Your Higher Education Application

Below is a representation to help students plan for their entry into university. This is only a representation with guidelines and is not to be taken literally. Some students will need more time to plan and may have to perform extra tasks as part of their application. Others may need less time or may need to do only part of what is mentioned below. Applicants and their supporters will be responsible for their applications and how they achieve these. We strongly suggest that you do your own research in addition to what is on this sheet. Helpful resources may be and, alongside universities and their websites.

Applying to university in the UK

Click on a marker to find out more.

Applying to university in the UK
2 years before the start of the course (start of year 12) 1 year before the start of the course (year 12) Spring and summer 1 year before the start of your course (end of year 12) Autumn before the start of your course (start of year 13) Winter in the year before the start of your course (first half of year 13) Ucas Deadline! Spring before the start of your course (second half of year 13) Summer before the start of your course (end of year 13) At the start of your first year at university

2 years before the start of the course (start of year 12)

If you haven't done so already, explore opportunities:

Another important website to explore is Prospects where you can:

  • find out more about career paths linked to your degree subject
  • higher education career information.

Please also look at the useful links page on this site for other things you can do.
Ideally set up a file on the computer or paper to collate all the information you find out about.

1 year before the start of the course (year 12)

If you haven't done so already, seriously look into what you need to do to apply.
Think about:

  • What courses would you be interested in? You can choose up to 5.
  • Can I afford this? If not, what can I do to make it work financially? - find a part time job, savings?...

Find out about:

  • What do you need to get into your favourite courses?
  • What are your qualifications going to be worth? - look on
  • Living options (this is likely to be on campus for the first year at many universities.)

You should also have built up some activities for your personal statement already with more planned. It's best to keep a diary you can refer back to when you actually start writing your statement.

Visit universities/open days:

Spring and summer 1 year before the start of your course (end of year 12)

  • Confirm your course and university choice.
  • Register on the UCAS website (
  • Start your application
  • Write your personal statement

Autumn before the start of your course (start of year 13)

  • Sit other entry exams or test for entry on some courses. You can find more information on which one and whether you need to sit one of these on the course website on the course page on the UCAS website or on the course page on the university website.
  • Apply by October if you are thinking of doing courses (degree programmes) in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science or veterinary medicine, but also those at Oxford or Cambridge.
  • Send application form as soon as it’s 100% ready. Your application will go to your referee/school/college first and will only be sent to UCAS and universities once the reference is completed. Don’t wait until just before the deadline on the 15th of January!

Winter in the year before the start of your course (first half of year 13)

Mid January: deadline for applying through UCAS!

You can in principle still apply until the end of June, but many places could be filled.
Look into accommodation, especially if not staying in university accommodation.
Confirm everything will work out financially and explore solutions if they don’t.
Concentrate on getting the best results for your present course.
Accept and/reject offers

If you are not accepted on any of your choices:
Use UCAS Extra to apply to additional courses.

Ucas Deadline!

The deadline for applying for most courses is the 15th of January. However, when  you send off your application it will go to your referee for them to attach their reference. You also need to take any Christmas holidays into account, so your application needs to be in around November at the latest. It's best to refer to your referee and make sure that you allow yourself and your referee enough time. Every application handed in after the 15th of January will be a late application.

Spring before the start of your course (second half of year 13)

Send in your application for student finance. You can do this later but the sooner the better.

Summer before the start of your course (end of year 13)

From half through August: use Clearing to apply for any courses if you haven’t accepted any.

Confirm accommodation either with the university or with your landlord/landlady.
Place is confirmed on results day in August. If you haven't achieved the grades you need, go through Clearing

By the end of the summer:
Move to your new accommodation.
If your accommodation is rented privately:

  • Make sure you are insured
  • Arrange utilities if not all inclusive
  • Arrange internet if not all inclusive
  • Sort out council tax if living with non-students
  • Attend introduction day for students, if one is arranged by university

At the start of your first year at university

As soon as possible make sure you arrange:

  • A bank account, if you haven't arranged one already
  • Registration with a GP (Doctor) and dentist
  • Urgently send in student finance application if not done already

The tool above only for applicants to undergraduate courses at mainstream universities, indicates important points in time for you to consider if you apply through the centralised UCAS system. Some of these are only guidelines. Don’t worry if you are not up to date with these. You can still apply but you will have to step up the work you do to be successful.

The timeline for applicants to Postgraduate courses would be very different, if any would exist at all. Obviously, the timeline for applicants to studentships would depend on when vacancies appear and are more like looking for work than looking for a course. It would be very important to keep an eye out for interesting placements. Preparation for these is not unlike preparing for a job application, while at the same time keeping up your networking and work on your subject to ensure being a strong candidate for entry. 

Planning for applicants for Postgraduate taught courses and research courses is more flexible as well, apart from when you apply through UCAS Postgraduate (also on and the option comes up once you have entered a search word). If you apply to universities direct I would advise you to be early rather than late. From experience I know that for those courses most in demand February can be late already. Other, often equally good courses may still be accessible much later. In my experience a lot of interviews take place in or around April time or staggered throughout spring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to get in later.

Important things to remember!

As an undergraduate you don’t apply directly to university (or college/study centre) for higher education courses. In addition to this, you will be in competition for places with all the other applicants. This last point applies for both undergraduates as post graduates. In some instances the situation may be a bit more flexible for postgraduate applicants.

As an undergraduate applicant you can, and will ideally, also apply to up to five different universities or courses and make a choice depending on the offers you get.

For undergraduate courses:

  • You would need to choose a course and a university.
  • You will need to make sure you have a good referee. Normally this is your secondary school or college where you did your A levels or college course. You will need the ‘Buzzword’ from that institution.
  • You will need to register on Ucas Apply.
  • The next step is to start filling in your application form online.
  • In the meantime, you have to write your Personal Statement.
  • You then send off your application form online, which will go to your referee who will add the reference. Only when the referee clicks ‘send’ will it go to the universities you selected. Please see the timeline on here for details.

Once you have sent off your application form you will get offers, which you accept or decline.

If you don’t get any offers you can re-apply for one course at a time through Ucas Extra.

If your grades are not what you thought they would be, and you can’t take up your place, you need to find a place through Clearing from half through August. This will involve calling universities direct. However, before you do this, contact the university anyway to see if they would still accept you with those lower grades.

In the meantime you will or may have to sort out:

  • additional entry exams or tests if the subject or university requires this. You can find out more on course pages on the university website, on or on
  • attendance of additional interviews or selection events at the universities you applied to.
  • student funding. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to apply. Check on Also check the student finance page on this website.
  • where you are going to stay. In the first year this is normally at the university, after which you will be expected to organise your own accommodation.