In our fifth wave of research with UCAS, we explore applicants' feelings towards starting university, their commitment to their firm choice and how they feel about Clearing and deferral.
If you’ve been following our UCAS webinar series: ‘an applicant’s view’, you’ll have seen the gradual decline in confidence amongst those applying to university this year.
And whilst this confidence continues to fall, it's reassuring to see that UK applicants holding a firm offer are up by 1% on the previous year and international firm offer holders are up by 12%.We can even see a decline in those holding a deferred start date (down by 1% in comparison to 2019).
- 51% feel less confident about going to university
- 18% are considering deferral
- 49% want more information on how their academic life will work in practice
- 22% want to use Clearing to trade up
- 72% are waiting for their A Level results to make them feel more committed
Decline in confidence
We've previously discussed the decline in confidence amongst applicants over the course of this study, and whilst there's been no major changes, we can see this continuing to fall - probably as the pandemic has an ongoing impact on people's lives.
When we look at those who are still considering changing their decisions, they were markedly less confident about going to university. And it’s a similar story for those who are thinking about sitting their exams or even considering Clearing.
There are also variations in confidence amongst different demographic groups. Female and BAME applicants are less confident about their plans than the average applicant.
Deferring is still an option
In our previous wave of research conducted in May, one in four applicants were considering deferring. Since then, this figure has dropped by 18%.
But with one in five applicants still thinking about deferring, how serious are they about making this decision?
The majority (78%) of those considering this option had done light research - mainly in the form of speaking to family and friends (64%). Other 'light research' included speaking to teachers, visiting their chosen university's website and joining online forums.
Those who had carried out more serious research did so by contacting their chosen university, UCAS or other universities to find out more about this option.
Possibly most surprising, 17% who are considering deferral, hadn't done any research at all.
Sticking with this group, we asked what they hoped to achieve if they were to take a year off.
- 79% thought they would get a paid job
- A third say they will travel (34%)
- While just under a quarter want to volunteer abroad (23%)
A pretty optimistic outlook, considering the new economic climate. This might also suggest, that those thinking of deferring haven’t really completely thought through what their plans might be for a gap year.
Every year Clearing takes on more popularity with applicants. And in the current circumstances, we anticipate that this year will be record setting once again.
- 35% anticipate that they will use Clearing this year
- 13% are not confident about getting a place at their chosen university
- 22% want to use Clearing to secure a better course or university
Applicants are more open to the thought of going through Clearing this year. And almost a quarter anticipate that they’ll use Clearing to 'trade up'.
What does this all mean for you?
Your job of securing applicants is not over yet. Now is the time to offer reassurance.
Consider how you can personalise your comms to those who are feeling less confident - remember they don't want to feel this way, they want to be hopeful and have good news.
Our research found that applicants would feel more committed to their decisions if they had more information about academic life, social life and entry requirements. 43% said that hearing about their university's plans for a second lockdown would make them feel more committed.
Make sure this information is on your website, and it's clear and accessible. The more information at this point, the better!
Of course, for many the deciding moment will come when Results Day arrives; and this is still the most important missing piece of their journey. And that's where we can help...
Your Results Day Marketing Campaign
A Level Results Day is just round the corner - and for your applicants, it's one of the most important days in their calendar.
- How are your applicants feeling right now?
- What do they want from you?
- What are their expectations before and after their results?
- How you should communicate through clearing?
To help you prepare, we're offering our omnibus surveys, which you can run before and after Results Day - a fast, cheap and stress-free way of reaching a national representative of the applicant market. Ask your questions directly to those applying to university this year and find out what you need to be talking about - especially when it comes to clearing.
All you need to do is:
- Choose three questions to ask (further questions available, starting from just £300)
- Submit your questions to us (submit on any Thursday and get results by the following Wednesday)
- Embed the results into your student recruitment and comms strategy (and see the immediate boost in your success)
We partnered with our client at UCAS to bring this series of free insights to support HE professionals through these different times. The series will guide you through how your UG, PGT and prospective students are feeling throughout the crisis and what they are looking for from those around them.
Click below to register for the next webinar or to view the full schedule.