- What is the UCAS process?
- How to apply through UCAS?
- The UCAS application deadline
- How do UCAS points work
- UCAS application explained step by step
- What happens after you send the application
The UK is a top destination for international students pursuing higher education abroad. It enjoys world-class universities and a very transparent and straightforward application process.
All undergraduate applications in the UK are managed through UCAS, a centralised online platform where students can apply to multiple universities and colleges with a single application.
What is the UCAS process?
UCAS stands for „the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service”. The organisation processes applications for undergraduate courses at universities and colleges in the UK.
UCAS is an intermediary between you, the applicant, and the universities you’re interested in. All you have to do is create a single UCAS application form and apply with it for multiple courses and institutions, which generally have two main deadlines throughout the year.
A unique, centralised process which includes everything from collecting documents, paying fees, and communicating with the university to finding out all the information and advice you need greatly simplifies things for students. In addition, UCAS is used for both UK nationals and international students.
How to apply through UCAS?
The first step in your application process is deciding what courses to apply for. Luckily, universities in the UK have many options in all fields of study, so it won’t be too hard to find something you like.
You can start with a search on Bachelorsportal, where you can find over 25 000 undergraduate courses in the UK, and sort them to show the lowest tuition first by pressing the Sort button on the upper right side of the page.
Alternatively, you can search directly on the university’s page if you already know what university you wish to apply to or use the Search tool made available by UCAS and read their guides on how to choose the right course.
Also, keep in mind that universities in the UK have several Open Days throughout the year and, if it’s possible for you, attending the event is a great way to figure out which university is right for you: you’ll get to see the campus, the facilities, the tutors, and the accommodation options.
Once the RESEARCH phase is done, you can proceed with the actual application. The steps are not too difficult to follow, but you should read all the instructions carefully and ensure you provide everything requested. Once your application is sent, you can no longer adjust or correct anything.
UCAS application deadline
There are always two major deadlines for university applications in the UK, but the exact date of the month can change from year to year:
- October for courses starting the next year.
This deadline applies to programmes at Oxford University and to programmes in Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Science, and Dentistry.
- January for courses starting in the autumn of the same year.
If you apply after June 30, your application is automatically entered into Clearing. This is the process of filling in university spots left unoccupied after the regular admission. You‘ll find more info about Clearing later in the article.
How do UCAS points work
UCAS uses a points-based system to assess applications more easily. Your academic achievements and grades are converted into a numerical score so that you will collect UCAS Tariff points. However, not all qualifications are assigned a UCAS Tariff value, and if they are, grades influence the points of each qualification.
This system makes it easier for universities to evaluate candidates and see if they meet the entry requirements.
If your qualification is in the Tariff points system, you can use this calculator from UCAS to find out how many points it has. Nevertheless, if your qualification isn’t in the Tariff, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply or have fewer chances of being offered a place.
UCAS application step by step
Remember that some of these steps require preparation before getting on with actually filling in the application.
1. Register with UCAS.
The first step is to create an account and register with your personal information on the UCAS Hub.
2. Answer some specific questions.
Next, you’ll have to fill in more details and answer some questions. Make sure to type in an up-to-date email address that you regularly check and answer all the questions on the form. You’ll have to give information about your personal circumstances, such as, for example, whether you have ever been in care. In addition, you will also have to give answers regarding your financial situation and how you plan on funding your studies.
3. Complete the section about your education history
In this section, you must list all your qualifications starting with secondary education. You have to add details about your former studies and qualifications even if:
- you didn't receive your results yet
- you didn’t complete a course and didn’t receive the qualification at the end
- you are still in the process of attending a course or studying for a future exam
If you know that a university has certain entry requirements but you do not meet them, you can still receive an offer if you apply. However, it’s best to contact the university before applying and explaining the situation to them.
4. Complete the section about your work history
You might not have a lot of work experience yet, but any kind of jobs you had or volunteering work that you did is actually valuable for your university application, so make sure to add all the experience you have.
5. Choose your courses
Once you reach this section, you have to select the five university programmes of your choice: they can be at different universities or the same university, but each programme counts as one of the five choices.
The order in which you list the courses you picked is not important because universities cannot see your choices.
6. Add your Personal Statement
The personal statement is an essential part of the UCAS application and allows you to use your creativity and write in an original style.
In this section, you have to write a text between 1000 and 4000 characters that explains to the admissions officer why you are the right choice for their university and their programme is the right choice for you.
This may seem daunting, and it will make a big difference in your application, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to write it and spellcheck it before filling in the application. A perfect starting point is our guide on how to write the best personal statement.
7. Add the UCAS application reference
After you fill in all the required information, you also need to provide contact details for one person who agreed to give a reference for you. Ideally, this person should be a tutor or teacher from the school you are currently attending or recently graduated from. However, if you return to education after a long break, your referee can also be your employer or supervisor.
Remember that your application won’t be submitted until the person you gave as your referee attaches the reference to your application.
8. Pay the UCAS application fee
Finally, you must pay the application fee. For courses starting in 2023, the fee is £22.50 if you have a single choice or £27 if you want multiple choices.
Now you’re ready to submit your application. Congrats!
What happens after you send the application
1. Track your application
Once you have submitted your application, you can monitor its status through your UCAS account. This will enable you to track which universities have received your application and whether or not you have received any offers.
There are two types of offers you can receive through UCAS:
- Conditional: it means you have a place if you meet some additional entry requirements, for example, achieving a certain grade in an exam.
- Unconditional: it means you already satisfy all entry requirements and have a guaranteed spot at the university.
Also, remember that before receiving any kind of offer, you might be invited for an interview, so don’t forget to check your email and UCAS account regularly.
At the same time, you should know that if an application is unsuccessful or you withdraw a choice yourself, then you can replace it with a new choice.
2. Respond to your offers
If you receive an offer from a university, you must respond to it via your UCAS account. You can either accept, decline or defer.
- Remember, once you accept an offer, that becomes your “firm choice,” and it means you are committed to going to that university. If you change your mind later and decline the offer, you can no longer accept one of the others. You’ll have to go through Clearing.
3. Go through Clearing
In simple terms, Clearing is a process used by universities to fill in any spots that are left unoccupied in their study programmes after the regular application rounds.
Ideally, you should apply before the deadlines through the regular route we described above. However, in case you can’t do that, you either apply through Clearing or end up without any university offers.
Clearing can be the right choice if any of the following applies to you:
- You declined all the offers you received
- You declined an offer after it became your “firm choice”
- You didn’t receive any offers
- You achieved higher scores in your exams than was predicted and want to apply for a university with more demanding entry requirements
- You received conditional offers but didn’t meet the extra requirements
- You applied after June 30
So, if any of this happens, don’t get discouraged. Getting a place through Clearing doesn’t affect in any way your study experience or how well you will do in your degree.
Clearing is open between July 5 and October 18.