If you want to go to university, you will have to apply through a central admissions service known as UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). It costs £20 to apply for one course, or £26 to apply for multiple courses. Please speak to your school or college first if you have difficulty in affording the application fee. Most schools and colleges will cover the cost of your application fee if you can’t afford this yourself. Each student can apply for a maximum of 5 courses, at different universities or the same university. You should be aware though that for medicine, vet and dentistry you can only apply for 4 specific courses (e.g. vet) and a related subject (e.g. biology), and if you want to go to Oxford or Cambridge, you can only apply for one course from one of the two universities. You should also know that there is no way to list the universities in order of preference and universities cannot see where else you’ve applied to. Having a preference, or at least showing that you have one in your UCAS statement, is a bad idea because it may stop other universities from offering you a place.
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The Application Form
You only have to fill out one application form for all of the universities you apply for. For this reason it is not a good idea to apply for more than one course area. Much of the application is designed to show commitment to a particular subject and explain why you have chosen it, this is impossible if you are using the same personal statement and application to apply for say Biology and History.
A UCAS application includes the following sections:
- Personal Details
- Education and Qualifications
- Employment History
- Chosen Course(s) and Institution(s)
- Personal Statement
The personal statement and the references are probably the most important part of the application as these tell the universities what you are like and why you have chosen a particular course. References describe your personality, what kind of learner you are, what your strengths are and what you would bring to the university, and are written by your teachers. It is important that you ask teachers who know you well and who you get on with, as a personal statement easily sway a university into accepting or rejecting you. For more information on what personal statements entail, please see our guide.
UCAS uses a tariff system to convert your qualifications into points. All of the different grades and qualifications are worth a number of these UCAS points, for example, an A at A-Level is worth 48 points. As well as gaining points for A Levels etc., you can gain points for other qualifications such as music, dance and drama exams, an Extended Project Qualification and the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Each course at university will require applicants to have a certain number of points to gain a place and may specify certain criteria, for example 104-120 points altogether including an A in Maths.
If you are planning on taking a gap year it is possible to fill out your UCAS form one year early. This is called deferred entry and means that you will be able to gain a place for the following year and hold it. If you are planning to take a year out, it is a good idea to apply with deferred entry because it means that you can take advantage of the advice of your teachers and careers advisors at school and you can avoid all of the stress of applying to uni during your year off.
You will probably start thinking about your application and your statement in the summer before your final year of college.
- First Applications Accepted: 1st September
- Deadline for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Vet & Dentistry: 15th October
- Deadline for the majority of the Other Courses: 15th January (you can check the course details using the UCAS search tool for the correct deadline).