Applying to university
The UCAS application process is a lengthy one and your child needs to be fully engaged well in advance of starting university. The timeline below includes all the information you need to support them through their application.
May – July during year 12
Your child will be encouraged at school or college to start thinking about their university application. Help by discussing their options and encouraging them to attend early open days.
July – September
Many schools and colleges will ask students to complete a draft of their personal statement over the summer holidays. Help by encouraging your child to undertake activities that will enrich their personal statements.
September – October
Your child will need to register on the UCAS website and start to choose their courses and universities.
October – November
There will usually be an internal date within schools and colleges to have their UCAS form completed by, this ranges from after October half-term up until before Christmas holidays. Help by supporting your child to fill out all of the sections early.
The form itself is divided into sections and is accompanied by step-by-step instructions.
The information requested includes:
- Personal details
- Predicted grades
- University choices
- Preferred course
- A personal statement about their interests and hobbies and why they wish to study that particular course
Although places are not awarded on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis, the sooner an application is submitted, the more chance it has of success.
November – March
Applicants will start receiving offers throughout this period.
The list of possible responses includes:
- Unconditional offer – application has been accepted and a place has been allocated
- Conditional offer – application will be accepted and a place allocated, provided that certain requirements are met
- Unsuccessful – unsuccessful application
During this time, universities will also need a response from your child, who will need to choose:
- A firm choice – the offer your child would most like to accept
- An insurance choice – a back-up if the conditions of the firm offer are not met and the university can no longer offer a place
This is the final date to submit the UCAS application form.
Applications can still be submitted after this and they will be sent on to universities if they have vacancies. It is important to note that universities are not required to consider late applications.
February – March
Now is the time for students to start applying for student loans and thinking about funding, if it has not already been done, arrange a campus and accommodation tour which is also a great way to ask extra questions you or your child may have.
April – May
Applicants will have accepted their offers and made a firm and an insurance choice. It is a good idea to encourage your child to choose an insurance choice that has lower grade requirements than their firm choice, and that it is still an institution that they would be happy to attend.
Your child is likely to be contacted during this time by their firm choice university to book accommodation. Support by helping your child to research all options, looking at distance from university, facilities and amenities.
This is the last opportunity for late UCAS applications, after this your child will need to go through the Clearing process if they want to apply to university
Your child will receive their exam results. Some qualification results are not automatically sent by UCAS to universities so copies may need to be sent to confirm grades. If the required grades aren’t achieved it is still worth contacting the university, as they may still be able to confirm your offer.
If your child hasn't secured an offer, missed out on the required grades or have changed their mind and would like to apply to a different university, then they can enter Clearing. Clearing is a valuable opportunity for students to secure a place at university that’s right for them. Thousands of students find places on courses at universities of their choice through Clearing each year.
Universities will usually list available course vacancies online and through UCAS Clearing.
Enrolment and freshers’ week is at the end of September, with teaching starting the following week. You can help your child to prepare for university by helping them to plan what they will need to take with them. If your child will be staying at home you can support them by helping to set up a dedicated area for them to study.
Parents' guide to Clearing