Monday, 6 March 2017

Applying to university // Fashion Communication // Open days, personal statement, portfolios and interviews

After attending my first open day in June last year and having my last interview earlier on this year I thought I would sit down and tell you about my experience so far with university. This blog post is going to include all things UCAS, open days, the application process, personal statements, a visual cv, portfolios and interviews.

The course I have chosen to study is fashion communication - I've always known that I don't want to be a fashion designer but I still wanted to work in the creative industry so when I found this course it was perfect for me. It is so broad and covers lots of different aspects of the fashion industry from styling, photography, visual merchandising and PR. I still don't completely know which area I want to go into in the future but I have a vague idea and hopefully, my time at university will highlight my strengths and what I enjoy the most and therefore which I should take further for a future career.

Open days 

You might already know which university you want to study at from the word go - this might be due to its reputation, location or you know someone who has studied there previously. However, I don't see any of these reasons as a good enough excuse not to attend an open day. Just because you like how it looks online or one of your friends loved it doesn't mean it's right for you. I attended the University of Edinburgh open day with everything crossed that I would love it and that I would want to go there come September. I love Edinburgh as a city and it has a great reputation but when I visited I really didn't like the university and I just knew I wouldn't have lasted the 4 years there.

Open days give you the chance to look around the university, see their facilities, talk to the tutors, look at students work and even have a peek at the accommodation or explore the nearest town or city a little bit more. Nearly all universities have a series of open days so if you can't make one then just attend another later on. If for some reason you can't make any of the days contact the university and they may be able to offer you a personalised tour at a convenient time. It may not be possible to visit every single university that offers your course but look at their websites, read their course details and look at the grades you'll need and then visit the ones at the top of your list.

UCAS and the application process 

Ok, you've decided what course you want to study and have got your top 5 (or less) choices and so it's time to apply via UCAS. Your college/sixth form will help you with this process and if you have any questions then make sure you ask. You have to fill out lots of information about yourself, your grades, a personal statement (more on this next) and your finally your choices. You can have up to five choices but you can also have as little as one. I only had 4 as there was nowhere else I wanted to apply to. You don't have to order your choices so don't worry about which is your first choice at this point.

Personal statement 

From the first day you walk back through those doors at college in September your teachers will already be shouting 'personal statement' at you, and they're right to. You can't write a personal statement overnight and you'll regret it if you leave it the last minute. Ideally, you'll start with a first draft and you can hand this to your teachers, form tutors, heads of college etc to take a look at and feedback on what you can do to improve it. I found it really useful to use guides such as this one here from Which? University as I wrote out the questions and tried to answer them in note form to start with to relate them to my chosen course. Make sure you check your grammar and spelling, it's not a good first impression if there are lots of mistakes. Use the spelling tools on word or software you can download such as Grammarly (I use this more than I'd like to admit) to help. Get your teachers and parents to check as well. Try to sound enthusiastic and that you really want to do this course but most importantly don't copy anyone else's personal statement. They have ways to check and that is not the best first impression. If you're looking to study a subject that doesn't require an interview they won't get to meet you before they decide whether to offer you a place or not and your personal statement will be one of a few things they get to read about you, so make it count.

Portfolios and interviews

Visual CV - Northumbria University 

The course I applied for, fashion communication, required you to create a visual CV (shown below) instead of a portfolio for the interview. Northumbria realises that some of the students coming for an interview for this course might not have done creative subjects at A Level and therefore not have a lot of creative work. Northumbria described their visual CV as an;

"A3 board made up of images that you feel communicate who you are, what inspires you and what you are most interested in, particularly in the areas of culture, design and the wider world. This creative personal profile gives you an opportunity to tell us more about yourself and your influences while in your interview."

You can use newspapers, magazine, images from the internet, your own images and words all together on one board. You can do it by hand or by using a computer, I did mine in InDesign and printed it onto foam board so it was structured enough to present from. I included my own images as well as other images from the internet. I had 5 minutes to talk through my board in a group with other interviewees and I had practised what I was going to say about each image, this definitely helped. After everyone had presented their visual CV we were taken on a quick tour of the university and then we were told we could go. The whole process took less than 30 minutes and everyone I came into contact with was extremely friendly and welcoming. They were also very quick in getting back to me, giving me an offer 24 hours later!
Portfolios - Brighton 

Brighton has two stages of interviews. If they are happy with your personal statement, college reference and predicted grades then you get invited to send an online portfolio via Flickr (part of it shown below). I had two weeks over Christmas to do this and took work from my textiles, photography and stuff outside of college such as photos from my blog or separate photo shoots. I submitted my portfolio and got an invitation to a face to face interview the next day! This was exciting but also nerve wracking and now I had to make a hardcopy portfolio. They are happy for you to choose either an A2 or A1 portfolio along with sketchbooks. I chose to do an A2 portfolio as I knew I would have to carry it through London and tackle the tube but I also thought I would be able to fit all my work onto A2 sheets. I was right and I am glad I chose to go with A2. On the day I handed my portfolio in, answered a short survey and was given a tour of the university by two current students whilst my portfolio was being reviewed. My actual interview only lasted about 10 minutes and just included a few questions. She was very friendly and complimentary of my work. Two days later I received an offer.

Nottingham Trent and Leeds 

I didn't have to attend an interview for Nottingham Trent as I was lucky enough to receive an unconditional offer based on just my grades, personal statement and college reference. I also didn't attend an interview at Leeds. I received an invitation but chose to withdraw my application due to Nottingham Trent being higher up my choices than Leeds and the date not being convenient to attend. I also wasn't keen on their layout of the course - both fashion design and fashion communication students start off together for the first year and then split off at the start of year 2. 

I have now received all my offers and have chosen my university, Northumbria. I am extremely lucky to have been offered an unconditional offer and therefore I don't have to put an insurance choice but this would have been Brighton.

I hope this blog post has been of use and if you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post or anything related to university feel free to contact me privately or comment below and I will get back to you!


  1. This is great advice for anyone applying for university.

  2. This is such a helpful guide for people trying to understand the process!! As someone who lives in the US it's fascinating to see the difference between what you went through and what my experience was.

  3. This is a great read for all those wanting or thinking about applying for school! It's not just as easy at it seems! Thanks for sharing!

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