With most students applying for the first time, the UCAS process can seem intimidating. The below guide will help you understand what is expected and when, so you can make your decisions well ahead of time.
The universities and colleges admissions service (UCAS) processes all applications for full-time undergraduate study in the United Kingdom. As a result the following deadlines apply to most students and your application will be at a significant disadvantage if you miss them.
Ideally you will want to start researching from around March or April of the year leading up to submitting your application.
Choosing your degree
Of course the first step in the UCAS application process is deciding on your five course choices. This is potentially the most important part of your application as it decides where you’ll be living and what you’ll be studying for the next few years.
Remember you’ll need to get good enough grades or UCAS points to be able to apply.
Take a look at our guide to choosing the right degree for you.
The UCAS application timeline
There are many dates in the academic calendar however you should be aware of the main submission dates. Those applying to Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, veterinary science or dentistry will need to have submitted your application by 15th October.
The majority of other applicants need to have that application submitted by 15 January.
There are more parts to the UCAS application process than some students realise. It is therefore important to ensure that you get started early.
For the upcoming round of admissions, UCAS extra will open on 25 February 2020. If your application is received after 30 June 2020 you will be automatically entered into UCAS clearing.
Waiting for offers
Once you have completed and submitted your application you should receive a confirmation from UCAS within 48 hours. This confirmation will include your login details so that you can view the progress of your application online using the UCAS track system.
This is the point at which you may be invited for interview if required by your course. Your university choices will then have the option of rejecting your application if they feel you do not make the mark.
If you are made an offer there are two types which you should be aware of. Universities significantly impressed by your application and achievements contained within may make you an unconditional offer. This means that regardless of your future exam results and work your place at the University is secured.
The more standard offer made is that of a conditional offer. This means that you are offered a place on the condition that you meet the grade requirements set by the University in question.
You will be able to view these offers inside the UCAS track system. Universities can be made aware of you accepting or rejecting offers using the same system.
Be aware however that if you accept an unconditional offer then you will have no other options in the future. If on the other hand you receive a number of conditional offers you’re able to accept up to 2 offers, with one being deemed your first choice. Secondary or backup conditional offers are important just in case you do not achieve the grades you are expecting.
You’ll need to decline or reject any other offers so there is clear which choices you are making. If when you receive your exam results you miss your first choice by a slim margin don’t give up hope. Give university a call and explain your situation and see if there is anything they can do.
What happens if I don’t receive an offer?
Don’t despair if you end up not receiving any offers from your university choices. There are several other avenues for you to explore which could mean that you get a university place this year.
The first spot on your timetable is the 25th of February. If you find yourself with no offers and all your applications have been processed then UCAS extra is the route for you.
While this does give you the option of looking at different universities and courses bear in mind that not all courses will be on offer. The silver lining is that there is a fairly quick turnaround of one to 2 weeks in terms of hearing back from the University. If you’re not accepted you are free to make further applications up until early July.
UCAS Clearing 2023
Clearing officially begins on exam results day. When universities make their initial offers they try to sign up the correct amount of students based on predicted grades and patterns from previous years. However if they find that there are places left vacant on their courses in these places are offered through the clearing system. Thousands of students use clearing to secure a course they want to study every year.
Direct application to universities
Depending on the time of year you may be able to apply directly to universities. Don’t be surprised however if they ask you to utilise either UCAS extra or UCAS clearing. Direct applications may work for some of the less well subscribed courses but it will be impossible to apply in this way to any popular course.
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