To apply to university or college you’ll have to use UCAS’s application form. It’s all done online and you use the UCAS online service called ‘Apply’. You can only send one UCAS application form for the yearly round of admissions, so make sure it’s a good’un.
Know your UCAS deadlines
Be warned, there are different UCAS application deadlines: October for Oxford and Cambridge and all medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and veterinary science courses; January for all the other courses, apart from some art and design courses which have a March deadline. Your school or college might have earlier deadlines so check with them.
Make sure you check well in advance what the deadlines are for your chosen courses. Get those applications in early! If you miss the deadline, there is a small chance a late application will be considered if they still have vacancies for the course. All applications received after 30 June are entered into clearing.
To apply, go onto the UCAS homepage and click the button that says ‘Apply’. You’ll have to register and give them few personal details like your name, address and date of birth. If you’re applying through a school, college or centre, then you’ll need to get a ‘buzzword’ from them. It basically links your application to your school so that your referee there can add their reference to it. If you are applying independently, you’ll be asked a few questions to check your eligibility.
Once you’ve registered, you’ll have to provide some more personal details and additional information, mainly about other additional courses that you have taken in preparation for higher education, about your parents’ occupations and your national identity. Remember that the questions in additional information are optional; you can choose not to disclose the information.
Next comes student finance. Don’t worry; you won’t have to cough up any money yet. This is just UCAS asking whether they can share some of your details with the student loan company to make it easier when you apply for student loans.
Choices! The important bit!
You can’t be like a kid in a chocolate (course) factory and apply to as many courses as you want. You are restricted to a strict diet of five course choices. You don’t have to fill up all five choices and you can even just pick one. The more you apply to, the more chances you’ll have of getting an offer, but don’t just pick a random course to make up the numbers. If you wouldn’t be happy doing it, then leave it out.
There are some rules about course combinations:
You can’t apply to both Oxford and Cambridge as an undergraduate, you have to pick one. If you’re struggling to decide, read our Oxford or Cambridge article.
You can only apply to a maximum of four courses in any one of the following subjects: medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and veterinary science. However, you could use your remaining choice to apply to one of the other subjects in this group. For instance, you could apply to four dentistry courses and then to one medicine course.
You don’t have to apply for your courses all at the same time. You can use the ‘Track’ function to add further choices later, so long as you haven’t used up all five. For example, if you send in an application for a course with a 15th January deadline and after that you want to apply to another course with a March deadline, you can add it to your application.
If you are applying for Oxford or Cambridge, there might be further application forms for you to fill out so look on their websites or ask a teacher for more information about it.
Education, education, education
The next step is to enter information about your education. By this, we mean the details of every school and college you have attended since the age of 11 and any qualifications taken (i.e. those for which you have accepted certification from an awarding organisation, even if you flunked them) and are taking at the moment. If you are resitting a qualification, it needs to be entered twice: once with the grade achieved and once with the qualification result as ‘pending’.
Check whether you need to enter units/modules for these qualifications. In ‘Apply’, there’ll be an asterisk next to the qualifications that you’ll need to enter units/modules for. Also, some universities might specify that they want to know your module results for specific courses. To find out, you should look at the entry profiles in Course Search to see whether they do. You’ll also be asked to select the highest level of qualification you’ll have before the course starts.
In the Employment part of the application, there is a section where you can tell the universities or colleges about any full-time, weekend or holiday jobs, but not unpaid work experience, you have done. You need to give the company name, address, description of your job and when it started and ended. If you haven’t done any, then don’t worry, just leave it blank.
Next you’ll need to write your personal statement. You’ll need to spend a good few hours/days perfecting this. Check out our section on how to write a personal statement for further guidance.
If you are applying via a school or college, then you won’t be able to access your reference. They’ll handle this bit for you. You just need to make sure you’ve completed the rest of the application and send it online to your referee.
If you are applying independently then you’ll need to be more proactive. You can ask for your reference to be written by a school, college or other organisation through UCAS, but only if you have left relatively recently and they remember you. Otherwise, you need to contact your referee (this could be a recent employer, training provider or supervisor, i.e. someone who has known you in an official capacity) to make sure they are willing to give you a reference. If they are, then supply their contact details in the UCAS application form.
What?! I have to pay?
Yep, we’re afraid you do. If you apply to one course it is £12, or if you apply for more than one course then it is £23. Your school, college, or centre will let you know how to pay; otherwise, if you are applying independently then you will pay online.
Done & dusted
Once you have completed your application form and a reference has been attached, UCAS will send it to the relevant universities/colleges. They will only be able to see the details of the course that you applied to at their institution. All you have to do then is sit back and wait for the offers to (hopefully) roll in!