Now that you've made the decision to go to university, find out how to successfully complete your UCAS application before the deadline
Once you've weighed up all the information available, attended university open days and discussed your degree options with friends, family and those in the know - including course tutors and college careers advisers - you're ready to begin the application process for 2020 entry.
Registering with UCAS
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is the central organisation responsible for processing applications for full-time undergraduate study at UK universities.
You can either register and complete your application using the UCAS online system, or do it through your school or college and they'll send it to UCAS on your behalf. However, with the latter it's important to confirm the deadline, as it may be earlier than the one set by UCAS.
Alternatively, if you've already left college, or you're an international student looking to study in the UK, you'll need to register with UCAS as an individual and apply through their online system, while adhering to the timeframe set out below.
Applying for university through UCAS
Online applications for full-time undergraduate study are made at UCAS Undergraduate: Apply and Track, where you'll be able to find all details relating to entry requirements and filling in the information. When applying, you can select up to five courses at different universities. However, you can only apply once in a cycle.
The deadline for 2020 applications to be received by UCAS is Tuesday 30 June 2020. The 2020 application fee is £20 for a single choice, rising to £25 for two choices or more. Your college may collect the payment for entry, or could ask you to pay UCAS directly.
Before the application deadline you'll need to have:
- filled in all your details, qualifications and courses selected
- written your personal statement - see personal statements for university applications
- included a written reference from a teacher or professional who knows you academically
- paid your UCAS application fee.
While institutions do ask for grades in certain subjects at A-level (or equivalent) as part of their course entry requirements, they may also request a particular amount of UCAS Tariff points. Although this system is optional, it is often used by admissions staff to compare applicants.
|A-level and Advanced VCE grade||Tariff points|
It's important to be aware that course providers don't immediately dismiss those that fall short of their exact requirements, so you may still receive an offer for a place on a course if you don't quite achieve your predicted grades.
UCAS application deadlines
Here are the key dates for courses starting in 2020:
- 21 May 2019 - UCAS Undergraduate Apply is open for university admission in 2020.
- 4 September 2019 - UCAS is accepting applications and fees while universities can begin making decisions on course places.
- 15 January 2020 - Applications for most courses to be received by UCAS.
- 15 January 2020 - Entry deadline for the majority of dance, drama and musical theatre courses.
- 25 February 2020 - Extra opens.
- 6 May 2020 - university/college decisions due on applications submitted by 15 January 2020.
- 30 June 2020 - all applications received after this date will enter into Clearing.
- 5 July 2020 - last date to apply in Extra for 2020 entry.
- 6 July 2020 - Clearing opens.
- 13 July 2020 - university/college decisions due on applications submitted by 30 June 2020.
- 4 August 2020 - SQA results day.
- 13 August 2020 - A-level results day 2020.
- 13 August 2020 - Adjustment opens
- 31 August 2020 - Adjustment ends.
- 21 September 2020 - final application deadline for 2020 entry.
- 20 October 2020 - deadline for Clearing choices to be added.
Applicants who have used all five choices but are not holding any offers (or have declined those received) may consider the UCAS Extra service, allowing you to add one more choice.
If you've choices remaining from the five available, you may be able to enter more using Track. However, this will incur a further application fee and it needs to be done before the final UCAS deadline. You can't use this feature if you've already accepted or declined your offers.
Tracking your application
Once your application has been sent and you've received a welcome email, you can follow its progress by logging in to UCAS Track. To use this online system, simply sign in with your personal ID and password.
You'll then be able to find out if you have any offers for a place on a course or receive an invitation to attend an interview. You can also respond to any offers you receive from your chosen universities.
Don't worry about missing out on important updates, as you'll be notified by email of any changes to your application. You may not see much activity at first, as it can take months to receive verdicts.
While there are some things that can still be changed, including swapping choices, you'll need to be aware of the timescales involved.
Applying directly to the university
If you choose to study part time or are interested in distance learning degrees, you'll need to contact the university directly to apply, although you can still search for courses on the UCAS website between July and September.
The application process is also a lot shorter, so you don't need to find a course as far in advance. Exact deadlines are set by individual course providers.
International students still apply through UCAS, but may need to send your proof of qualifications directly to the university. If this concerns you, speak to your chosen institution to find out their policy on receiving results.
It can take months before you start receiving offers, but when a university makes an offer, you'll receive a notification email (as long as you're set up in Track). You can then log in to Track and view the offer.
The four offer types are:
- Conditional - you'll still need to meet the entry requirements, typically your A-level results.
- Unconditional - you've been allocated a place on the course, but a few things may still need to be arranged. For example, you may need to get a DBS check, provide proof of your qualifications or meet other medical or financial requirements.
- Unsuccessful - the university has made the decision not to offer you a place on their course. You may or may not be given a reason.
- Withdrawn - either you or the university chooses to withdraw a course choice. In these circumstances, you should receive an explanation from the university through Track.
Instead of simply making you an offer, universities might invite you to an interview or audition. You'll find out about this through Track. Find out how to prepare for a university interview.
Once all your UCAS offers are in, you'll have to make a decision and respond by the deadline. You can:
- pick a firm choice, your preferred option
- select an insurance choice as back-up, if your firm choice is conditional
- decline the other offers.
You may choose to decline all the offers, adding more courses through the UCAS Extra service.
If you have a conditional place on a course, your status will be updated by the university once they've received your exam results.
After you've been firmly accepted by a university, your confirmation letter will be viewable in Track between five and seven days following confirmation of your place.
As soon as you've sent your application, you can begin to look for ways to fund your study.
There are various options available, including tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and non-repayable grants. Eligibility will usually depend on where in the UK you live. For more information on the types of funding, see student loans and finance.
Results day and Clearing
If you've received offers which are conditional on your exam results, A-level results day becomes even more crucial. For those looking to go to university in 2020, this day falls on Thursday 13 August 2020. In 2021, the date for your diary is Thursday 12 August 2021.
In most cases, exam results are sent directly from UCAS to your various choices. Find out more at what to do on A-level results day 2020.
All is not lost if you didn't receive any offers or you didn't get the grades you hoped for, as Clearing has been set up for universities and colleges to fill any remaining course vacancies. You can use the regularly updated UCAS search tool to find courses between July and September each year. Explore your university Clearing options.
If you achieved better than expected results, Adjustment allows you to look for an alternative course. If you decide that you want to swap what you're studying, you can register for this through Track. You'll need to contact university admissions offices directly to discuss course vacancies. Make sure you only verbally agree just the one course choice, as it will appear as a new option for you to confirm in Track. You can then update the UCAS service with your final decision.