Advice for your UCAS Chemistry application

secondary school students doing chemistry experiments

Thinking of applying for Chemistry?  Read on…

The three-month countdown for UCAS applications begins today with the early application deadline.  All the prospective medics, dentists and vets have until 6pm to submit their applications.  But you’re not bothered about that because you’ve decided to apply for Chemistry.  The only problem is, you haven’t started your application yet…

“What do we want?” “Procrastination!” “When do we want it?” “Next week!”

There are many possible reasons why you haven’t started yet:

  • I’m not sure if I really want to study Chemistry.
  • I’m not sure which Chemistry course to apply for.
  • I don’t know where I want to study.
  • I’m not sure what I want to do after University.
  • I can’t get my personal statement started.
  • There’s ages to go before the deadline.

I’ll tackle each one in turn.

Is Chemistry right for me?

Is it your favourite subject at school?  Have you done extra reading on the subject without prompting?  Do you really enjoy practical work?  Are you a good mathematician?  These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself.  Whichever degree subject you choose you need to be passionate about it.  Chemistry is no exception.  Unlike school, University studies require you to carry out much studying on your own initiative.  If you’re already doing this in Chemistry then that’s fantastic.  If not then now is the time to start.  There are many online resources but you might want to start by following Chemistry based twitter feeds.  The Royal Society of Chemistry website is an excellent source for the latest stories in Chemistry

You also need to honestly evaluate your ability in the subject.  If you’re not on target for at least a grade B in A Level Chemistry then it may be difficult to secure a place on a first year entry Chemistry degree.  If you’re still set on the subject and entry requirements are a consideration then be aware that many universities offer foundation level entry opportunities.  This will add another year on your studies, but if you’re heart is set on Chemistry then it’s an option well worth considering.

Which Chemistry course to choose?

The wide array of Chemistry courses on offer can be bewildering.  Many offer options such as a Year in Industry or study abroad.  If this is something you definitely want to do, or think you might want to do then make sure that the Universities you apply to offer this.  Some Universities will let you change to one of their other Chemistry courses at the end of your first year as a way to keep your options open.  Be sure to check that this is the case before committing yourself.

Some people really like their Chemistry but are not convinced that they want it to be the sole focus of their studies.  If this is the case for you then there are many degrees that combine aspects of Chemistry with other scientific disciplines. Examples include, Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences, Chemical Physics and Chemical Engineering.  There are also many Chemistry variants available.  Use the UCAS course search database to find out more.

Where to study

If you are choosing a course that is only available at a limited number of educational providers then this is an easy decision to make.  However, if you have selected pure Chemistry then you have some work to do narrowing down your five choices for your UCAS application.

There are many things to consider:

  • Are you going to live at home or in student accommodation?
  • How close do you want to be to home?
  • What are the entry requirements?
  • Are any other A Levels required to study at this University (e.g. Maths)
  • Would you prefer a city centre university (commonly referred to as “red brick”) or a campus university?
  • Does the university or city have access to the extra-curricular activities that you plan to pursue at University?

Some research on your part may be required to determine the answers but these questions alone may narrow the field considerably.  If not, then it can come down to where you think you might like to live.  Many universities offer open days which are an ideal opportunity to visit places you haven’t been to before.  If all goes well it will be your home for at least three years, perhaps much longer.  Your studies are much more likely to prosper if you are happy with your surroundings.

I don’t know what I want to do after University

If you’re in this position then Chemistry is an excellent choice of degree subject.  Unlike the more vocational courses, Chemistry offers many potential career routes.  The Chemistry graduates who do not follow one of the many scientific career pathways pursue careers such as:

  • Accountancy
  • Law
  • Journalism
  • Information Technology
  • Education
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations

This list is by no means exhaustive.  The transferrable skills that you will gain during your Chemistry degree will open many doors.

I’m struggling with my UCAS personal statement

This is perhaps the trickiest part of a UCAS application.  In 4000 characters or less you need to convince a University admissions officer that you merit a place at their institution.  Here are some general tips to get you started.

  • At least 75% of the UCAS personal statement should be about your suitability for Chemistry
    • Demonstrate your motivation for the subject.  For example:  What have you specifically enjoyed about your A Level studies and why?  What additional reading have you done and what did you gain from it?  Have you taken part in extra-curricular Chemistry activities and what did you gain from them?
    • Have you experienced Chemistry in the real world?  What did you learn?  Did it change your perceptions of what Chemistry is all about?  If so, how?
  • The remainder of the personal statement should focus on your personal qualities and hobbies
    • What do you do in your spare time not related to academic studies?
    • Do you have a part time job?  What transferrable skills have you gained from it?
    • What are you looking forward to most about starting University?  Why are you ready to take this next step in your life?

One temptation when writing the personal statement is to repeat a particular positive trait at every available opportunity.  Time-management is a common example, I’ve seen it mentioned five times in draft UCAS personal statements.  Not only does it get repetitive for the reader but it wastes characters that you could use to describe other positive characteristics.  Mention it once and leave it at that.

I’ve got loads of time…

It will run out!  Even if you’re still not sure about what to apply for and where to study there are lots of things you can get on with.  Register on the UCAS website if you have not already done so.  Fill in your personal details.

Start now after you’ve finished reading this blog post, liked my Facebook page and started following my twitter feed.


If you need more advice, speak to your teachers.  If you want to know more about a University Chemistry Department then email them or give them a ring.  They will be only too happy to provide you with specific information.  Alternatively, feel free to email me at  Good luck!