When you apply to UK universities through UCAS there are several phases you must go through.
First, you do your research and select up to five universities you would like to apply to. Then, you apply and wait to see if they will offer you a place.
Once you've heard back, you must assess all your conditional offers and make a final decision by the deadline, which is usually June 6.
So how do you go about making this decision?
At this point you should decide on two things: a first-choice university and a back-up university. Pick your favorite and then another, usually with a lower conditional offer, that you would be happy to go to if you don't get the grades for your firm choice.
This is a simple strategy that works well. It's essentially a case of aiming high but at the same time providing yourself with an insurance policy.
Even the most confident students should plan for those unpredictable events such as feeling a little unwell on the day of the exam and slightly under performing. It gives peace of mind and reassures you that you will be able to achieve your goals, one way or another.
Let's look at a case study to see how this works in practice. A recent student, let's call him Kelvin to protect his privacy, was taking his HKDSE and keen to study marketing at a UK university.
His conditional offers were from Newcastle University, the University of Surrey and the University of East Anglia. The highest offer was from Newcastle University.
Kelvin was required to achieve 5, 5, 4 from two electives and 5 in English and 4 in Mathematics.
Next was the University of Surrey which required 5, 4, 4 in three subjects, excluding Chinese and liberal studies, 4 in English and 3 in mathematics. Finally, UEA required 4, 4, 3 in two electives.
Kelvin's first instinct was to go for Newcastle University as his firm choice and the University of Surrey as his insurance choice. This seemed sensible because Newcastle University is in the Russell Group (a group of 24 UK universities that are often considered to be the best in the country).
Additionally, the conditional offer seemed achievable to Kelvin on the basis of his general academic performance.
However, before he committed to this decision, he decided to spend more time researching. He reviewed his offers, attended an education seminar and looked more closely at the structure of the courses.
Just as important, he looked further into the sort of life he might be able to lead in the UK. He researched what the surrounding areas and how close they were from London. He also investigated the entertainment and culture, looking at everything from cinemas and shopping centers to museums, restaurants and even nightclubs.
After this thorough research, he decided two things. Firstly, that he preferred the modules offered on the course at the University of Surrey and, secondly, that he preferred being in the south of England to the north. (Newcastle is right at the top of the country.)
Ultimately, Kelvin went with the University of Surrey for his firm choice and UEA as his insurance choice. It was nice to see that he made an informed decision and looked beyond just the university rankings. This is a great way to reply to UCAS offers and a good example to follow.