Did a University Reject You? Here Are 10 Possible Reasons Why

In General, University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

There can be so much involved in getting your university application together. From actually writing your personal statement to doing the reading, work experience and courses that you need to make it look good. Having been there myself, I know just how stressful and ultimately terrifying it can be. When you finally send off your application, you can finally feel the relief after all of your hard work.

However, sometimes that feeling of relief you may have due to having sent off your application can be replaced by disappointment, sadness and maybe even embarrassment if your hard work doesn’t pay off in the end. What can be even worse than the disappointment of the rejection is the not knowing why.

In this article, we’ll take you through some of the main reasons that universities might reject students. Continue reading to learn more about these 10 possible reasons, including why they might lead to your rejection and some tips on how to try and avoid getting rejected for these.

#1: Didn’t meet grade requirements

When applying to university, there will be certain grade requirements or a certain amount of UCAS points that you will need to get to be able to in order to be able to study the course. If your predicted grades or the actual grades that you have received don’t meet these, then you will most likely be considered as not being academically suitable for this course.

Therefore, this would likely lead to rejection. In order to avoid getting rejected from a university due to grade requirements, you need to make sure that you are aware of the grade entry requirements that have been set and that your predicted grades or the actual grades that you’ve already received are enough to meet this.

If you’ve already done the exams and received your grades, that you’re planning to apply with, there’s not much that you can do about this. However, if you’re still in Year 12 or S5 or Year 13 (in Northern Ireland), you still have the opportunity to get your predicted grades up to where you need them.

Predicted grades are calculated based on a range of factors, however, one of the main ones is your mocks at the end of Year 12. For more information about this, check out this Think Student article.

Due to this, part of getting your predicted grades up to where you need them to can be by performing well in these exams. To do this, you should start by talking to your teacher to see how you’re currently performing and what you need to do to improve as well as preparing and revising properly for them. For more information on how to do this, check out this Think Student article on preparing for exams and this Think Student article on the best revision techniques.

#2: Your personal statement

Having written, rewritten and rewritten again my own personal statement several times over, to me, it’s no surprise that this part of the application process is where some students fall short. This can especially be the case if you don’t get it checked over by someone else, such as a teacher or careers advisor.

Therefore, it’s incredibly important that you do get someone, such as your teacher, to check your personal statement for you. As they will have probably seen many other personal statements, they can help you sound more natural and avoid silly mistakes in your application.

When it comes to the actual writing part of your personal statement, common mistakes that might cost students a place include being modest and not letting your passion and suitableness for the course come across, exaggerating your achievements, using cliches and quotes, having spelling and grammar mistakes in your work.

Instead, you need to make your personal statement as good as it can be so that you can try to avoid getting rejected due to it. To do this, you should show your passion and interest in the course and explain why you will be a good candidate by avoiding the negatives and staying relevant to the course. For more on the dos and don’ts of personal statements, check out this UCAS guide.

You should also make sure that you mention both the academic side and the non-academic side of why you’d be a great candidate.

Academic things you should include may be schemes that you’ve done related to the course, reading that you have done and your motivations for the course. Non-academic things that you should include may be more related to why would you be a good fit for university life, such as your interpersonal skills, any extracurricular activities that you do and any achievements that you’ve received.

You can learn more about what to include on your personal statement, by clicking on this Think Student article. If you need more guidance on writing your personal statement, you can check out this Think Student article.

#3: Your interview

If you’re applying for a particularly competitive university, such as the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, or a particularly competitive course, such as Medicine, Dentistry or Law, you will probably have to do some kind of interview. Similarly to the personal statement, this is just one aspect of your application that could make it all go horribly wrong.

There are many common mistakes that students make at university interviews. These include the following.

  • Not being prepared.
  • Lying.
  • Being arrogant and overconfident.
  • Showing boredom.
  • Relying on your achievements and having little else to say.
  • Not making eye contact.
  • Being negative.
  • Being late.
  • Being too informal.
  • Dressing inappropriately.

For more information about these, check out this article by Oxford Royale Academy.

In order to do well in your university interview, there are a range of things that you’ll need to do. These include doing a mock interview to prepare, doing research into the course and the wider subject area, knowing your own motivations and interests in the course and re-reading your personal statement. Also, on the more technical side you will need to be dressing appropriately, arriving on time, and to have the correct documents.

For more information about how to do well in a university interview, check out this Think Student article. If you have an interview for Medicine, check out this Think Student article for more specific details. Also, check out this Think Student article for more on dressing appropriately for a university interview.

#4: Didn’t do work experience

Before you apply to university, you will probably hear your teachers, careers advisors or even other students talking about work experience and how important it is. However, you might be wondering how important it is when it comes to getting rejected by a university.

Work experience will always be a nice addition to your university application. This is because it demonstrates you interest and your knowledge for the degree and later on the career path in this field.

It also allows you to build up a range of transferable skills, such as networking, collaboration, critical thinking and leadership, that are great for any applicant. For more information about the benefits of work experience for your university application, check out this article by Uni Admissions.

However, in some cases, getting work experience and talking about it in relevant detail as part of your application is not just a nice addition but is in fact essential. This is particularly the case for certain degree programmes. Although, some universities may also require work experience for degree programmes where it is not normally required.

The degree programmes that will generally require students to have some form of work experience are as follows.

