Ucas applications: a month-by-month planner

Starting preparation 12 months before the Ucas deadline, and spreading the workload across the year, reduces teacher stress, says Will Yates
13th January 2022, 12:33pm
UCAS applications: a month-by-month plan for teachers
Will Yates

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Ucas applications: a month-by-month planner

https://www.tes.com/magazine/teaching-learning/secondary/ucas-applications-month-month-planner

January is an exhausting time for sixth-form teams. The run-up to the Ucas applications deadline at the end of the month is often so busy that there is little time to reflect on what mistakes we might have made and what we could do better. As a result, the same mistakes - overlapping data cycles with reference deadlines, arguments over predicted grades, students applying last-minute for unrealistic courses - can be repeated 12 months later. 

So how can we avoid this and minimise stress for teachers? Personally, I've found that having a Ucas calendar, which runs from January to January, really spreads the workload out throughout the year.

Ucas university applications: a 12-month planner for teachers

The calendar begins in January of Year 12, the year before students enter applications. 

January 

At the start of the year, Year 12 students should be sitting their first set of mocks. When you've got the results, compare their data against prior attainment, and hold an assembly outlining where certain mock grades might lead to in a year and a half's time.

Tutors have an important part to play here, too: they should be having open conversations with students about their university ambitions. High-attaining students should be directed towards the school's designated more-able coordinator, who can talk them through the process.

February to March 

Focus on enrichment activities, and liaise with sixth-form teachers to ensure that students have robust reading lists and that these are being incorporated into Year 12 lessons and registration sessions. 

University essay competitions and summer school admissions are often launched around this point in the year and are well worth students' time, as are visits to universities. It's also helpful to outsource some tasks to subject specialists: sixth-form subject societies, for example, are a great way for newer teachers to pick up some additional responsibilities in a low-stakes environment, while also providing students with additional support for their eventual applications.

April to May 

This time is key for consolidating subject knowledge picked up during the first year of sixth form. During the Easter holidays, students can use wider reading alongside revision to broaden and deepen their understanding. 

Once you're back in school, run assemblies or enrichment sessions on cognitive science-based approaches to revision and on critical reading. 

June to July 

Start the second half of the term with another full mock cycle - this will allow you to evaluate whether students' university ambitions are realistic. 

Now is also the time to deliver staff training on how to help with references and personal statements. This can be completed in gained time while students are sitting exams. 

Once the mock results are in, and students have a better idea of which institutions and courses they should realistically be aiming for, run a series of assemblies or enrichment sessions on the application process, including key deadlines and the mechanics of the Ucas application. 

This is also a good time for a parents' evening, which should allow you to triangulate expectations between staff, students and families. 

In the last month of term, students should go to university open days to begin finalising their choices, and staff should begin writing subject references. 

Send the students away for the summer ready to draft personal statements and to fill in the bulk of their Ucas form. 

September 

The Year 12s are now Year 13s, and September is a key month for them. All students should now be drafting personal statements, and early applicants (for medicine, veterinary science, dentistry and Oxbridge) should be the priority. They'll need to be entered for admissions tests, and tutors should compile overall references and help students to redraft their personal statements, ready to submit by the end of September. 

Any subject clubs you set up in February should now be up and running again, and this is also the time to start a whole-year tracking spreadsheet for applications, with at least one registration period a week dedicated to Ucas.

October

The early Ucas deadline falls in October, so make sure everything's ready to go at least a week before, and make sure tutors have gathered first drafts of personal statements from all other students. If you run interventions during half-term, dedicate at least one to early applicants' admissions tests, perhaps seeking help from charities such as The Access Project, OxFizz or Team UPside.

November 

Combine the admissions tests from September with a mini-mock cycle to allow staff to nail down predicted grades. While the students are doing that, begin organising practice interviews for prospective interview candidates. If interviews are likely to be remote, start checking technology requirements and room availability for the first two weeks of December. 

Regular-deadline candidates should start sending their applications off at this point, too - prompt applications can receive more lenient offers.

December 

Oxbridge interviews take place in the first two weeks of the month, so keep subject teachers abreast of who'll be missing. 

Set an internal deadline for regular-deadline applications the week before the end of term. A few may slip through the net, so make a list of students who haven't filed and meet with them to confirm their post-school plans. 

Use the final enrichment sessions or assemblies of the term to explain next steps such as accepting offers and Ucas Extra (another chance for students to gain a place at university or college, between 25 February and 4 July). 

January

You should only have a few applications left to chase by now, and you'll have about a week and a half from the start of term to the mid-January deadline. Once those are in the bag, you can give yourself a big pat on the back and get ready to start all over again. 

Will Yates is the key stage 5 deputy raising standards leader at Barnhill Community High School in West London

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