd thing.

5. Have you been honest about all the work experience you have put down?

Sometimes people think it is a good idea to chuck in a few extra work placements just to make their application well rounded. Common thinking is something along the lines of 'Ah I have been to the GP a couple of times, I know what they do, I can ask my friend's mum who is one, it will be fine and I can use that to talk about patient-centred care'. This all seems like you have every base covered until you get an email from the medical school you have applied to asking for the doctor and address of where each placement took place so they can get in touch ... Not ideal. Be careful by being honest. 

6. Have you picked the perfect combination of 4?

Don't screw this up. Applican go on about it all the time but make sure you have fully investigated the four choices you make. How do they select their applicants? Do GCSEs, AS Levels, predicted A2 Levels or UKCAT matter most academically? How important is the personal statement to them? Do they take people who are resitting? Do they clean the slate at interview? And most importantly do these factors match YOUR strengths? You can check out our previous blog posts and our video on picking the perfect combination of four if you want more information but research is KEY and all this effort will be wasted if you pick somewhere that is going to cut you before they even look at your application. Double check and triple check this, we can't stress the importance of being strategic enough!

7. Have you signed up for the entrance tests you need to for each of your choices?

On the same train of thought, if you pick a university that does the BMAT, make sure you sign up for it!!! The deadline is approaching so make sure you triple check if your choices require an entrance test and make sure you have signed up to do it. If you miss these deadlines, there is nothing you can do and you will be disqualified from the admissions process for that university so don't screw it up at this hurdle. UKCAT will have been done but sometimes people don't realise you need to sign up for the BMAT in your school so speak to the teacher who organises exams in school or the examinations officer and make sure you are entered for the BMAT test which takes place at the beginning of November. Anyone applying to the Republic of Ireland then you need to do the HPAT. Get enrolling!

8. Have you made a 5th choice with good prospects?

As you know, you only can apply to four medical schools. However, you do get the option to apply to one non-medicine course as your fifth choice and the options for this are greatly expanding. Do some research and you can find courses that allow transfer into medicine after 1 or 2 years with good exam results or competitive biomedical science courses that hold good prospects for following the graduate medicine route. A lot of people don't realise how useful this fifth option should be and often leave it as a bit of an afterthought when actually, giving this choice a bit of time can really give you a strong, positive back up with the same end of goal of being a qualified doctor. Give it a good look and think. However, by the same token, make sure they will not discriminate you for having a completely medical personal statement. This is really important for some of the competitive courses that hold bright medicine prospects so watch out.

9. Have you got UCAS points for everything you deserve to?

UCAS points are available for a wide range of things. From musical instrument grades, Speech and Drama grades to 'EPQ: Extended Project Qualification' and more. Some universities look at UCAS points instead of A Level grades when considering the academic elements to your application so don't underestimate the importance of making sure you have got everything down there that you possibly can. It is also a great chance to squeeze in things you might not have got the chance to say in your personal statement so make sure you have it all entered in.

10. Have you spoken to the teacher writing your reference?

When a university looks at your application, remember they look at your reference too. Teaming up with your teacher is a great way to cover more information and ensure you remain under your character count. What you don't get a chance to say, your teacher can make sure they cover. This is particularly helpful for academic information as sometimes it can sound much better coming from the teacher and then you can discuss more extra curricular aspects and link them in using the 'Applican zig zag approach' to your work experience and volunteering.

Applican are getting excited about the coming months with lots of Applicans sending their applications off and the interview rounds getting started. If you think we could be of help to you in preparation for your interviews then give us an email at applicanuk@gmail.com. Similarly, if you would Applican to come to a location near you then please let us know as we are always looking for areas keen to have us work with students in the local area.