UCAS Extra: 'Do some careful research'

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The Independent Online

Finding the right degree can be difficult at the best of times. Perhaps you weren't sure what course you wanted to do when you made your UCAS application and have since changed your mind. Maybe the institutions you picked have turned you down. If so, the UCAS Extra service will come as welcome news. Finishing at the end of June, the scheme allows those of you who have been unsuccessful in finding a suitable place in any of your original five choices to pick additional options, one at a time. The aim of the service is to give you an opportunity to continue choosing courses, as well as relieving some of the pressure on universities and colleges to cope with the busy Clearing period each year.

So how does it work? Well, you're eligible if you've had unsuccessful decisions from all five of your choices; have cancelled your outstanding choices and hold no offers; or you have received decisions from all five choices and have declined all offers made to you. You'll also be told on your final decision letter from UCAS if you are eligible for Extra. All the courses available through Extra will be highlighted with an "X" on the UCAS Course Search service on the UCAS website (www.ucas.com) or you can contact universities and colleges direct.

You apply for a course in Extra using the Track service on the UCAS website. UCAS then sends you your application to the institution. The university or college you pick has 21 days to consider your Extra application, and send their decision to UCAS who will in turn notify you. If they make you an offer, you can either accept it and are then committed in the same way as you would be with an offer through the main UCAS system, or you can turn it down, in which case you'll be given another opportunity to use Extra, time permitting. Conditional offers made through Extra are treated in the same way as other conditional offers when your examination results become available. However, if your results are not quite up to scratch, and the university or college decides that they cannot confirm your place, you'll automatically become eligible for the traditional Clearing system.

So how can you use Extra to your best advantage? "Do some careful research," suggests Anthony McClaran, UCAS Chief Executive, "and seek guidance on your Extra choice of university or college and course. If you applied to high demand courses and institutions in your original application and were unsuccessful, consider related or alternative subjects, and give some fresh thought to your choice of institution." Entry Profiles, which appear with many courses listed on the UCAS website's Course Search facility, are another important source of information. Teachers, careers advisers, universities and colleges should also be able to point you in the right direction. "As with Clearing, be flexible," advises McClaran, "That's the key to success."