When applying to university in the UK, your application will go through a system called UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). You can visit the UCAS website for information on how to get started with your choices and filling out your application form.

When do I Need to Start My Application Process?

You need to make sure that you get your application form in well before the deadline, as late applications can be rejected or you won’t have as good a chance of being considered.

It is especially important to get your application in on time if you are applying for one of the top universities in the UK, such as the Russell Group universities. Some institutions have an earlier application deadline than others, so you will need to check on this too.

Preparing for university can be pretty straightforward!
Get yourself ready for student life by planning out the right path! Photo credit: GW Public Health via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC

If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science/Medicine in any university, the UCAS application deadline is much earlier in the academic year than for any other universities. You will need to check with your chosen institutions to make sure you apply in good time.

For Oxford, Cambridge and Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science/Medicine in any university, the UCAS application deadline is usually around the 15th October. This is also sometimes the case for certain art and design institutions, so you will need to check with them to make sure you get the right date.

For all other university applications, the UCAS deadline is usually three months later, around the 15th January. The deadline for all applications is 18:00 UK time.

If you do miss the January deadline, you are still able to apply up until the 30th January, but after the first deadline, your application will be marked as ‘late’. However, universities do not have to consider your application after the first UCAS deadline, and can choose to decline your application if they wish.

What Things Do I Need to Consider Before Applying to University?

Essentially the three main questions that are crucial for choosing the right university for you are:

  • What do you want to study?
  • Where do you want to study?
  • What kind of university do you want to go to?

Before starting your application, you’ll need to have a good idea of what course you want to study – this is the most important thing to consider, as it’s what you’ll spend at least three years studying and you will hold a degree in at the end.

The next things you’ll need to think about before starting your online application is where in the country you might like to live. This could go hand in hand with the kind of course you wish to take, for example if you want to study performing arts you might like to be somewhere that is a hub for theatre and performance.

Navigation university applications isn't aways easy!
Finding the right direction and course can be tough. Photo via VisualHunt.com

You might decide that you would like to go to a university that is part of the Russell Group. The Russell Group represents 24 universities in the UK which are leading in research, teaching and learning experience.

Russell Group universities also have unrivalled links with employment, business and the public sector. To find out more about what a Russell Group university can offer you, visit their website.

You should also look at university ranking tables to see where your course ranks at different universities across the country. Some institutions are leading in particular courses, despite perhaps not ranking that highly in other courses.

It’s therefore really important that you look at the specific course you want to do and see how well it is taught and rated by students when considering where to apply.

Before applying for university, you also need to think about if you might want to take a gap year or go straight in to study. Gap years are becoming more and more common among students, where many choose to work and travel and give themselves some time before starting their degree.

If you do plan on taking a gap year, you might wish to leave your UCAS application until January of your gap year as you might want the extra time to decide what you want to do.

Alternatively, you can also apply for deferred entry. This will be a clear option when you fill out the online application form, and means that you are applying for a place at university not for the following academic year, but for the year after.

This is a popular option as it means that you can go off and enjoy your gap year whilst still knowing that you have secured a place at university for the following September.

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How Do I Complete My University Application?

Your application to university will all be completed online via the UCAS website. It’s a pretty quick and simple process, but requires a lot of care and attention so that everything is done properly, and there are no nasty surprises down the line.

There are five steps for applying to university with UCAS:

  1. Register all your details with UCAS and set up your account – you can’t go too far wrong here as long as you make sure all your information is correct, and that you update it if anything changes.
  2. Find a course – this is probably the most important step of all! You will need to pick the course you want to do and be sure of your choice. There is lots of helpful guidance and advice out there to help you make your choice.
  3. Find a university – UCAS has every university in the UK listed on its website, as well as the courses they offer. Once you’ve chosen your course, you will be able to see which universities offer it, and you can start narrowing down your choices from there. You will need to pick a first choice, and four other universities as back up options.
  4. Complete the application form – Once you’re sure of all your choices and have decided on the five universities you want to apply to, it’s time to fill out the UCAS form. You can apply for different courses at different places, but you will online be allowed to submit one personal statement, so make sure it encompasses all the right information and is specific enough to the course/courses that you are applying for.
  1. Send of the form and wait! This is the most torturous part of the whole process unfortunately, as you sit and wait for the universities to consider your application and get back to you.

After a little while, you will start hearing back from the universities you have applied to. This could result in an interview, an offer (be it conditional or unconditional) or a rejection.

If you don’t manage to get any university place offers through your UCAS application, you can apply for a place through clearing. After results day, you can ring up universities offering the course you want to do and see if they will accept you with the grades you have obtained.

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How Will I Pay for University?

In recent years, we've seen how university fees in the UK have skyrocketed. Fees in the UK cost around £9,000 a year, and then you need to think about other costs such as rent, food, leisure, course texts etc. It can all get pretty pricey!

Most students will need to apply for student finance to fund their degree and living costs. This is a part of the UCAS application, so you will need to know in advance if you will be needing student finance, and apply for it through the government website.

Some students get financial help from their parents, whether that is help paying for fees directly to the university, or by helping out with rent and groceries for example. If you won't be needing the full amount of student loan to support you whilst at university, then there is an option to apply for what you personally need.

Don't fret the finances!
Money is often the scariest part of student life! Photo via VisualHunt.com

Student finance will work out how much money you are eligible for based on your household income. If you are from a single-parent household, you will be eligible for more loan than a student with a joint-income household.

If, once you've received the overview of what student finance will give you, you feel you are not receiving what you should be, then get in touch with Student Finance England to resolve the issue. It's not uncommon that mistakes are made, so be sure to check everything is as it should be!

Do check with your university if you are eligible for any bursaries or scholarships as well. There will usually be a section of the university's website dedicated to extra funding for students of certain academic achievements or of a lower income background.

Many universities in the UK offer some form of bursary for students of a lower income background, and this might even sway your choice of where to go and study. Universities will usually let you know if you will be eligible once you've sent off your financial information, but don't hesitate to get in touch with the admissions department if you feel you might be eligible for extra funding but haven't been informed.

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