Making the most of UCAS conventions

UCAS Conventions, sometimes known as Higher Education Conferences (HEC), are large events that are held in towns and cities across the UK. You can find the nearest one to you on the UCAS website. The purpose of these conferences is to help inform potential students of what each different university is like, aiding them in their decision of where to apply. Most university stands will consist of one or two members of staff, and sometimes a student ambassador. They will be happy to answer questions about the courses offered at the university and also more generally about student life at that particular university. At university stands you will also be able to collect information about the courses offered. You’ll also find other organisations that are relevant to the student application process, such as Student Finance England, and sometimes career organisations as well.

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It is fine to wander around the convention and ask university staff if they offer your prospective subject. However, you may find this very time-consuming, particularly at the larger UCAS conventions where there are over 200 exhibitors! If you want to make the most of your visit to the convention I recommend that you undertake some research and spend some time before the visit to think about the questions you would like to ask.

Use the UCAS course search function to find out which universities offer the courses you are interested in. You can then look at their course profile to find the universities that you wish to find out more about at the convention. You may wish to use the following questions to help you decide:

Application Information
What are the entry requirements?
Do you need to pass an interview or complete a set amount of work experience in order to attain an offer?

Campus Information
Where is the university located?
Is the university far away from your current home?

Living Information
Is the city expensive or cheap to live in?
What is the university’s average accommodation price?

Make sure you reflect upon your choices. By doing this, you will be able to narrow down your search, saving you time and giving you a better idea of who to talk with at the event. Make a list and make sure you bring it along to the event.

The next step is to decide on what questions you would like to ask your chosen universities. To do this, you have to work out what is important to you. Questions that are commonly asked include general enquires regarding the university’s city, halls of residence, transport links, and nightlife, as well as ones that focus on the academic side of student life, such as if language modules are available as optional units, and if study abroad opportunities are accessible to students. You may wish to ask more specific questions about the application process, for example what to include in your personal statement or if work experience is required. At Manchester, we have created a template that will help you think about what matters most to you when choosing an institution to study at. This is available here: Making the Most of UCAS Conventions – Questions Template
UCAS conventions also feature various seminars throughout the day. These usually focus on general concepts like student life, the university application process, and student finance, but can also include subject-specific talks. You will find these advertised in the UCAS Convention Guide and also announcements will be made during the event to remind you about the seminar programme.
Remember to take a strong bag with you to these events – you’ll end up carrying lots of heavy prospectuses, so you are going to need it!

Further resources: UCAS provides excellent resources to help you prepare for their conventions. You can find this on their the UCAS conventions website.