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Introduction to UCAS and UCAS Application Process

University preparation 20 June 2016

Introduction to UCAS and UCAS Application Process

When you apply for university in the UK you will do so through UCAS: Universities and Colleges. Application Service. You can do this online at:

What UCAS does:

  • It processes full-time applications to study on UK higher education courses.
  • It keeps students, universities and colleges up to date with the progress of each application.
  • It gives advice on which courses are available to study in the UK.

What UCAS does not do:

  • It does not provide higher education courses - it only shows which courses are available and where.
  • It does not give advice on finances.
  • It does not give advice on immigration or visas.

Before you start your application with UCAS you should:

  • Decide which subject you would like to study so you can decide on a course.
  • You can use UCAS to search for courses and universities:
  • Pick up-to five courses (each course can be at a different university or you can apply for more than one course at the same university)
  • Think about and research where you would like to live and study in the UK.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help decide where you would like to live:

  • Would I like to live in a big city?
  • Would I like to live somewhere modern?
  • Would I like to live somewhere with lots of music and theatre?
  • Would I like to live somewhere with a sport stadium?
  • Would I like to live near the sea?
  • Would I like to live somewhere busy?

Check the entry requirements for each university you would like to apply for.

  • Research each university by looking at their website.
  • Think carefully about all of these things as you will be studying that course at that university for at least three years.
  • Remember: The deadline for most applications is in January or October for Oxford, Cambridge or most medicine, veterinary and dentistry courses.

Applying with UCAS

When you have decided which courses and universities you would like to apply for you can begin
your application! You can do this online by using UCAS Apply:

  • To begin your application you will need to register:
  • Registering is free and will take about 15 minutes.
  • You will only need to register once.
  • Once you have registered you will have a username and password so you can log on and check on your application at any time.

Once you have registered you will be able to begin your application!

There are six parts to the application:

  • Personal details - Details of your name, age and address so UCAS can contact you and let you know about replies from your universities.
  • Choices - The five courses you want to apply for. There is no order of preference and the universities will not be able to see your other choices.
  • Education - A list of all the qualifications you have or are waiting to receive.
  • Employment - Details of any full of part-time paid employment.
  • Personal Statement - This is a very important part of the application. This is one piece of writing that gets sent to each university you apply to explaining why you should be accepted onto that course. The same piece of writing goes to all five courses and cannot be changed for each one. For advice on what to include in your personal statement go to page 11 of:
  • Reference - A letter of recommendation from a teacher, an advisor or someone who knows you academically.

Once you have completed each of these points you will be able to submit your application!

Tracking your application and waiting for a reply

  • Once you have sent your application you will have to wait for each university to reply.
  • You can check for replies at any time by logging onto UCAS Track with your username (personal UCAS ID) and password:
  • You will be able to check each universities’ decision and if they have offered you a place on the course.
  • It can take some universities more than a month to reply, so do not worry if you do not get a reply immediately.

There are three different kinds of response

  • Conditional offer - If you are waiting for a qualification when you apply a university may give you a conditional offer. This means they will offer you a place on the course if you get the grades they ask for.
  • Unconditional offer - This means the university has offered you a place on the course. Congratulations!
  • Unsuccessful - This means the university is not able to offer you a place on the course.

When you have received a reply from all the universities you have applied to you will need to decide which offers you would like to accept.

  • Your first choice is called your firm choice - if you get the grades the university has asked for you will have a place on this course.
  • You will need to pick a second choice, which is called your insurance choice - this offer should  ask for lower grades so if you do not get the grades for your firm choice you can go to your insurance choice university.
  • You must decline the other offers.

Getting to the UK

Once you have accepted your offer you will need to make preparations to come to the UK. You will need to think about:

  • Your visa - UCAS does not give advice on visas. You can find out if you need a visa and how to get one at:
  • English Language tests: You may need to pass an approved English Language test in order to get a visa. You can find a list of approved English Language tests at: knowledge-of-english. Your university may have its own English Language test, contact them to check the details.
  • Living costs: You need to think about how much it will cost to live in the UK. You can get help working out costs by:
    • Contacting your local British Council office:
    • Using the international student calculator:
    • Financial support - You might be able to receive a grant or a scholarship, remember to research the options.
  • Accommodation: Get in contact with your university and use their website to find out about and organise accommodation. Do this as soon as possible as it is important you have a place to stay when you arrive in the UK and some accommodation can be oversubscribed.
  • Booking flights: You will need to organise this yourself. It is important you find out from your university which date your course begins and that you arrive in time to get settled in and begin your studies.

If you need more advice about any stage of the application process go to:

Good Luck!

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