Are early UCAS deadlines suitable?

Juliette Bretan 26 October 2017

On Sunday, 15 October, was the all-important UCAS deadline for Oxbridge applications for 2018 entry; as well as those for medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences. Whilst the stress of navigating the impenetrable UCAS website, finalising a personal statement, and working out plans for the next three years is now over for these applicants, their struggle to gain a place at desired institutions remains; with examinations, interview processes and other dialogues scheduled to occur over the following months. Meanwhile, the UCAS process for others will continue to trundle along until the 15 January deadline for all other applications; raising the question as to whether it is healthy to have an earlier cut-off date at all.

Whilst the October deadline does encourage the individuals aiming to study more demanding courses to complete their admissions as soon as possible, thus leaving ample time to dedicate to their studies; the premature date, coming so soon after the end of the summer holidays, may cause more problems than it is worth. The worry here is that by rushing some students to complete these all-important applications, the content being sent to Universities may suffer as a result: finding the right course and writing an appropriate personal statement is hard enough as it is; but even more difficult if there is only a short period during which the outside advice of teachers can be given.

There is a reason behind such practices: it allows candidates not only the space to retain focus on the responsibilities of the year, such as examinations and experience, but also gives adequate time to prepare for the tough interview process in December; a procedure which might be more challenging than the UCAS form itself. But interviews are not exclusive to Oxbridge applications; though Oxbridge interviews are known for their difficulty, students applying to other institutions may also need extra preparation time. In any case, having an early deadline does Oxbridge candidates no favours: the application may be rushed and preparation strained; it may therefore be easier on all candidates if they feel they have a choice over how much time to dedicate to their efforts in applying to Universities

And it must not be forgotten too that those applying for Oxbridge will most likely petition other Universities in addition – Oxbridge may desire early applications, but other institutions are not impacted by however early the UCAS form is sent. If Oxbridge applications are unsuccessful, the frenzy to complete the UCAS process may also have negative implications on any other University applied to. Couple this with the recent loss of AS-Levels and the reformed nature of A-Levels themselves, and a toxic mix of insecurity and incompetence is cultivated; promising only damaging results for those already facing the anxious road to University.