How to apply

Although your child will get lots of help and advice from their school or college, it's important you also know what happens and when. Follow our step-by-step plan below so you can help your child through the process.

1. Research

Research into which universities to apply for begins early - about 18 months in advance. Your child should be attending UCAS events with their school or college so they can meet different universities and chat about course options. 

The next thing to do is get more information about the universities they are interested in - look on the university website or prospectus. Open Days are the most important part of the research stage - you won't get a feel for a place until you visit it. Once there, you can chat to current students and staff to find out more. 

2. Apply

Once your child knows where and what they want to study, they need to apply. The process of applying for undergraduate full-time courses is via UCAS - the organisation that deals with applications to UK universities. Applications are made between September and January. January 15th is the main UCAS deadline, but other deadlines do apply. The earlier they apply the better.

They will have to fill in an application form, write a personal statement, and apply online. The personal statement is crucial in making them stand out from other applicants. Read our tips about what to write. They will also need a reference (usually a teacher) and to pay a fee. 

3. Offers and interviews

Depending on the course and university, your child may be invited to attend an interview. You can find out if an interview is needed on our course pages.

Once your child has applied, they will start to receive their offers. The types of offers are Conditional, Unconditional or Unsuccessful. For explanation of each, see the UCAS website

4. Acceptance

Once your child has received all their offers of university places, they will need to decide which to accept. They can accept two - one firm choice and another insurance choice. Their firm choice should be the place they really want to go and their insurance should have slightly lower entry requirements, just in case they don't make the grades for their first choice. Finally they will make a decline, which means they decline an offer made by a university. They will have until the start of May to reply to all offers.

To accept their offer they will need to log in to UCAS Track, go to the 'My Choices' area and click on 'Reply to your offers'.

5. Apply for student finance

Once your child knows where and what they want to study, they can start applying for financial support or scholarships. Read what is available to your child by selecting a country opposite.

6. UCAS Extra

If your son or daughter receives no offers from their five UCAS choices, or if they choose to decline all the offers they are made, they will have the chance to enter UCAS Extra

This is done between February and June, and is a second chance for some students who were not successful with their initial applications. However, they will only be able to apply for courses at institutions that still have vacancies.

7. Results Day and Clearing

During August, when your child receives their results, if they haven’t secured a place at university, or have failed to meet the entry requirements for their firm and insurance choices, they can enter Clearing. This matches students with spare university places. If they have done better than expected, and met or exceeded conditions from their firm choice, they can apply for an alternative course through adjustment.

8. Off they go...

After all the organising, research, exams and stress, the time will finally come for them to go to university. We know it's an anxious time as you drop off your child and wave goodbye - find out what their first week will be like to put your mind at rest.