My UCAS Hell

UCAS; the acronym of an organisation that pre-university students tend to loathe due to it’s infuriating processes and through fear of the fact that university is coming up very, very shortly. I’ve been hesitant to talk about my experiences while it was all up in the air, as I’d applied for a Digital Media course and universities may have checked my social media & blog, but now it’s all settled — so here’s my story…

Filling out my information online was a lengthy process; the interface was tedious and there was a lot of information required. Writing up my personal statement and selling myself wasn’t too bad either; with college, school, work, work experience, projects, charity work & my Duke of Edinburgh Award, it was a struggle fitting it all into the 4000 character limit.

The problems began when I was ready to send my application off. First, our personal statements had to be checked by our tutor. Despite my attempts to get this in early, it took a couple of weeks for my tutor to review it. Fine — I got over that.

Then, when my corrections had been made, I needed to send it back to my teacher so he could attach my reference and then send it off to UCAS, who would then send it off to each of my universities. He said that my application hadn’t come up on his UCAS account, so he couldn’t do anything. By this point, late November, I was eager to send it off. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks after that when my tutor came to me and said, “I set up my account wrong, I’ve found your application”. So he clearly had no staff training on using the system, which in turn delayed me by a month, but at least I got it in before Christmas.

I got all the confirmation emails in from Surrey, Leeds, Kent, Coventry & Hertfordshire universities, studying Digital Media.

Hertfordshire (which had the lowest entry requirements) rejected my application just before Christmas. I was confused as to why, so I sent them an email.

Shortly after Christmas, Kent sent me an email to confirm I was doing a “BTEC Extended Diploma”. I thought, “Yeah, that’s why I put it on my application”.

Then Surrey, the university I’m most passionate about, rejected me. I called them instantly to see what the problem was and if I could be reconsidered.

Turns out that I managed to put “BTEC Certificate” instead of “BTEC Extended Diploma”. I wasn’t even made aware of their difference until this point. It’s not common for me to make an error like that and my college tutor checked it (or at least said he did), but this explained the confusion…

Either way, I made the universities aware of the mistake and shortly after I received two conditional offers (Leeds & Kent) and an unconditional from Coventry. For the latter I had to attend an interview. I showed the group of lecturers and potential students my website and talked about my “James Pratters” project.

At this point, Hertfordshire replied to me. They offered me an interview, but with three offers at preferable universities already I didn’t feel it was necessary, so I declined. Very empowering.

However, and this may sound ungrateful, the only university I really wanted to hear back from was Surrey. After the mistake on my application they rejected me, but once I made them aware of my actual course and expected grades they said they would reconsider. I’m very passionate about Surrey, for many reasons, and I’d be very upset if I didn’t get an offer there. I’ve tried my hardest, so I hoped it would all pay off.

Come mid-March, two months on from originally contacting them about my mistakes, I called Surrey again. From the call I gathered that: nothing had been done and that the course was not full (something I was worried about). They said they’d email me the next day, so I waited and waited, and the next evening, they did.

I got an offer from the University of Surrey

So, I’ve had a lot of problems, I think every student has and will. It took a long time to solve these problems too, but it’s sorted now. After a lot of stress, hundreds of miles driven for open days & a huge amount of waiting, I’ve finally settled on Digital Media Arts at Surrey as my firm choice and New Media at Leeds as my insurance choice. Now I just need to knuckle down in the last stretch of college. I can do this.


I passed my college course with grades that exceeded Surrey’s requirements and I’m a month into the first year of my degree at the University of Surrey.

Originally published at on March 27, 2015.