Highly selective courses are those that receive many more applications than they have places. Universities are likely to specify that students have or are predicted particular grades, often in required or preferred subjects. Admissions tutors need to be able to differentiate between large numbers of well qualified applicants and will be looking for excellent UCAS applications that contain well written and subject focused personal statements and appropriate references. If you are applying for one of these courses then you need to be well prepared.


  •  Be realistic. You will need to be able to achieve the required grades. Very competitive courses have little leeway in grade requirements when accepting students. You will need to check the requirements for each individual institution – not only A-level/IB level qualifications but GCSE level as well.
  • Check deadlines and find out whether you will be asked to sit a test or submit written work as part of the admissions process. If so, do some practice.
  • Ensure you have a good understanding of the subject that you are applying for. Even if you have studied a subject before it may be very different at undergraduate level.
  • Apply for similar courses in the same subject area. You can only submit one personal statement on the UCAS application and it will need to be focused on the course you wish you study.
  • Do your research. Look in detail at the modules on offer at different institutions and see if they reflect what you are interested in. Ensure that you understand the structure and composition of the course, including how it is taught and assessed.
  • Develop your subject knowledge. Follow the latest developments in the media, online and in specialist publications. Try to experience the subject as well as reading about it. Download lectures and podcasts and try to visit relevant places. Look for summer schools, masterclasses and public lectures offered by universities.
  • Develop your transferable skills. Think about work or voluntary experience that may give you practical knowledge and skills – this is particularly useful for courses linked to professions.
  • Invest time and effort in writing an excellent, appropriate personal statement – this will make a real difference as to whether you receive an offer or not.
  • Talk to the person who is writing your reference, discuss the courses that you are applying for and what you have done to prepare. Look at the advice given by universities.


Whatever stage you are at – whether you are just starting to think about university or are in the process of making an application – we can help. Contact us hello@ukstudyoptions.com