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Understanding UCAS

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) has now opened its online applications service for 2017. We give you 5 landmarks in your way through your UCAS application...


1. What is UCAS?

All applications to universities in the UK at undergraduate level (and for some Masters programmes as well) are centralised through UCAS, a non-profit  independent organisation, and must be submitted online via their website. UCAS has a powerful search tool allowing you to search for options by university, by course type or by subject category.  Having searched through the many study offers, you can choose a list of up to 5 courses.

2. Online application 

 Once you have registered with UCAS online, you can start filling in your application form with basic information about yourself. You can then add the 5 university courses you would like to apply for.
You will need a reference letter to support your UCAS application.  This is usually supplied by a teacher from your school (or is compiled from several teachers’ comments).   Unless your school allocates a referee to you automatically, it will be your job to seek out a suitable referee.  This letter should inform the universities of your talents, any problems (academic or personal) you may have overcome and your suitability to the courses you are applying for in the UK.  If you still have to complete your final school exams (IB, European Baccalaureate, A levels, etc.) your referee will be asked to add a predicted grade to the reference section.
The capstone of your application form is your personal statement.  This is your chance to convince the universities to which you are applying that you are the ideal candidate for the course.  It is not easy to sum yourself up in 40 lines (or 4,000 characters) so take your time.  This is your opportunity to shine!

3. Applications deadlines :

 For your application to be considered, it is very important to respect the UCAS application deadlines.  You can submit your application to UCAS from the month of September through to the final deadline on 15th January.  However it you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge or to courses in Medicine, the deadline is 15th October.  Don’t leave it too late!

4. Offers:

You will receive replies from the universities from the 15th January (and sometimes before). If you have yet to complete your secondary school exams, you will most likely receive conditional offers.  Your UCAS offers might also be conditional on your proving that you have the required level of English for the course (usually IELTS or TOEFL exams).  Make sure to be organised and sit these well in advance.  Once you have received a response from all 5 universities (usually March/April) you will have to narrow your choice down to 2 courses: a 'firm choice' and an 'insurance choice' (in case you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice).  If you are in doubt about which course to choose, now is the time to visit the universities and see what they are like for yourself.  If you are unlucky with  all of your five initial choices, you can apply for one more course at a time through UCAS Extra.  30th June and still no offers?  Use Clearing on UCAS where you can find the courses still available.

5. Registration to University:

 Once your exam results come through, you must inform the Universities.  If you met the conditions of your offer, you will be registered with the university and you can confirm your accommodation options and starting preparing your departure.  If you did much better in your exams than you expected, you also have a short window of opportunity to see if you can be accepted on a more ambitious course through UCAS Adjustment.

Now it’s up to you to start that application.  Don’t hesitate to ask us if you need help…

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