University application process

It may seem daunting – there are more than 50,000 courses at 400 UK universities! – but applying to go to university is quite straightforward, once you’ve made the decision to go.


Using the UCAS application process

During A-levels or level 3 BTECs, at sixth form or college, you’ll need to decide which universities to apply to and which specific degree subject to study. This application process is made easy by UCAS, the national Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. You can search for universities and courses on the UCAS website, www.ucas.com. This, and Which? University also provides plenty of helpful advice to help you decide where to study.

See what’s on offer

Look at the courses on offer – which can vary greatly depending on the university. Look at the grades required, and the geographical location of universities offering the subjects of interest. There are many things to consider, such as, are you happy to travel further afield to study, or would you prefer to stay nearer to home?

Pay a visit

Take the time, if you can, to visit a few universities on open days. Seek out and talk to anyone you can find who might currently study there. Go online to individual university websites to investigate any bursaries or scholarships they might offer – these are types of grants or awards to help support students financially. Bursaries and scholarships vary depending on the university, but none of them need to be repaid.

Weigh-up a city or a campus university

Consider whether a city or a campus university might suit you better. They offer a different experience in many ways. City universities usually have academic departments in central areas of busy cities, campus universities are usually on the edge of towns or cities. Choosing the right course is a top priority, but attitudes to transport, shopping, living accommodation, socialising are just a few factors to consider when choosing the right kind of university.

Different campus locations

It’s also useful to know that some universities have campuses split over different locations or even in a different part of the county. For example, the University of Essex has three campuses, in Colchester, Southend and Loughton (the East 15 Acting School). The University of Southampton has campuses in Southampton, Winchester and an overseas campus in Malaysia.

Be prepared for key dates

You will need to start thinking about applications in your first year of college or sixth form. See our basic guide on planning ahead. The deadline to apply for a place at university is 15th January, but most internal school or college deadlines will be earlier, and some subjects, such as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine/science are in October. If you’d like to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, you need to do this in October.

Writing a personal statement

Colleges help with university applications but they do expect students to be proactive in choosing courses and universities, making their UCAS application and writing their personal statements.

The personal statement is an important document, comprising of 4,000 characters only. It conveys to university admissions teams your merits, so it’s important to get it right – but there’s plenty of help, see our basic guide on writing a personal statement.

Entry requirements for degree apprenticeships

The entry requirements for each degree apprenticeship vary from programme to programme – but it’s important to know that there are no set dates; vacancies can become available at any time throughout the year. Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for higher education courses, depending on the subject and course.

Finding a degree apprenticeship

Many degree apprenticeships are advertised on the ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ website www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch but individual companies advertise them on their company websites too. You may find them on social media, too. When applying for a degree apprenticeship you usually need to complete an application form or send a CV with a covering letter.