Applying to university or college

The application process for applying to college or university can be confusing. For young people who are still in education the best thing is to talk to a teacher about what they should be doing and when. For others who may have taken a gap year or be returning to education after having children it can be difficult to know where to start.

Once they have decided where to study and what course they want to do it's just a case of completing the application and submitting it by the correct date.

Who to apply to

  • All applications for full time courses in the UK are made through UCAS.
  • All applications for deferred entry should be made through UCAS.
  • All applications for part time courses in the UK are made direct to the university or college.
  • Applications to parts of a degree course as an occasional student are made direct to the university.


UCAS have different deadlines depending on the course and the university or college your child is applying to. Full details of when to submit an application by are available on the UCAS website.

If they are applying directly, the university or college will let them know when they will need to have received the application by.

One of the most important parts of the application is the personal statement. The links below offer advice on how to write and what to include:

What happens next

If they applied directly to the university or college they will advise whether or not their application has been successful.

If they applied through UCAS they will receive a welcome letter confirming their choices and details. It is important they check this to make sure the information is correct. After this they may be invited to interview before a decision is made. They will then have to wait to hear back about the decision which will be one of the three below:

  • Unconditional offer - If they have met the entry requirements.
  • Conditional offer - Usually the condition is based on the need to achieve specified results in exams they are taking.
  • Rejection - This could be due to not meeting the entry requirements or simply due to competition for places.

If your child did not get the grades they were expected to there is another opportunity for them to get on a course at a college or university. This process is called 'Clearing' and is how universities and colleges fill places they still have on their courses with students who may be interested in them. The clearing listings are published on the UCAS website and on the websites of individual universities. The university will need to be contacted to see if they will offer a place.

Students who did much better than expected are also able to register for the UCAS adjustment period which reserves a place on their original Conditional Firm acceptance and lets them look at courses with higher entry requirements.

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