Applying to university

Applying to uni can feel like the scariest thing on the planet. And that includes axe-murders and your mum’s death stare. But we promise that it’s really not that bad. It can actually be a great way to learn how to sell yourself and figure out your interests. The Mix is here to help talk you through how to apply for university and what to expect.

A group of young people are discussing applying to university. This is a wide-angle image.

How to apply for university

You can apply for university through the university and colleges admissions services a.k.a UCAS, of course. Just keep in mind that they only accept online applications for UK universities. This means that you can no longer submit your form on paper.

So the first thing you need to do to apply through UCAS, even if you’re an international student, is register yourself on their website, They’ll ask for the following info:

  • 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).

Don’t panic, you don’t have to fill in the information all in one go. Just take your time with it. If you like, you can complete your education and employment history one day and then make your university choices or write your personal statement the next. The UCAS website has more information about each section for when you’re ready.

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. On the other hand, if you’re applying independently, you’ll have to find a referee yourself and provide payment when you submit your application.

When to apply for university

It’s pretty simple really. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of success. For applications to start at UK universities in September 2022, these are the dates you need to keep in mind:

  • By the 26th of January 2022 you’ll need to have picked five courses that you’d be interested in taking the following academic year and sent in your application. But it’s worth noting that the deadline is the 24th of March 2022 for some art and design courses. So make sure you know which one applies to you.
  • If you were applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or for a Dentistry, Medicine or Veterinary Science course at any university, the deadline was the 15th of October 2021.

Keep in mind that some courses require specific entry tests and even language tests sometimes. If you want details, a list of courses that require entry tests is available on the UCAS website. For any course that shows up on that list, you’ll need to make sure that you complete the test on the allotted day for you application to be properly processed.

Once you’ve received a conditional offer, or a rejection, you’ll need to narrow your choice down to two. Of these two choices, you can make one your firm (your first choice), and one insurance (safety net, better to go for lower grades or more flexible offers here). It’s possible that you may be asked for an interview before a decision is made. In which case, check out our article on university interviews here.

If you wanna apply for deferred entry (meaning you start uni in September 2023) you should check that the uni or college will accept a deferred entry application. You should know that if you apply for deferred entry, you’re still expected to meet the conditions of any offers by the end of your exams in 2022. Plus, if you accept a deferred place you won’t be able to reapply through UCAS in the next cycle.

Late applications for university

If you miss the deadline, it’s not the end of the world. You can still apply. UCAS will simply forward your form to the institutions for consideration at their discretion. Generally speaking, courses with lots of places to fill are more likely to consider you than the popular ones. So really try to meet the deadline and give yourself the best shot.

We should also mention that after the 5th of July 2022, all applications are processed through clearing. You can learn about the university clearing process here.

Results day

When your A-levels/Higher results are released, you’ll have to make an informed 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 about to study in the UK! All that’s left to do is check out these articles on student life.
  • If you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice, then the university in question may still take you (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’re rejected by your firm choice, your insurance choice becomes your firm choice. As long as you meet the conditions of that choice, you’ll automatically be sent a letter confirming your place. Should be smooth sailing from there.
  • If you get substantially better results than you were predicted, according to a UCAS spokesperson: “Students who wish to change universities at confirmation can use ‘Decline My Place’ to enter Clearing. They can use Clearing Plus, they’ll be signposted to relevant universities with spaces whose entry requirements match the student’s results.”
  • If you don’t meet the conditions of your firm and insurance place, you’ll have to go through clearing.

FYI: UCAS processes your university applications – from the very first form, right through to results day.

University on-boarding process

The university on-boarding process, AKA Freshers’ Week, is a great opportunity to make new friends and potentially blow your entire maintenance loan on booze in less than 30 days. Our advice? Pace yourself, and have fun! Just don’t get any of the uni’s employees involved in the on-boarding otherwise human resources might get involved.

Above all, focus on getting comfortable in student life and you’ll have a successful on-boarding experience. Plus, if you ever feel like you’re falling overboard, your university will have people you can speak to who can help you out. They’ll understand that leaving home can be difficult and not everyone just slips into the uni life groove straight away.

Next Steps

  • UCAS processes your university applications - from the very first form, right through to results day.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 13-Jun-2022