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How to Build a Great UCAS List

Learn how to create a great UCAS list and make informed choices for your university applications.


Dec 14, 2023

Building a great UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) list requires careful consideration and research. Before starting your university search, it is important to understand the university’s perspective and how they select students. Typically universities employ various selection processes, with some sharing similarities, but might differ due to the culture or course selected.

Some common factors that universities might consider:

Academic Qualifications: 

Universities typically evaluate your academic achievements, including predicted or achieved grades, standardised test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT, A-Levels), and relevant subject knowledge.

Personal Statement: 

Your statement is an opportunity to showcase your motivation, passion, and relevant experiences. It should highlight why you are interested in the subject and how you are well-suited for the program. It is also important to include non-academic achievements for a more diverse portfolio.

Letters of Recommendation: 

Testimonials or statements from teachers or mentors who can vouch for your academic abilities, character, and potential for success, are important for the school to know more about you even before your interview. This can further support your abilities and aptitude for the admissions committee.


Certain courses or universities may require interviews to assess your suitability for the program. Prepare for these by researching the program thoroughly and practicing your responses. 

Supplementary Application Materials: 

Some courses may require additional materials, such as portfolios (for creative programmes) or written work samples (for humanities subjects). Ensure that you prepare beforehand and submit these materials according to the university’s guidelines.

Remember, each university has its unique admission process, so it’s crucial to carefully review their specific requirements and deadlines to ensure a successful application.

Now that you have a better understanding of how universities’ admission office shortlist students, here are some tips to help you create a comprehensive and well-balanced college list:

Identify Your Preferences and Goals: 

Start by understanding your preferences, interests, and long-term goals. Consider factors such as location, campus size, course offerings, extracurricular activities, and career prospects. Reflect on what kind of environment and learning experience you desire.

Consider Entry Requirements: 

Pay close attention to the entry requirements of universities you are interested in. Evaluate your academic performance and make sure you meet or exceed the minimum requirements. Some universities may have additional criteria or specific prerequisites for certain courses. Thus starting early can give you an edge, to ensure you are able to gain the relevant experience and or requirements to fit the universities’ criteriums.

Look Beyond Rankings:

While university rankings can provide a general sense of reputation and quality, it’s important not to rely solely on them. Consider factors such as course content, faculty expertise, research opportunities, and alumni success stories. Look for universities that align with your academic and personal goals rather than focusing solely on rankings. Some universities have specialised or niche departments that may be leaders in their field regardless of the overall university rankings

Research Course Content: 

Explore the course content and structure of the programs you are considering. Look for courses that cover subjects you are passionate about and offer opportunities for specialisation or interdisciplinary studies.

Review syllabi, module descriptions, and assessment methods to ensure they align with your learning style and interests. You do not want a situation where you realise that a course is unsuitable for you after you have been accepted into a university.

Seek Student Perspectives: 

Engage with current or former students through online forums, social media groups, or networking events. Their firsthand experiences can provide valuable insights into the university’s culture, social scene, workload, and overall student satisfaction. University websites can give a general overview of the culture of a university, but asking current students or alumni can proved a better perspective of life studying in a particular university.

Manage Your UCAS Choices: 

Keep in mind that you are limited to a maximum of five choices on your UCAS application. Use these choices wisely by selecting a mix of aspirational, competitive, and safe options. Consider factors like entry requirements, your predicted grades, and the likelihood of being offered a place at each university.

Be Realistic: 

While it’s good to have ambitious goals, it’s essential to be realistic about your chances of acceptance. Apply to universities where you have a strong chance of meeting the entry requirements and where you genuinely believe you will thrive academically and socially. Sometimes taking chances on universities that are out of your current academic grades can be viable, however, having a safety net is also important to ensure you get at least one placement in a university.

Seek Advice and Guidance: 

If your school has a career or university counselor, they can be an incredibly helpful resource to start. They can provide valuable insights, recommend resources, and help you explore different options based on your interests and academic qualifications. Of course, feel free to reach out to us and we would be happy to help you on your journey.


Founded in 1999 to provide comprehensive standardised test preparation and admissions coaching for students embarking on their university education.


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