Applying

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Full-time courses

UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the organisation responsible for managing applications to most full-time higher education courses in the UK.

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The UCAS website

You apply for the majority of full-time higher education courses through UCAS. By using ‘Apply’ (the secure application system), you can apply for up to five courses. There’s lots of advice and information on the UCAS website including:

  • on-screen help as you work your way through ‘Apply’
  • blogs and videos on how to apply
  • a wide range of information that will help with your research and decision making before, during and after your application  
  • a tool that enables you to ‘Track’ the progress of your applications online, as well as manage your offers and decisions

Key dates in the UCAS application process

For the majority of courses, you should apply between the beginning of September and 15 January. However, applications for Oxford or Cambridge, and for medicine, veterinary science and dentistry must be made before 15 October, and some art courses have a later date. See UCAS information on important dates. If you are not ready to apply by the recommended deadline, a later application may be possible as long as the courses are not full.

Personal statements

Part of the UCAS application process requires you to write a personal statement. This is your opportunity to tell universities or colleges about your suitability for the course(s) that you hope to study. Adults have lots of skills and life experiences that will be valued in higher education, so this is your chance to sell yourself! You need to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment, what makes you suitable for the programme, your reasons for wanting to do the course and your long-term plans.

The personal statement is often the aspect of a higher education application with which applicants need most support. However, there’s plenty of help available, including: 

  • comprehensive information and advice on the UCAS website
  • higher education institution websites, which often include advice about what they look for in a personal statement
  • the Lifepilot HE Skills Map tool to help you think about your experiences, skills, abilities and achievements
  • your manager or Unionlearn rep if you are in employment, or your tutor/student services adviser if you are at college
  • from the student community through The Student Room
  • commercial businesses that help with personal statements for a charge (but do check out their credentials)
  • advice from the National Careers Service

After applying

  • Extra – if you have used all five choices and are not holding any offers, you can add another choice using Extra. 
  • Clearing – this system allows you to apply for a course if you don’t hold any offers and there are still places left.
  • Adjustment – if you do better than expected in your exams you can consider applying for an alternative course through Adjustment.

This video explains what happens to your application after you have sent it to UCAS including the different responses you may get from universities/colleges. 

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