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When and how to apply

Banner made up of images of application form, students and prospects director.


For some courses, particularly health-related ones, work experience to provide an insight into the careers is important. Community service is also valuable for these courses. This experience must be gained before applying to university and usually takes place during the preceding year (for most applicants during Year 12 at school or college). Holiday times are ideal for this. Any ideas or encouragement you can give your son or daughter to help them find work experience will assist them in preparing for the application process.


Student completing application form.

Students applying to university must do so through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). The website for UCAS,, explains the application process in detail. In general, a student will have six choices of course/university to which they can apply.

Students usually apply to university in the period between September and January prior to the year that they want to begin studying their degree. For most students this will be at the beginning of Year 13. (For some courses such as Medicine or Dentistry, or for universities such as Cambridge or Oxford, applications must reach UCAS by 15 October.)

One of the most important parts of the application form is the personal statement — it can make the difference between being offered a place and not being offered one. This is part of the application form which allows your son or daughter to write about themselves. Here are a few useful tips about how to impress university admissions staff:

Keep it focussed

Your son or daughter should try to prove their interest in the course that they wish to study, saying why they want to study that particular subject; aspects of any A-level courses that they have enjoyed or found particularly rewarding and any relevant work experience.

Stand out from the crowd

Involvement in extra curricular activities such as sports, hobbies and personal achievements can be important but should usually be subsidiary to the information relevant to the degree course. Wherever possible, these activities should be used to demonstrate a skill or ability that the applicant possesses which could be relevant to his/her studies — so playing netball could demonstrate an ability for teamwork etc.


Each of the chosen universities receives a copy of the application from UCAS. Admissions Tutors within the universities will consider the application and make a decision. Interviews, which are required for some courses, take place during this period.

Three possible decisions could be made by Admissions Tutors:

  • Unconditional offer of a place: the student has already met the academic requirements;
  • Conditional offer of a place: specific grades will be required in certain subjects;
  • Rejection: the applicant has been unsuccessful.

Students then firmly accept their first choice offer and also accept one other offer as an insurance (reserve) choice.


This is when examination results are announced and your son or daughter will either have their accepted offer confirmed by the university or, if the grades achieved are not high enough, will find a place on another course or at another university.