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Guide for applying to UK universities via UCAS for polytechnic students – Part 1 (Personal details, choices and education)

After my successful application as an international student from Singapore via UCAS (guess many found their way here from a dated blog post), I’ve been receiving quite a number of questions about the application process, particular for non-mainstream poly students like myself. I have written a small guide condensed from the replies I’ve given out, going section by section as from the 2008 application year.

This guide follows closely the 6 structured sections applicants will have to go through in their UCAS application and can be completed in any order. Moreover, though this article may cater more to Polytechnic students, it is rather general in nature and can apply to anyone applying via the mainstream route on UCAS. Read on more with my more of my pointers, tips and hints highlighted from my application.

The first section, your personal details:

1. Personal details
Filling out your details here rather straight forward, it’s mostly all your personal particulars, with some additional fields of question (and what I have filled in place to confirm with your own)

Area of permanent residence: Singapore
Residential category: O Other
Unique Learner Number: Nil

Student support
Fee code: 09 Overseas Agency (Note I chose this as I was offered sponsorship for fees)
Student support arrangements: Nil

There is one field however, called nominated access, which requires the full name of nominee as well as his or her relationship to you as an applicant. Nominated access is put anyone, who can be a parent/guardian/acquaintance you nominate who will be able to talk to UCAS on your behalf about your application, it’s not compulsory and is not in anyway to be confused as the reference.You can leave this field blank if you do not have one, I did.

In addition to your personal details, some universities may thereafter send you additional form to fill out after you’ve submitted your UCAS application, requesting more details such as the particulars and job of your parents and siblings if do, this is so for a financial guarantee which some universities may offer as conditions to offer as an applicant.

2. Choices
This section is where you specify all your desired major as offered by your chosen college. You first have to specify the university and additional detail fields will follow:

Campus: Specified if your university has colleges to chose from (e.g in Oxbridge)
Live at home?: Usually it is “No”, this only indicates that you intend to use college dormitory facilities, there is no harm indicating “No” here first unless you already intend to live in a home or rented property already residing in UK, but you can always make arrangements with your college when the term starts.
Start date: October 2009 is the usual start date for normal point of entry
Deferred entry?: No, unless if you intend to take a year out and start your term the following year. This is in particular for guys in Singapore still serving NS and are applying one year before their intended year of study.
Further details: Usually can be left blank, otherwise, do specify other needs such a visual impairment, mature student or otherwise areas of need not covered in the disabled needs section.
Point of entry: This is only for if you are about to do the second or final year of the same course but at another university. Usually you should leave this blank, otherwise, do specify 1, 2, or 3 in the box which would denote the year you are starting the course.

In my application, I used 3 choices in total, but I believe you are only offered 5 choices, so do make the best of what you’ve offered. UCAS will charge an additional application fee if you intend to have more than 5 choices. But remember it’s the quality and not quantity which matters!

3. Education
For my year of application, there were actually no options for application for Polytechnic, let be JC, you specify your education details under the “education section”, so it’s kinda general in nature. Under this section, you will be faced with a javascript drop down menu to choose your school/college after selecting your country, only after you’ve done your first step where the form will expand with more options.

For me, in my application, the option available was (together with a list of all the polys in Singapore as well):

Singapore-Polytechnic Diploma (For me, this was the option available, along with the JCs in our region as well)

If so say UCAS had updated the school selection part for that year you are applying, and there are no such options for application, the other will be to choose unconventional qualifications (others), such as the international barculate (IB) option (or alternative). However, I believe it should still be the same as what I mentioned previously above.

After selecting your school, for that school you will be provided an option to “add subject/modules” with actually requires you to add each polytechnic module as a subject you’ve studied. It’s quite a painstalking process having to key in each module info one by one on the system, what I can recommend is to have access to your polytechnic student admin system (we call it SAS in SP, if its still called the student admin system) open it by your side, navigate to your past exam result archive. There, copy the subject module names text which are already pre-typed and paste them into Microsoft word, where you can format the text with the right caps before pasting them into the fields required, what should be needed is the module name, year/date taken so it can be like 05/2009 for may 2009, followed by your grade. Once done, a line may look like that:


Remember to save regularly.

Once done, go ahead and fill in your other educational details up to secondary school level, this is important as your GCE ‘O’ level English result will free you the need to take English proficiency programs/tests (e.g IELTS, TOFEL) which are prerequisites prior to enrollment, you may need to take to support your application and/or taken as part of a foundation on your first year of your accepting college.

Next I will go on an cover the other remaining parts of the UCAS application process, such as your dreaded personal statement and reference.

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  1. I know this is REALLY random, but would you happen to know anything bout School of Oriental and African Studies, UOL? Am interested in their Anthropology and Law degrees.

  2. Hi Shaun,

    As all UK unversities reflect their requirements in A-level results (e.g AAA, ABB), how am I to know whether my results as a Poly student measure up to their requirements?

    With my results of 2.7 gpa, I know that I don’t stand a chance with top-tiered universities. Which other universities do you reckon I’d stand a higher chance? Would University of Manchester/Birmingham/Edinburgh/Bath be too ambitious?

    • Hi Alicia,

      You won’t know how you will do if you don’t try. 😉

      When you are applying through UCAS, you have a grade field corresponding to a subject, create as many subjects as possible based on the modules you’ve taken. Stick to a appropriate grade structure which is scalable to that of your poly grades (e.g A-A, A*-DIST and etc)

      I am not sure of the reqs for the unis you are applying, but for a good indicator on requirements and local knowledge of the unis you are applying for (in UK), try checking or posting a question in thestudentroom.co.uk

  3. Hi Shaun,

    I’ve decided to defer my study till next year. What do I reply UCAS? Do I reply them as Decline? I have no absolute idea how to go about doing this. OH! i’ve already emailed the university and they are happy to defer me till next year. Please help me. Thanks a million!!!

    • Hey Nadiah!

      In UCAS, deferring is like taking a gap year as defined in UCAS.

      UCAS just serves as a formal means to get your application to your intended unis, whether or not you are taking a gap year. Once you’ve received an official letter of acceptance from your uni (KIV not UCAS), accept ONLY the uni you want and reject the rest online. Do this regardless you are taking a gap year or not, it’s just a formality on the UCAS system.

      Having said that, usually I will recommend people applying as per normal on UCAS even with deferment rather than waiting and applying just before their intended year of study, and just let your uni know about the deferment- which you’ve already did 🙂

      From then on, all further correspondence should be direct with your uni, they will acknowledge your deferment (gap year) and have you starting your freshman year a year later.

  4. Hi shaun,

    First of all, thanks for the wonderful tips given! It is very useful especially to a poly student like myself! (: I m an SP student too in Aero engineering.

    Btw, i m currently filling up the education part, but i am stuck in putting the date taken for the modules. Should i use the date the result were released for a given module or use the date when i took the paper? Had me confused. Thanks in advance! (:

  5. Hello Shaun,

    I am considering to enter republic poly. If I enter there and I want to apply to UK universities like oxbridge, ucl, etc. Would i list my school as singapore poly or is there already an option for other polys in singapore including republic?

    Thanks, Aaron


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