Applying to Uni; The UCAS Process – Prof. Mike Merrifield

13th October 2012

You can listen to the show on our URN Podcast Page now! Check out the astronomy section blog too!

After college or sixth form, the majority of students choose to make the decision to spend the next 3 or 4 years of their life at university. The number of students choosing this path has increased rapidly over the last decade and there are now over 2.5 million students attending University in the UK today – that’s 4% of the population!

Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) makes applying to University a simple and easy process. You choose the universities you want to apply to, submit an application and cross your fingers for results day. And work hard, of course.

The Science Show has had many people asking questions about the UCAS process and how it works in general, as well as specifically at The University of Nottingham. Today, we dispell the myths and legends about applying to university.

We have ventured out onto campus and talked with the UCAS admission tutors for Physics & Astronomy, Chemistry, Medicine and the Biosciences to get their take on what they look for in you. We are joined in the studio by the UCAS admissions tutor for Physics & Astronomy, Prof. Mike Merrifield.

We also interviewed the following tutors who you can listen to below:

Chemistry UCAS Admissions Tutor: Dr Jonathan McMaster
Medicine & Health Sciences’ Bioscience Courses UCAS Admissions Tutor: Dr Fergus Doherty

We put the following questions, sent in by you guys, to the admission tutors:

You can listen to the full interviews too, with extra hints and tips.

The University of Nottingham

What do I need in my personal statement?

Dr Jonathan McMaster tells you the 3 simple steps you need to follow when writing your personal statement:

Dr Fergus Doherty explains why the personal statement isn’t as important for some bioscience courses here at The University of Nottingham.

Is it okay to be funny in my personal statement?

Students can differentiate themselves from other candidates by injecting humour into their personal statement, but it has to be done very carefully. Your sense of humour may not be the same as the admissions tutor who reads your statement.

Get someone to read over your statement before you send it off so they can point out where you might want to change things. Dr Fergus Doherty explains the need to be careful when injecting humour, especially for more professional courses such as medicine.

Do I need to have work experience?

The vast majority of students will not have had the opportunity to gain relevant work experience and most UCAS admissions tutors will not expect you to have any experience whatsoever. While it’s a positive thing if you have gained some experience, in most cases it will not disadvantage you if you haven’t. Dr Fergus Doherty explains his view on experience for Bioscience courses:


Do you care if I read New Scientist?

Expanding your knowledge on your own initiative will set you apart from the crowd... Showing you read outside your subject is definitely something that is encouraged, as Dr Jonathan McMaster explains…

Make sure that you re-read your personal statement before you attend an interview. Admissions teams read them very carefully and will ask you about what you’ve said in them during interviews.

What questions will I be asked in the interview?

The interview will differ from university to university but the main aim is to observe how you think – they want to know how you try to solve a problem. They’re not looking to see if you’ve memorised Pi to 20 figures, or if you’ve tried to solve the equations behind string theory.

Admissions tutors want to know you’re enthusiastic about the subject – don’t be shy about expressing yourself.

Full UCAS Admissions Tutor Interviews

We chatted to Chemistry UCAS admissions tutor Dr Jonathan McMaster about his 6 years of experience and what makes a candidate stand out from the crowd…

Additionally, Dr Fergus Doherty also answered your questions about applying to medicine and bioscience courses at the University of Nottingham…

Prof. Mike Merrifield joined us in the studio for a discussion!