Maybe it’s all you’ve been thinking about through years of school lessons, or maybe you’ve just started wondering whether uni could be for you – either way, it’s time to crack the application process. You’re going to come across confusing-sounding buzzwords and acronyms, and “Ucas” will become the most-used four letter word in your vocab – but the process is fairly simple.
How do I apply?
Pick up to five (or four for medical and vet applicants) of your favourite university courses, then register on Ucas’s Apply website. You’ll need to fill in your personal details, and the unique Ucas code for each course you’re applying for: there’s no preference order and none of the universities or colleges you list will be able to see where else you’ve applied. You then add your personal statement – basically an “about me”, see below for details. Check through your details, get a reference from a teacher or other professional, pay the application fee (£18 for one course, £24 to apply for more than one) – then click send. And cross your fingers.
Does it matter when I apply?
The deadline for most applications is 15 January. There’s no benefit in rushing: “Universities are committed to considering all applications received by January 15 equally,” says Andrew Homer, director of admissions at Kingston University. “There’s no advantage to getting yours in early. However, once you’ve pressed send, remember that your Ucas form needs to go to a teacher or lecturer for a reference, so allow plenty of time for that.” You can start with one or two course choices, and add more as you do more research.
What happens if I miss the deadline?
Applications can still be made after January but receiving an offer will be dependent on places still being available. “Some candidates only make the decision to apply for a university place at a later stage, perhaps after performing well in mock exams,” says Deborah Green, director of student recruitment at the University of Hull. “If that’s the case, don’t be deterred from applying late in the cycle as universities are always willing to consider strong candidates.” And if you’re really late, you should keep an eye out for Ucas Clearing.
I’m obsessed with one course – do I really need an insurance choice when I’ve heard universities are fighting for students?
“The insurance choice is a back-up, or a plan B,” says Sarah Hannaford, head of admissions at Loughborough University, “in case you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice university and they are unable to accept you. With something as important as your university future, it is a good idea to have a plan B.” It will help ease the pressure, too, if you know that even if one exam goes wrong or your grades slip, you can still get into a course you’d love to study.
I’m applying for a few different courses – how can I avoid making that obvious in my personal statement?
“Tailor your personal statement to the primary course you want to study. If you generalise your application too much, there is a possibility you will not meet the shortlisting criteria for your preferred course,” says Claire Pryke, head of recruitment at the University of Bradford. “You can contact the university of your choice to find out if they will accept an alternative personal statement for a different course before submitting your application – many do.” A personal statement should explain why you want to go to uni, what you love learning and extra-curricular passions, plus any skills or experiences that could help you be a successful student. Don’t mention any institution by name in your personal statement and you don’t need to be specific about course names either, admissions tutors don’t expect it.
Do unis care about the Duke of Edinburgh award? Or any of my hobbies?
Yes – going to uni is not just about qualifications, it’s about new experiences, new environments and lots of opportunities. “It’s about becoming a rounded individual,” says Homer. “Learning a bit about your extra-curricular activities helps universities understand more about you and how you can make a success of your life.” Some courses might require specific work experience – so research your options carefully to check for any additional entry requirements.
Timeline: applying to uni for 2019
- 5 September 2018 Ucas Apply is open: applicants can submit their applications to UCAS, and unis and colleges can start making decisions on students.
- 15 October 2018 deadline for applications for Oxford, Cambridge and most medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine courses.
- 15 January 2019 6pm today is the main deadline for all remaining undergraduate courses
- 25 February 2019 Ucas Extra opens – this gives applicants who applied for five courses, but have not received any offers, or who declined all the offers, the chance to apply to one extra place, for free.
- 4 July 2019 last date for applicants to add an Extra choice.
- 31 August 2019 deadline for any remaining conditions or qualifications to be met – otherwise the university or college might not accept the applicant.
- 20 September 2019 6pm today is the final deadline for applications to 2019 courses.
- 22 October 2019 deadline for adding Clearing choices, and for universities or colleges to accept applicants in Clearing.