Acronyms and systems seem far more daunting than they are in reality, so here is a short explanation of how UCAS works, what it does and the part you have to play in sending off your application to study in the UK.
The UK has a centralised application process for undergraduate courses, known as UCAS, which is accessed online. UCAS allows you to choose up to five courses, upload your Personal Statement and references, receive and respond to offers and take part in Extra and Clearing, see below.
There are a number of deadlines for receiving your UCAS application:
- October: Oxford and Cambridge, veterinary studies, veterinary medicine, dentistry and medicine.
- January: the majority of courses
- March: Art and Design.
Bear in mind that you cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge, and have to choose between them. Also remember that universities can only see the UCAS application you have made to them – not to others.
In addition, candidates to study veterinary medicine, veterinary studies, dentistry and medicine can only apply for four identical courses, and have to choose another option for their fifth choice. Therefore, you could choose four dentistry courses, and add one application for medicine, for example.
Any UCAS applications which arrive after 30 June are automatically put into Clearing, a UCAS system which matches available post-exam results places with people who are still looking for a university place.
UCAS also allows applicants to use their Extra service between 25 February and 4 July. Extra lets you add universities, one at a time, to your original five choices – if you have received no offers or if you have turned down every place offered to you.
The first step is to register online with UCAS. So go to the UCAS homepage, answer a few questions, register and get your candidate number.
Make sure you are familiar with the site, particularly Track, because this can be used to check on the progress of your applications, receive and respond to offers, and to add any choices you might want to consider if you are eligible for Extra, or if you are applying for courses with different deadlines – for example, January and March.
The next stage is to put in all your examination results, including re-sits, since the age of 11, and any employment history.
Your Personal Statement has to be uploaded at this point, along with references. You can only send one Personal Statement, so make sure it is suitable for all five courses. If you are applying independently you will need to give your referee’s details; if you are applying through your school, the school will deal with the references for you.
Finally, you will be able to review your UCAS application and pay – current fees are £18 for a single course, £24 for multiple courses. Payments can be made online by card.
Once this is done, you send off your UCAS application – and begin to wait for responses, which will be sent via Track. Make sure that you note how long you have to respond to any offer – Track will give you a date by which you must decide if you want to accept or reject the offer. UCAS keeps track of your application history and will prompt you to take part in Clearing, if necessary.
The system is efficient, so make sure you log in regularly and monitor what is happening with your UCAS application!