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Healthcare Science
  • Teaching
  • Social Work

For some degree programmes in accountancy, civil engineering, architecture, media production and some others, universities may still require you to do work experience. For more information about the degrees that need you to do work experience, check out this article by UCAS.

Obviously, the best way to make sure that you don’t get rejected due to not having done work experience, when it is required, is to simply do it. This work experience will need to be relevant to your degree programme and so it is best to thoroughly research the best ways to get this kind of experience.

Check out this Think Student article for more information on how to get work experience and this Think Student article that lists over 50 work experience ideas to help you get started.

#5: The subjects or qualifications you studied

As previously mentioned, universities set their entry requirements of each course. When thinking about entry requirements, many students will instantly think of it in terms of the grades or UCAS points that these equate to. However, universities may also be looking at specific subjects that students need to have studied, specific qualifications or a specific combination of subjects. For more information about the other entrance requirements, check out this guide by UCAS.

Therefore, when choosing what you want to study at sixth form or college, you need to have in mind what it is that you want to go on to do in the future. This can help you to choose certain types of qualifications over others, such as doing A-Levels/ Highers rather than T-Levels. For more information about this, check out this Think Student article.

You should also look at any courses that you might be interested in, even if just vaguely and look at any specific subjects that are required and any ones that they won’t accept. In the same way, you should also look at subjects that work well together and that universities like to be studied together. You can get more insight on this by looking at this Think Student article.

#6: GCSE requirements

The qualifications that you are studying towards before going to university are important for your application, whether they are A-Levels, Highers, Advanced Highers, BTECs, T-Levels or whatever else.  In fact, they are still the most important qualifications that you need to consider when making your application, in all aspects, not just grades, as mentioned above.

However, universities also look at qualifications from further back. Some universities will require you to have certain GCSEs and maybe even to have received certain grades in these.

How this works will depend on the university. Due to this, it’s important that you look at any GCSE requirements that have been listed with the course you’re interested in.

Also, for the top universities, students may not only need to have received the GCSE and a minimum grade of a 5/C, which is often standard. They may also need to get the top grades in order to be as competitive as other applicants.

For example, while there aren’t particularly any minimum grades, the most successful applicants for the University of Oxford, will tend to have received grades 7s, 8s and 9s at GCSE. For more on this, check out this Think Student article.

#7: Not doing the research

By now, we’ve seen a range of reasons for getting rejected by a university, from not having the right grades to not having done work experience. However, what many of these reasons boil down to is the applicant not doing enough or the right research in order to be aware of these requirements. Therefore, it’s important that you research thoroughly into the courses you are interested in so that you know all of the requirements in order to be able to meet these.

Also, you need to research the courses in order to know that one is right for you. This is because the admissions teams are looking at your application and deciding whether you would be the right candidate to fill a spot on their course. Due to this, it’s important that you do your research and find the best course for you as your suitableness for the course can also come through during your application.

#8: Incomplete application

In order for a university to properly be able to consider you, they will need to see your full and complete application through UCAS. Therefore, if you’ve not provided this, it is one of the reasons that they can reject you, so it is important that you complete it properly.

In order for an application to be complete, you will need to have provided a complete personal statement, an academic reference and details of your achieved qualifications as well as pending ones. For more information about this, check out this page on the University of Edinburgh’s website.

#9: Similarity detection

When you submit your application to UCAS, your personal statement will go through UCAS’ similarity detection system by the name of Copycatch. This system flags any personal statement that has over 30% similarity to another personal statement that has already been submitted. After going through the verification process, the universities or other higher education providers that you applied to will be informed and from there the decision is theirs.

Therefore, similarity detection can lead to the university deciding to reject you. Due to this, it is so important that your personal statement is entirely your own work. For more information about the similarity detection process, check out this guide by UCAS.

#10: Competition

Sometimes, there will be nothing wrong with your application. You’ll do everything right, make no mistakes but you still don’t get in. This may just be due to the extent of other applicants and their applications being slightly stronger than yours making them appear like better candidates.

Sometimes this will just happen and so it won’t be entirely avoidable if you’ve done everything in your power to make your application as good as possible yet still face a rejection from a university.

However, to try and avoid the competition getting the best of you and you getting the rejection instead, it could help to make sure that your application stands out. There are a range of things that you can do to make this happen, including the following.

  • Do some volunteering or get work experience- We’ve already looked at the importance of work experience to boost your UCAS application and while some forms of work experience may also count as volunteering, there are some more bonuses of doing voluntary work. These include allowing you to give back and often being more flexible than other forms of work experience. You can learn more about this, by clicking on this Think Student article.
  • Read around your degree area- Wider reading around your degree area can include reading books, articles or academic papers but may also be doing online courses, watching documentaries or TED talks or even watching films related to your degree area.
  • Get involved at school- Depending on your school, there can be a range of things that you can do to get involved. This may be in the form of taking part in clubs, that your school might run, or even a school newspaper or social media account that students are allowed to be a part of. Alternatively, particularly in Year 13, you may have the opportunity to be a part of your school’s student leadership team, or you may be able to become a prefect.

To learn more about the ways that you can boost your personal statement, check out this guide by UCAS.


*The above information on reasons that a university might reject students is taken from this page by Durham University, this page by the University of Westminster and this article from the University of Brighton.

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