Applying to university

How to bag yourself a place at university using the UCAS application process.

Girl peeping over a book

Watch out for approaching deadlines.

How to apply to university

UCAS, the university and colleges admissions services, only accept online applications. You can no longer submit your form on paper.

The first thing you need to do is register yourself on their website, You’ll then need to provide the following information:

  • Personal details
  • Monitoring information (UK applicants only)
  • University choices
  • Education and employment history
  • Personal statement (there’s some advice on the UCAS site about writing a good one).

You don’t have to fill in the information all in one go, so you can complete your education and employment history and then make your university choices or write your personal statement later. The UCAS website has more information about each section.

If you’re applying through your school or college, a reference will be added by your teacher. They’ll usually also collect your application fee (currently £23) directly.

If you are applying independently, you’ll have to find a referee yourself, and provide payment when you submit your application.

When to apply

The earlier you apply the better your chances of success. For applications to start university in September 2015 the following apply:

  • By 15 January 2016 you’ll need to have picked five courses that you would like to take the following academic year. However, the deadline is 24 March 2016 for those applying for art and design courses.
  • If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or for a Dentistry, Medicine or Veterinary Science course at any university, the deadline is 15 October 2015.

Some courses require specific entry tests. A list of courses that require entry tests is available on the UCAS website. You need to make sure you complete one for your application to be properly processed.

Once you have received a conditional offer, or a rejection, you must narrow your choice down to two. This should be done in the summer. Of these two choices, one must be firm (your first choice), and one insurance (safety net, better to go for lower grades or more flexible offers here). You may be asked for an interview before a decision is made.

If you want to apply for deferred entry (meaning you start university in September 2017) you should check that the university or college will accept a deferred entry application. If you apply for deferred entry, you must meet the conditions of any offers by 31 August 2016. If you accept a deferred place you won’t be able to reapply through UCAS in the next cycle.

You can only submit one UCAS application form in each year’s application cycle.

Late applications

If you miss the deadline you can still apply. UCAS will forward your form to the institutions for consideration at their discretion. Courses with lots of places to fill are more likely to consider you than the popular ones.

After June 30 all applications are processed through clearing.

Results day

When your A-levels/Higher results are released, you’ll be able to make a firm decision about what you want to do.

  • If you meet the conditions (i.e. get the grades) of your firm choice, you’ll automatically be sent a letter confirming your place. Congrats, you’re in.
  • If you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice, then university in question may still change the offer (perhaps by suggesting a similar course or asking you to change when you start). You can decide between that changed offer and your insurance offer.
  • If you are rejected by your firm choice, your insurance choice becomes your firm choice and, as long as you meet the conditions of that choice, you’ll automatically be sent a letter confirming your place. Hurrah, uni life here you come!
  • If you get substantially better results than you were predicted, and you’d like to try for a better course, you can apply for adjustment.
  • If you don’t meet the conditions of your firm and insurance place, you will have to go through clearing.

Next Steps

  • UCAS processes your university applications - from the very first form, right through to results day.
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Updated on 29-Sep-2015