Making your application stand out

Regardless of which course you want to apply to, you’ll need to start thinking early about how you can demonstrate your interest in the subject and make your application stand out from the crowd.

At a glance


The first step is to make sure you can meet the entry requirements for the course you’re interested in. University offers will be made based on predicted grades from Year 12, and some particularly competitive courses and universities will select based on your GCSE results, too. At Birmingham, you can use our Offer Calculator tool to check your predicted grades meet the requirements for your chosen course.

The personal statement is an important part of the admissions process and is your opportunity to tell admissions tutors why they should offer you a place. The particular things that universities are looking for will vary, but all will want to be persuaded that you have a genuine academic interest in the subject and that you have the motivation and enthusiasm to succeed.

A few things that you can do to widen your knowledge of your chosen subject (but be creative and think outside the box, there are many things you can do in addition to this list!):

  • reading related books and articles
  • listening to, watching, and making notes on podcasts and YouTube videos (such as TED Talks)
  • attending university summer schools or lectures
  • volunteering in your local community
  • undertaking the Extended Project Qualification in a related subject if this is available to you

Work experience might also be a useful way of demonstrating your interest, motivation and transferable skills as well as providing you with a useful insight into potential future careers. For some vocational courses work experience might form part of the entry requirements, so check them carefully. In your personal statement, remember to talk about what you gained from the experience, the skills that you developed and how it has affected you, not just the tasks that you did.

Keep up any extra-curricular activities such as music, drama, sport, volunteering and also part-time work, as these may help you to develop relevant skills for your chosen course. Again, make sure you draw out the relevant skills and attributes these activities have helped you to develop, not just list everything you do outside of school or college.

For example, if you play a sport once a week, you are practicing teamwork, commitment, people skills, and if you have any additional roles at the club then you're likely to be taking on a level of responsibility around matches and trips away.