Shona Barrie is the Recruitment, Admissions and Marketing Manager for the School of Management & Languages at Heriot-Watt University. After graduating from St. Andrews, she worked at the University of Stirling then joined Heriot-Watt University in 1998. She has many years of experience in university admissions and has read thousands of UCAS applications.

  1. Be strategic when shortlisting your choices.  It’s good to be aspirational but you make sure you are applying to universities where you are likely to achieve the entry requirements.
  1. Seems obvious but order your academic qualifications in a logical manner, chronological is best.  You don’t want a selector to miss anything so make sure they are clearly listed.
  1. Your personal statement can make all the difference,  especially if the course has very competitive selection. Make sure it has impact and use all the sources of help available such as teachers and student forums.
  1. Explain why you are a good candidate for this course and how it will help you achieve your career ambitions and life plans.
  1. Talk about yourself; your achievements and ambitions.  Don’t be modest (other applicants won’t be) but at the same time, don’t exaggerate or make anything up.
  1. Universities are more than just a place to study. Explain why you will be an asset to the university community, without making it sound like a job application. It’s not just about gaining a degree – it’s about appreciating the bigger picture.
  1. If you are writing about your experiences, say why they are relevant to this course and university life.
  1. If you are still completing qualifications at school or college make sure your referee includes your predicted grades.  If there is no indication of your likely performance, it’s very hard to assess your potential alongside other applicants.
  1. Check and double check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  1. Don’t ever copy and paste from somewhere else. All statements are automatically checked by UCAS  and it could jeopardise your application.
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Picture by Andréa Portilla under CC license