Before being offered a place you may receive an invitation for an interview or audition - this may be either in the UK or in your home country. Make sure that you can arrange to attend interviews such as getting your visa, flights and accommodation organised. Alternatively, you may be asked to provide examples of your work, such as a portfolio. Some courses also require a further test, such as medicine. One you’ve attended your interview or audition, sent them your portfolio, or have obtained your test results the university then makes their decision in the normal way.

Applications timeline

Summer (the year before you intend to go to university) decide where and what you want to study apply for and take a clinical aptitude test if you are intending to study medicine

Mid September UCAS applications open 15th October application deadline for medicine, veterinary medicine and dentistry degrees

December - interviews take place for some degrees and universities 15th January application deadline for the majority of courses

24th March application deadline for some art and design courses Winter-Spring - decide on your firm and insurance choices

7th May reply to offers deadline

Summer choose your accommodation and apply for it apply for your UK visa book your flights and make arrangements for living in the UK

The UK uses a universal application system for students wishing to attend one of their universities known as the Universities College and Admissions Service (UCAS) (website address). The application is made up of:

Personal details - such as your home address Course choices - you can apply to five universities (four for medicine and veterinary science, and an extra one in a related subject such as Biology or Physiology)

Education history

Employment history

Personal statement - this is a 4,000 character or 47 line statement whereby you explain why you would be good at studying your chosen course at your chosen university. For help with your personal statement see the links below

Reference - this is written by a teacher in your school or college and explains your suitability at university

The application costs £12 for one course, or £23 for multiple courses and applications sent after the 30th June. UCAS uses a tariff system which allows your qualifications to be converted into points (for example, an A at A-Level is worth 120 points). These points are added together to give you a total so they can be used as a requirement to get into a course (for example, a course may require you to have 300 points). The UCAS tariff covers all UK qualifications and some foreign qualifications, although universities state the foreign qualifications they accept on their website even if they cannot be converted through the tariffs. Once you’ve applied you can track your application through the UCAS website via a unique ID given to you by UCAS and you’ll receive e-mails when you’ve received an offer. Offers can either be conditional, unconditional or unsuccessful: Conditional - means that the university like you and if you accept the offer then you immediately have a place (this will be the case if you have already achieved your A-levels or equivalent) Unconditional - means that you have a place depending on the grades you achieve when your results come out. Unconditional offers will be asked for in either UCAS points or A-level grades, and universities may specify their offer, e.g. AAB at A-level with an A in maths when applying to read maths at university. Unsuccessful - you are not offered a place at the university Before being offered a place you may receive an invitation for an interview or audition - this may be either in the UK or in your home country. Make sure that you can arrange to attend interviews such as getting your visa, flights and accommodation organised. Alternatively, you may be asked to provide examples of your work, such as a portfolio. Some courses also require a further test, such as medicine. One you’ve attended your interview or audition, sent them your portfolio, or have obtained your test results the university then makes their decision in the normal way. Once you’ve received all your decisions you can then accept your offers. Your choices include: Firm acceptance - this is the university you’ve chosen to attend in the Autumn. If you’ve received an unconditional offer you can be ready to start, while if you’ve received a conditional offer this is dependent on your grades. Insurance acceptance - this is a back-up to your firm offer in case you don’t make the grades. (It is, therefore, unnecessary if you’ve an unconditional offer). This offer should, preferably, have lower acceptance grades, so that if you don’t meet your firm choice you can still attend your insurance choice in the Autumn. Decline - you can decline the offers you have been given. Once you’ve made your choice you can then go onto applying for your visa, choosing your accommodation etc.

Full-time undergraduate study is co-ordinated by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and you can apply online at www.ucas.com/students/apply. This system has the benefit of only one application, but the limit of five choices and one personal statement for all choices. 

The application will ask for:

  • personal details
  • education and qualifications
  • chosen course(s) and institution(s)
  • personal statement
  • references

Each applicant can only make one application per academic year for up to five choices (four for medicine, dentistry, or vet. med.). UCAS charges either £11 or £21 depending on how many choices you make. The applications are blind, so each institution can only see what you’ve applied to study with them. There is no way to indicate a preference of one institution over another, and having a preference is generally discouraged until making your final choice. Any decisions about preference can be made once all the institutions have responded with any offers. 

Applying for more than one type of subject area is not advisable - your application, especially your personal statement, needs to show your commitment to your chosen subject, it is almost impossible to show this effectively if you apply for a range of courses. 

DeadlinesDate
First applications accepted 1st September
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, veterinary science and Oxbridge 15th October
All applications apart from courses with 15thOct/24thMar deadlines 15th January
Art and design 24th March

About 18 months before courses start, you should start attending open days or recruitment events, finding out all you can about the courses and institutions. This means that by September when you need to start applying, you know what you are going to apply for and where. It is also advisable to put in your application before the deadline, as most universities start processing their applications as soon as they receive them, rather than waiting until the deadline date. Universities can actually consider international applications until 30th June, however they do not guarantee to do so, so it is still best to apply as early as possible. 

The university admissions tutors are the ones that decide who to make an offer to and who to reject. These admissions tutors, along with a team, have a background in the subject for which they are recruiting. If your application is received by 15th January universities should make a decision by 31st March, but there may be great variation in the time that it takes a university to respond. You will be able to track the progress of your application online. 

Admissions tutors have to offer places based on a target number of students. They should have a good idea of the range of qualifications on offer, although they may work with staff from the international office to handle overseas applications. 

The decision to accept a student is based on a number of criteria including: 

  • academic background, including subjects studied and grades achieved
  • personal statement
  • strong academic references, indicating an applicant’s strengths and approach to studies
  • appropriate actual or predicted grades

To improve your chances of obtaining an offer, target your application to the university, to show that you are interested in their specific institution, and make sure the form is accurate, well presented, concise and succinct.