How to apply for college in the UK

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
October, 2023

If you've decided to go to college, there are various application methods available depending on your age, current qualifications and the type of course you're applying for - discover more about the right one for you

Starting out (ages 16-18)

For British citizens who've just left school, you can apply directly to colleges in your local area or where you're planning on living.

You will typically follow these steps:

  • Make an application - Once you've found your ideal college course, you can apply to the relevant institution by submitting an online application, which typically includes a personal statement. The college will then confirm it has received your application within a few days.
  • Attend an interview - The college may then invite you to interview so you can meet your prospective tutors and discuss your career plans. This chat can help you to decide whether this really is the course for you and whether you would enjoy the programme. You may even have changed your mind and so the college can work with you to find a more suitable course.
  • Take some skill tests - You may be asked to take a number of short online tests to gauge your current abilities in core subjects such as English, maths and possibly information and communications technology (ICT). These are nothing to worry about and you'll be provided with full instructions on what to do.
  • Receive an offer - If your application is successful and the college believes it's the right course for you, you'll receive a conditional offer along with further information on how to enrol. All you'd need to do is meet the grade requirements for the course. By accepting the offer you'll be provided with an enrolment date to register at the college in person.

Most courses will start in the September of the year of study, in keeping with the academic calendar, but they may run at other times of the year too. The application cycle will therefore be in keeping with this. For instance, if you apply for a 2024/25 course starting in September 2024, you can expect the application process to open on 1 October the year before.

Undergraduate level study

When applying for university-level courses the application process will depend on your mode of study, i.e. whether this is part or full time, or if you're an international student.

  • Part-time study - Contact the college directly for an application form. You may then be invited to interview. If successful, you'll receive an acceptance letter.
  • Full-time study - As with all university applications, the process is managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). However, you can either apply through your college (the application is sent on your behalf), or you can apply yourself. For the latter, once you've chosen a course, you'll need to register with UCAS and complete your application online through their dedicated portal. If you're only applying for one course, you'll be expected to pay the reduced application fee. Read more about filling in the form by visiting our getting into university section.
  • International students - Depending on an individual's visa status and right to reside in the country, colleges will usually accept applications from international students with previous qualifications equivalent to those in the UK. You'll have to submit an online UCAS application either yourself or through an adviser. International application deadlines will apply, and you may need to undertake an English language proficiency test. You'll be expected to pay tuition fees, although those EU students with 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status may be able to apply for a student loan (with scholarships also available). Tuition fees are usually higher than for UK students, which are currently capped at £9,250 per year.

Be sure to check the entry requirements for your preferred course. Your previous qualifications will be given a weighting and assigned a number of UCAS Tariff points.

Discover how to go about choosing a university course and see our guide to undergraduate qualifications and how they compare to one another.

You can search for undergraduate courses using the UCAS Search facility and browse the full A-Z list of UK colleges offering these courses at UCAS - Universities and colleges.

Adult education (ages 19-plus)

If you're aged 19 or over and are planning on making a career change or acquiring some new skills then you'll find colleges offer an array of adult learning options.

The process is more or less the same as with those going to college straight after finishing school - you apply online, attend an interview, take a key skills assessment and then you'll wait to find out if your application was successful.

Explore adult education courses.

Apply to a college near you

While there's no centralised application portal when it comes to further education, you can still search for online and classroom-based college courses in your local area by visiting the National Careers Service (NCS) - Find a course.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page