So, you’ve decided that uni is the next step for you. That’s awesome! We’re super excited for you, but we also know that the uni application process can sometimes be a little stressful. So we’re here to guide you through the process and help you understand the application system itself.
UCAS Undergraduate vs UCAS Conservatoires
You may or may not know that there are actually two UCAS application systems. If you’re interested in the performing arts, you may find that attending a conservatoire (a specialist institution that focuses on the arts) may be a better fit for you.
Traditional universities do sometimes offer performing arts courses too, so if you’re unsure, you can apply through both systems and then make your decision on which to pursue once you receive your offers!
Alright, what’s involved with the application?
Well, there are lots of sections for you to complete, and you should know that you’ll be expected to complete them all - if you don’t, the system won’t let you click send!
So, with that in mind, here’s a quick round-up of what you’ll need to get sorted:
The usual suspects here. Name, date of birth, address etc. You’ll also have the opportunity to add a ‘nominated party’. This means you can give another person the ability to access your account and contact UCAS on your behalf.
If you’re shy, it might be worth considering adding a parent or guardian just in case you need them to advocate for you down the line!
Yep, standard stuff here. You might need to do some digging for grade certificates gone by, but you’ll need to figure out what qualifications and grades you achieved in secondary school onwards.
You’ll also need to include the qualifications you’ve still yet to complete, such as your A levels, BTEC qualifications or equivalents.
If you’ve ever taken part in paid work either full or part-time, you can list it here! You can add up to five examples of paid work experience.
If you have any additional needs that require support from your uni, then you can pop them here. This includes physical or mental health conditions, chronic (long-term) illness, or learning differences.
Select your courses
Of course! The reason you’re here! You can choose up to five courses and universities to apply to, and remember that no uni can see where else you’ve applied, so make your decisions wisely!
Finance and funding
Identify how you plan to fund your studies. For most undergrads, it will be through the government-run student loans scheme.
We’ll say it now. This could well be the most difficult part of the application process.
You’ll find other articles and resources on Springpod that discuss personal statement writing, so we won’t go into too much detail here.
If this is the first time you’ve ever written about yourself, you might feel like you’re ‘bragging’. But remember - that’s exactly what a personal statement is all about! Make sure you sell the best of yourself and make sure you relate it all to the subject you’re pursuing.
Honestly, staring at a blank page can feel demoralising, but as soon as you get that first sentence down, you’ll be flying!
And that’s pretty much it!
You can save your progress as you go, so don’t rush anything. In fact, we recommend you aim to complete your application over a few days or weeks - don’t try to do it all in one go! If you let your application rest for a while - you might find that when you come back to it, you’ve thought of a better way to express yourself!
How much does it cost?
Applications through UCAS will cost you £27.50. This covers up to 5 applications to different universities or courses, so make sure to keep your options open by applying to as many as possible!
When’s the deadline?
UCAS’s official deadline for the majority of courses is 6pm on the 31st of January! There may be some provision for late applications… but we wouldn’t risk it!! Make sure you're thinking about your application well ahead of time.
Plus, if you’re applying through your school, then there’s still loads of admin that your teachers need to complete before UCAS actually receives your application. So your school might give you an earlier deadline to make sure they can get their bits completed and the application sent before the proper deadline!
What happens when you click send?
If you’re applying through your school then your application will take a short detour to your teacher’s inbox. This is so your school or college can check your application and add references for you.
Just so you know, these references are no longer long essays where your teachers can write whatever they want about you. They will just be sharing:
- A general statement about your university or college
- Any information about your personal circumstances that may affect your performance in exams or assessments (known as extenuating circumstances)
- Any other personal circumstances that they think universities/colleges should be aware of
This means you are more in the know about the information your teachers will share about you, and it's important to note here that you should make sure they know about anything that may be relevant for them to include here.
So you’ve completed, paid, and sent your UCAS application. Now what?
Now it’s time to practice your patience. Your chosen unis, colleges or conservatoires will review your application, carry out plagiarism checks (make sure you haven’t
copied anyone else), and decide whether or not to make you an offer to study there.
There are two kinds of offer you might receive from a uni:
Conditional offers form the majority of offers made. The uni will essentially be saying, “you can come and study here, as long as your get these specific grades or achieve this number of UCAS points.”
If you’ve already got your exam results, or submit one heck of an application, you may receive an unconditional offer. That means the offer is open and on the table right now - you’re in, my friend!
An offer isn't the only response you'll get from a uni...
Aside from making an offer, universities also have the option of not making you an offer at all. So if you find that your applications have been unsuccessful or withdrawn, or if you choose to decline some or all of the offers made, you will then have the option of applying for more choices via ‘Extra’. It's important to note that to be eligible to use Extra, you will need to have used all 5 of the available applications, and have declined or been unsuccessful at all of them.
The good news is that there is no additional cost to use Extra as long as you are eligible. However, you can only apply to one uni and course at a time, so think carefully about your choices. We recommend including a mixture of top-level and backup options.
Unis may also invite you to an interview, audition or test before deciding on whether to make you an offer. You will be able to find all the details through your UCAS account. So it’s good to check in with it regularly (but not too regularly, don’t get obsessed!)
OMG, I sent my application and now I need to make changes!
OK! Depending on what you need to change, there may be a way!
If it’s personal details, like your address or school, you can call UCAS and they will make the changes for you. If it’s exam details then you’ll need to complete a ‘qualification amendment form’. If you want to change your course or start date, you’ll need to contact the uni directly to ask whether this is OK. If yes, the uni will inform UCAS for you.
If you’ve successfully made changes to your UCAS application, it’s important that you let your chosen unis or institutions know about these changes too - you don’t want to accidentally cause any stressful delays on results day!
OK. I have my offers. What’s next?
Now you need to reply to them.
You’ll have a short window of time to do this, so make sure you check the details on UCAS track as your deadlines could be different for each university and offer!
Select your firm choice - or your number 1 option. This is the uni and course you really want to attend. If your firm choice is a conditional offer, then you’ll also select an insurance or backup choice, just in case you don’t hit your grades.
It might be a gut-wrenching move, but you’ll have to decline your other offers. So make sure you give your choices some real consideration so you can make smart decisions.
Patience is a virtue!
That’s it - time to settle back into the waiting room as the next step is to wait for your exam results (unless of course you received an unconditional offer, in which case it’s party time already!).
Once your exam results have been released, your uni or college will update your UCAS application status to reflect whether you’ve been accepted or not.
It can be a nerve-wracking time, so make sure you’ve got your support system on hand as you organise your next steps!
What if I’m not accepted?
In the event that you don’t reach the grades outlined in your conditional offer, please don’t panic! Take a breath and give the institution a call - they may be able to offer you another course or course combination.
If you don’t have any luck with your firm or insurance unis, then you have the option of looking at Clearing opportunities. These are courses at institutions that have room for more applicants. By getting in early you can snap up some amazing opportunities that you may never have originally considered!
If you’ve explored all these options but still haven’t found a good fit, you also have the option of taking a gap year to gain experience, improve your grades if needed, and take some time to make sure your chosen path is still the one for you.
Remember - there is absolutely no rush. Many students discover that missing their target grades or points is a blessing in disguise as they suddenly become open to other options and opportunities that they’d never considered before!
So don’t panic, take a breath, and enjoy the discovery.