Ucas card: Want a discount at Topshop? Register here

Applying to university may be nerve-racking. But there are many perks to be had, says Alex McRae

When you apply for university, picking the perfect course is just one part of the equation. There are application forms to be filled in, personal statements to be polished, and finances to be figured out. Daunted? Well, imagine if you could get monthly e-mail updates on application timetables, ending panic about missed deadlines. Or have access to a website which explains this year's changes to tuition fees, and gives tips on how to plan your finances - plus special offers on clothes, music, and other student essentials.

UCAS, the university admissions organisation, has just launched a revamped, expanded UCAS Card website especially for Year 12 and S5 (Scotland's Year 12 equivalent) students. The idea is that students can register right now at www.ucas.com/ucascard to get e-mail alerts and browse the site for information on the application process. There are competitions, reviews of the latest movies and music, and games; plus a special UCAS card giving discounts at several shops. Signed-up students also automatically get You Can magazine, produced in association with The Independent and stuffed with interviews, advice and features on applications and student life.

"It's giving extra support and information to Year 12 and S5 students," says Virginia Isaac, director of business development at UCAS. "Once students register with us, we can tailor the information we send them to the subjects they're interested in, and where they are in the application process. We're trying to make applying to higher education as accessible and straightforward as possible."

A lot of thought has gone into making the new website as user-friendly as possible, both for students and for teachers. You can click on tabs for advice on almost every aspect of applying for university: from how to get the most out of an open day, to how to revise without falling asleep at your desk.

"We ran a number of focus groups this year at sixth-form colleges to get feedback on how to improve the website, and we found that students were really interested in getting clear educational and financial information," says Rebecca Williams, project executive on the scheme.

To address this year's university fees shake-up, the website has a large Money Matters area, which runs through the new funding system for students in different parts of the country. There are masses of tips on how to manage your money - like buying vintage clothes and second-hand textbooks, doing research on overdraft allowances when picking a student bank account, and learning how to cook healthy food instead of buying expensive microwave meals. There's even a nifty budget calculator, which allows students to balance their monthly income against their expenses.

And if you're agonising over the 18th version of your personal statement, it's worth checking out the advice on writing something that shows off your best points. There are simple tips, such as reading the statement aloud to make sure it flows well. Especially helpful is a fictional personal statement, followed by comments on how it might be improved.

Once you've dealt with the nitty gritty of sorting out applications and finances, you can check out the fun stuff on the website - album and movie reviews, and fortnightly competitions. One group of sixth-formers just won a tour around the Chelsea Football Club training ground, and a training session with the team's coaches. In March 2007, all students who've signed up online will get a snazzy red UCAS card, sent to their home address, giving discounts and special offers at various stores. Recent companies to join the scheme include Topshop, Topman and PC World.

Teachers needn't feel left out in the cold either. There's an adviser section of the website with information for teachers, and special offers. They can also see which of their students have signed up with the scheme, so they know which students have access to the information online. And because the card and magazines are sent straight to the students' home addresses, and the information is online, teachers don't have to spend as much time on administration.

In any case, says Virginia Isaacs, "nowadays, something like 99.8 per cent of applications come to UCAS through e-mail". With the relaunched UCAS Card website, a new generation of students should be able to access clear information on applying to university at the click of a mouse. All that time once spent wading through paper and searching for stamps can now be spent improving your application - then hitting the shops to use that discount card.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders