No University Offers…What Next?

It’s every student’s worst nightmare. After all those hours spent searching through university guides and prospectuses, attending open days, agonizing over where and what to apply for and finally putting a personal statement together, the last of your five university picks gets back to you. And like the other four, it’s bad news: another rejection, no university offers.

If this has happened to you it may feel like the end of the world. But it certainly needn’t be. And in fact it’s not really a big deal at all in the grand scheme of things. It’s something that happens to thousands of university applicants every year, many of whom later go onto university, have a fantastic time there and love the course they study.

Rather than being a time to get down and depressed, a clean sweep of rejections is in fact a great chance to take stock of your future. Were the rejections because you applied for the wrong course? Could you benefit from taking a gap year before applying again for the following year? And it certainly doesn’t mean that there’ll be a big question mark hanging over your year after A Levels. Because in addition to the possibility of taking a gap year it will still be possible for you to head off to university this coming September.

Reflecting on why you were rejected

If you have received five rejections, it is essential that you take a bit of time to think through why this might have happened before you make your next move. If you rashly give up on university, you could well be denying yourself something that could have been rewarding, fun and life-changing. On the other hand, if you plough straight ahead into more of the same through UCAS Extra without stopping to think about why you didn’t get any offers, it could be that you’re ignoring clues that suggest your original priorities weren’t the right ones.

In the majority of cases, it’s possible to identify the main reasons for rejections. Have a read of these possibilities, and see if any of them might apply to you.

Did you apply for courses that required higher grades than you were predicted?

This is a classic cause of rejection. The dilemma will now be whether you want to go ahead and apply for the same course at a university with lower entrance requirements, which could possibly mean it’s a lower quality course, or wait until you’ve got your exam results and see if you surpass those predicted grades, in which case getting into your top choices a year later could be possible.

How much effort did you put into your application?

If you rushed your personal statement, then it could be that your rejections are due to you simply not having shown off your true potential. It could be that by biding your time and making a better job of the application next year you’ll get the offers you were hoping for. If, however, you poured everything you had into the application, then it’s possibly the case that you need a deeper rethink of your options. Could it be that you’re simply not suited to the course you wanted to do?

Is there anything else you could do to improve your future chances of success?

Depending on the course, this doesn’t just apply to your grades, but also things like relevant work experience, volunteering or extracurricular activities. Again, if you think you were lacking in some of these areas and could improve on them, then an extra year before university may be just what you need to make sure that next time your application is stronger. But if you’ve done everything that you could have done, perhaps it’s time to look at other course options or universities.

Really all of these questions are likely to lead you to the same basic question: am I in fact capable of doing and suitable for the course I want to do at the university where I want to do it, or should I be doing a deeper reassessment of what I want to study at university?

After a fair bit of soul-searching, hopefully helped along with the advice of friends, parents and teachers, you should be ready to decide what to do next.

Should I consider UCAS Extra?

Between February and June UCAS runs its UCAS Extra service, which allows students who have either received five rejections or have rejected all their offers to apply for courses on which there are places available. Applying for these extra courses is simply a matter of selecting the course while logged into your UCAS account and then hitting the Apply button. Your existing personal statement, references and all other information will be passed on to the university, which will then process your application.

UCAS Extra is therefore a great way of increasing your chances of getting into a university for the coming academic year using the application you’ve already submitted. If you’re absolutely certain your application was as good as it could be, that you’re going to apply for either the same subject or a similar one and that you’re sure it’s the right choice for you, then UCAS Extra is more than likely a worthwhile option for you.

However, if you’re not sure of all these things, it could be that it’s not your best course of action. One important thing to bear in mind about UCAS Extra is that you can only apply for courses with places available–and this could mean in practice courses that are at less prestigious universities or are less well regarded than the ones you originally applied for.

If you think that using UCAS Extra would mean underselling yourself, then think twice about using it. Wouldn’t it be better to reapply next year, when you’ll either have better, actual grades to apply with rather than lower, predicted ones, or failing that be able to use that extra year to retake some exams and maybe get some relevant work or voluntary experience? If taking this route means you are likely to get into the university you wanted to go to in the first place rather than settling for second best, being patient and waiting for a year could be the best option.

It’s also important to bear in mind that if you use UCAS Extra your same personal statement will be used for the other universities. This means that if you decide to apply for a different subject your personal statement is less likely to be relevant to it. It also means if your statement wasn’t so good then you don’t have a chance to correct it. Again, you could be selling yourself short by having to rely on a statement that doesn’t reflect your potential, all so you can get into university a year earlier.

If you decide not to go down the UCAS Extra route then unless you apply to study overseas it’s more than likely that you won’t be heading to university later this year. But don’t panic! Whether you look on this time as a gap year, during which time you can really get yourself prepared to go to your top choice of uni, or whether you see it as an opportunity to explore options outside of education, so long as you use your time wisely you have a real opportunity to discover what you truly want to do with the next years of your life.