Applying to university

University applications are handled by the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Once you’ve been to some open days and got an idea of where you’d like to go and what you’d like to study, you can start applying to university. It’s important to take your time completing your application and making sure that it stands out.

UCAS application

Your UCAS application will include information about yourself, your chosen course(s) & universities, your education, work experience, a personal statement and a reference from a teacher. You only send one application which UCAS deal with and pass on to admissions tutors.


On the UCAS application, you’ll need to provide details of your GCSEs and the A-Levels that you’re currently taking. Your teachers will give the A-Level grades that they predict you will achieve.

Work experience

Make sure you include details about any work experience you have on your application; you can give information about your responsibilities, skills and achievements in any past jobs. Admissions tutors will look at your skills and capabilities as well as your academic performance.

Personal statement

This is your chance to show your interest in the course and your suitability for it.  It’s only 4000 characters long, so you’ll need to be concise. Applications are checked for plagiarism by UCAS, so make sure that the personal statement is your own work.

Before writing your personal statement, make a list of everything you want to include as this will help you produce a well-structured piece of work. Show that you know what your strengths and skills are and try reading it out loud to spot mistakes.

Don’t leave writing it until the last minute as you’ll need to draft it several times before it’s ready to send off. For more tips on writing a personal statement, ask a tutor or have a look at the UCAS website’s page on writing one.

When to apply

UCAS applications open at the end of summer every year and have three deadlines, so you’ll probably be applying at the start of your A2 year. Check on the UCAS website for exact deadline dates and bear in mind that these do vary depending on the course and university you’re applying for.

After you've applied

Your application is dealt with by UCAS staff who pass your application on to the universities. Admissions tutors review all of the applications and then inform UCAS of their decision. It may take a little while, but UCAS will contact you to let you know if you have an offer or interview.


On your UCAS application, you have the option to defer - this means that you can apply at the same time as everyone else but don’t have to start university until a year later. If you do decide to defer, make sure you talk about your plans for the year (such as travelling or gaining work experience) in your personal statement; tutors will be pleased to see that you are planning a productive year out.


The most common type of offer that applicants tend to receive is conditional – this means that you have to achieve certain grades to get your place. Occasionally you may receive an unconditional offer, meaning that you will be accepted on to the course even if you don’t meet the required grades.

Once you have heard back from all of the universities, you can start deciding which offers to accept. You can only accept two, one as your first choice and the other as your “insurance”. This second choice usually has lower entry requirements in case you don’t achieve the grades required for your first choice.


Make sure that you prepare thoroughly for any interviews that you are invited to – research the university and the course structure, and re-read your personal statement so that you remember what you said about yourself.

Mention that you’ve been to open days, spoken to students and members of staff and say how much you’re looking forward to the course. If you’re applying for an Ab-initio course, try and learn a few basic phrases in the language to show them how enthusiastic you are about learning the new language. Ask questions too – asking questions shows you are enthusiastic and want to know more about the course.

Interviews can be scary, but if you prepare well then you stand an excellent chance of impressing the admissions tutors.


If you are unlucky and don’t receive any offers, or choose to decline them, you can go through the UCAS EXTRA system and apply again. Bear in mind that many courses will have already filled up their places. If this doesn’t work out for you, you can apply through Clearing in August once exam results are out.


Your exam results come out in August. If you missed out on the grades you needed, then speak to your teachers straight away – they may know if you have still got in to either of your choices, or will advise you who to call to find out more. UCAS and/or the university will contact you to confirm whether you have a place.


If you didn’t receive any offers or don’t quite get the grades you need to go to your chosen universities then don’t worry! You can still apply to other courses and institutions via the clearing process in August.

Clearing matches your grades and preferred course with universities who have places available.

More in depth information on how and when to apply for clearing is available on UCAS.

Starting university

Starting university is a major step in your life. Once you’ve got your place at university, there are lots of forms to fill in, plenty of things to buy and a lot of organising and list making to do! Your university will contact you with information about what you need to do for things such as applying for accommodation.

Have a look at our transition to university section for more information on what starting university is like.