How to fill out your UCAS form when applying for drama school

UCAS form. Photo: Shutterstock
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Not all drama schools accept applications through UCAS as some are run privately, but many of them do. Samantha Marsden talks to some of the UK’s top institutions to find out how you can ace your application

Which drama schools can I apply for through UCAS?

There are many world-class drama schools that run their courses through UCAS. For these, you must apply through the UCAS website. These schools include: Drama Centre London, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, East 15 Acting School, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Manchester School of Theatre, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Guildford School of Acting, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

One of the benefits of training at a UCAS drama school is that you will be awarded a degree by the drama school’s affiliated university, whereas private drama schools tend to award diplomas instead. Another important benefit of applying for drama school through UCAS is the funding options. When you go to drama school through UCAS, you are entitled to government-issued student loans for tuition fees and living costs. Plus, you may get extra money from the government on top of your loan if you are from a low-income family, if you are disabled, or if you have children.

For those drama schools that are run privately and don’t use UCAS, you will need to go to the school’s website and find out details of how to apply.

Students at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Photo: Pete Carr
Students at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, for which you can apply through UCAS. Photo: Pete Carr

How do I fill out my UCAS form?

If you are a student at college or sixth form, it is likely there will be teaching staff to help you fill out your UCAS application. But if you are going solo, you will need to register on the UCAS website and follow its instructions.

How do I choose my five courses?

You can only list five courses on your UCAS application, so choose wisely. Many teachers and parents may advise you not to ‘put all your eggs in one basket’ and to choose university courses as well as drama school ones. It is true that places at drama school are very competitive and 18-year-olds rarely get in. But if drama school is what you want, then do you really want to give up on your dream so soon? You can apply through UCAS for an unlimited number of years in a row, and a ‘gap year’ between applications can be very beneficial for an actor in training, if spent wisely.

However, for many, university is not a ‘back-up plan’. And there are some excellent university courses available. Very often university courses offer a wider variety of modules than drama school, so students get to tailor their courses to their own passions. There are often more opportunities for students to write, direct and create their own theatre at university.

Ask yourself: What do I want from my course? Then do your research and carefully choose the five courses that suit your needs best (not your parents’ or teachers’ needs).

Bear in mind that UCAS also allows you to add more choices if you are not accepted by your original five.

What about the additional application information on my UCAS form?

When applying to some drama schools through UCAS, they will need you to send additional information separate from the UCAS application. Vicki Moreton, who works in admissions at East 15, says: “The main advice I can give is to make sure that applicants check out the instructions from each school they are applying for as they may have specific requirements that need to be met in addition to the UCAS form. For example, we request completion of our own form and audition fee – it is this that triggers our audition invite, not the UCAS form.”

Students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Performance in British Sign Language and English degree programme celebrate applications opening

How do I write a winning personal statement on my UCAS form?

The most important part of your UCAS application is the personal statement. When applying to drama school, in many cases the personal statement is not read before your audition. But, if you are recalled at the audition, the panel will be interested to read your personal statement.

When advising applicants about writing their personal statement, Will Hammond, head of acting at LIPA, explains: “Because our acting course requires both commitment and originality, we’re looking for individuals who are dedicated to creative pursuits and prepared to work hard. As much as we’re interested in what you’ve done – school/college productions and projects – we really want to get to know you. So, tell us what you discovered about yourself in the process, and how you’ve used these experiences to your advantage.”

Dominic Tulett, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s head of admissions and student recruitment, also recommends including “anything that helps to tell us about your experience and suitability (why the course/subject is of interest, engagement with the subject area, career goals in the subject area). Tell us what the academic history can’t. But keep it focused and relevant”.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has a ‘Guide for Applicants’ for each programme. These are helpful publications that explain the process, from the first application form through to preparing for auditions. These can be downloaded at rcs.ac.uk/studyhere.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland also recommends that applicants cover the following in their personal statement:

  • Why you are applying – your ambitions and what interests you have in relation to the subject and institution you are applying for.
  • Your reasons for choosing the courses you have listed.
  • Your experience and any other activity related to the course for which you have applied.
  • What makes you suitable and any other relevant skills and achievements gained from education, work or other activities.

Do you have any other advice for filling in UCAS forms?

Get the application proofread by somebody else. Don’t compare yourself to famous actors or say that you’d like to be famous one day. Be positive and professional. Try to show the drama school something unique about yourself and talk about why you’re passionate about the craft. Good luck.