Applying for an undergraduate degree in the UK is very simple. You don’t need to get in touch with lots of universities – you can apply for up to five courses at once through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) for a small administration fee and UCAS handles everything else.
Here’s how it works:
1. Register with UCAS
First, go to the UCAS website where you can fill in your application form.
Then write your personal statement. This is your chance to stand out from the crowd by explaining why you are interested in the course, the skills you have that make you suitable, and your life experiences and achievements.
You also need to include a written reference from someone who can confirm your ability to do the course, such as a tutor or one of your school teachers. Make sure you contact your referees early so they have enough time to write this for you.
There are four application deadlines throughout the year:
- October – for courses at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry
- 15 January – “on time” deadline for most undergraduate courses
- March – for some art and design courses
- 30 June – late deadline for most undergraduate courses. Applications received after this deadline will automatically go into “clearing”, so you will not be guaranteed your first choice.
While you will be able to apply after the January deadline right up until 30 June, it is better to apply early. You will still need to arrange your visa if you need one, as well as things like accommodation and flights.
2. Receiving an offer
UCAS will contact you with any offers from your chosen universities or colleges. If your offer is ‘unconditional’, you can relax as your place on the course is confirmed. Some offers are conditional – usually this means your offer is confirmed as long as you achieve certain results in your current studies or in English language tests.
Once you have decided to accept an offer then you can respond to it through the UCAS website – then you’re on your way to becoming a UK student
Your university or college will contact you (usually via email) to tell you whether or not you have received an offer to study. If you applied via UCAS it’s easy to track the status of your application at any time.
If you are accepted with an unconditional offer, then congratulations! You have a place and you can accept straightaway.
If you are accepted with a conditional offer, the place is yours as long as you meet a few extra requirements. This could be achieving certain exam grades or English language test scores.
For some courses you may be asked to come for an interview before you receive your offer, either on the phone or sometimes in person. Check the course information before you apply to find out whether this is required.
If you’ve not secured a university or college place, you expect your grades to change your plans or you’re having a last-minute rethink, then there’s good news: it’s not too late. UK universities operate what’s known as ‘Clearing’ – a system specifically designed to match empty university places to applicants who suit them.
Clearing is the system employed by UCAS and UK universities at the end of the academic year to fill course places that haven’t been taken. Every year thousands of places are allocated this way, and it’s certainly not a case of getting rid of the courses that nobody wants.
There are lots of reasons why places may not be filled. Clearing is ideal for students who have missed out on the grades they were hoping for – or who got better grades than they expected – but it also helps anyone who has changed their mind about what they want to study. Whatever your situation, Clearing is designed to help you get everything sorted on a course you’ll love.
Any courses that still have vacancies are listed on the UCAS website. Once you’ve found one you think is right, you need to apply directly to see if the university or college will offer you a place.
Once you’ve registered you can begin calling round universities informally, but you’ll need a clearing number to apply formally. (You can only apply for one place at a time.)
You need to pay the standard UCAS fee of £26, which you may have already done. If you paid £20 for a single choice you’ll need to top that up with another £6.
You’ll be eligible for Clearing if:
- You haven’t received any offers
- You haven’t accepted any of the offers you have received
- You didn’t respond to your offers in time
- You’re applying after the 30 June cut-off
- Your grades are too low for your offers
Whichever of these situations applies to you, it’s a good idea to begin your Clearing search as quickly as possible to boost your chances of finding something that’s a good match for your grades and plans.
1. Do your research
There are lots of great ways to find out more about UK universities online and the courses they offer. And you can get started before Clearing opens too.
2. Be quick but don’t rush
You can’t hang around – places will begin getting snapped up the moment Clearing opens. But that doesn’t mean you should panic. Take time to think carefully before accepting a place that will shape your whole career.
3. Be flexible
Don’t hold out for a dream place and miss out on other fantastic opportunities. Being successful with Clearing is about being flexible and realistic.