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Undergraduate Applicants

Here’s how to apply to university and what you can expect from the universities that you’ve chosen as your first choice and insurance.  

How do you decide where to apply?

Start exploring your options for university as early as you can. Look online, go to UCAS exhibitions and pick up some prospectuses, attend Open Days and do some research at school/college. There's never been more ways to get in touch with a University, so call them, email them, go and see them, tweet them, message them!

Remember though, not all University courses are the same. Are you a student who prefers assessment via coursework, or via exams? Does the notion of being assessed in a practical session appeal to you? Are you the type of person who wants hands-on independent learning, or do you prefer being more tutor-led? Do you want the opportunity to apply for a placement year or to study abroad?

Of course, it's not all about your academic pursuits. Think of all your preferences and interests and whether that chimes with the Universities you're applying to. For instance - do you want to go to a city-based or campus-based University? Would you prefer a University with 5,000, or 30,000 students? Does living cost play a part - how much is accommodation per week, and how much is it to live in that place? Then there's of course extra-curricular activities - whatever your passion, sport, music, societies, they'll all be different at each University. If you're not sure where to start, keep it simple: do you want to move away, or stay close to home?

Draw up a long list and then narrow it down to a shortlist of the five courses you want to apply for. They may be at different universities or all at the same – it’s totally up to you - but remember you only get one personal statement.


How do you apply if you live in the UK? 

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) handles applications for all undergraduate courses. Applications are made using the secure, web-based system at:

You may apply for up to five courses and you should list your choices in alphabetical order, not in order of preference. Typically you can start to apply from September and your application should have been received by UCAS by mid-January.

You then receive offers through UCAS Track as to whether you've been made an offer.

How do universities decide whether to make you an offer?

Selection processes vary for different courses. Universities will look at your grade predictions, your personal statement, your teacher reference - and you may be asked to provide further information, attend an interview for your course, or provide a portfolio for creative subjects.

What types of offer might you receive?

There are only three types of offer you can receive. Universities might decide to make you an unconditional offer, which does mean you've got a place confirmed. Be aware though, if you accept an unconditional offer, you can't then change your mind, and it doesn't mean you can down tools for your final exams! There's then a conditional offer, which is in the majority of cases based on you achieving certain levels in your qualifications. Universities may also reject your application outright (unsuccessful), or make you an offer for an alternative course.

You can then give three responses - firm (your first choice), insurance (your second choice) and decline (the rest).

How many offers should you accept?

You need to decide which is your ‘first choice’ offer. You can also choose one back-up or ‘insurance’ offer.

What happens when you get the results from your exams?

If you meet your offer… you are in! If you have a near miss, you may still be considered by your first choice university. Or you may need to take up your insurance choice.

If you miss the offer of your insurance choice too, you could go into clearing as a way of finding a place at another university. Alternatively you could take a gap year, re-sit your exams and reconsider your options.

Good luck!

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