University Application Process
In UK, all students apply for their university places one year before they begin their university studies. This means that you will be applying for your university places at the end of your first year of A-level studies in June through a body called UCAS. The application is done on-line and you are allowed to apply to 4 universities (medicine and dentistry) and 5 universities (all other courses). It must be submitted to UCAS no later than Oct 15 for medical and dentistry studies and Jan 15 for all other courses. You college will want it back much earlier so that your Principal may have the time to decide what grades to predict for you in your finals and also so that he/she may have the time to write you a testimonial.
Apart from your personal details and the course and universities you have chosen, you also have to give your O-levels and AS results, and write an essay, known as the Personal Statement, on why you are choosing the course of study. Based on your O-level, AS grades, predicted A-level grades, the principal’s testimonial and your personal statement, as well as a special aptitude test for medical/dental courses known as BMAT and UKCAT, and a law entrance test called LNAT (for some law schools), universities will decide whether or not to call you for an interview (compulsory for Oxford and Cambridge and some other universities as well as for medical/dental courses) between November and April the following year. If you are successful at the interview, the university will give you a conditional offer of a place. This means that your place will be confirmed if your actual results, which will be out in August, meet or exceed the prescribed conditional grades. Medical and law schools usually give an AAA conditional offer. Should a student fail to get AAA, his/her place will be withdrawn and open for competition by students who are not given conditional offers, but who have done very well in the final exams, i.e. who have scored 3 or 4 As or 4A*. This takes place immediately after the results are released in mid August each year and is known as “clearing”. For non medical/dental courses, no interview is normally required and conditional offers are given on the basis of the 5 items mentioned earlier.
From the above process, it can be seen that students in UK have a distinct advantage. They are very likely to be called for interviews if they are among the top students, since they are already in the UK. A few universities will come out to this part of the world to interview students but they will usually cheery pick the very top students. Other universities will invite a limited number of local JC students from Singapore/Malaysia for interviews in the UK, but such students must again be exceptionally good students. This is because professors do not want to waste students’ time and money travelling so far, unless the professors are pretty sure that these are the type of students they are looking for. By this logic, students in Singapore/Malaysia who are called for interviews have a good chance of being given a conditional offer, but they often do not get one. This is because of a number of reasons to be discussed under “Advantages of Studying A-levels in the UK”.