Ucas: Your Ultimate Guide

UCAS: All you need to know

Applying for Colleges and Universities can be difficult and very time-consuming. UCAS allow each student to apply online; they offer students a step-by-step guide to show them how to apply for the courses they want and also what to do once their offers come in.

Once registered with UCAS, students can avail of all the online services available such as college and university open days, tracking, the course search tool, as well as help and advice for parents and students.

UCAS – who, what, when, where, why, how?

UCAS Universities and Colleges Admission Services

The main role of UCAS is to provide the application process for almost all Universities and Colleges in the UK. They are a UK-based charity.

They provide many services, e.g. online application portals, and free information and advice, for a number of people, including students awaiting applications to higher education institutes, students considering higher education and parents or guardians of applicants.

All students who wish to study an undergraduate degree in the UK must apply through UCAS. Once a student has applied they have access to all the online services provided.

The website allows you to track your application once it has been sent in. And once there is any update on your application they will send you an email.

When choosing your course

  1. Attend open days and events held by universities. These will allow you to explore the campus and services offered as well as getting a detailed insight into what specific courses are like. Students will also have the opportunity to meet students and teachers.
  2. Make a list of universities and courses that appeal to you. Make a plan of what you want to gain from the day, what you want to see, any questions you may have etc.
  3. Some universities offer taster courses. These allow students to see what the course is like and help them to decide if they like it. If you are interested in a specific course in a certain university, contact them to see if they run these as they are a great way of learning about the course.
  4. Students may also be able to take virtual tours and research the colleges and courses online. Their ‘Search Tool’ helps a student to optimise their search by reducing the number of courses have to sort through by accounting for their course preferences.
  5. UCAS hold a number of higher education exhibitions each year. This is a great way to see what numerous universities and colleges have to offer as they are all in the same place at the same time. The students can ask any questions and find out anything they would like to know about the course.


The application process

  1. Register online with UCAS; give all relevant information and list 5 course choices.
  2. A student’s selected courses are not listed in any order of preference. Colleges and universities considering a student’s application will not be able to see any other choices they put down.
  3. There is always a deadline for applications so make sure to check the UCAS website to keep up with the important dates.
  4. You must declare all your qualifications and if your exam results are pending you must send them to the university once you receive them.
  5. You must also state any full/part-time work you are involved in and give the necessary details.
  6. Each student must write a Personal Statement. Writing a personal statement is a great opportunity to show the universities why you want to study there, and why you would be a great student to have in their university. Include information about interests and hobbies along with any work experience or voluntary work you have done.
  7. All students need to get a reference from a teacher, previous employer, or someone who knows their academic capabilities – unless otherwise stated by the university/college.
  8. Read and re-read your application, make any necessary adjustments and make sure you are 100% happy with it before you submit.

Await the college’s response

  • The colleges will look at your application: personal statement, references etc. and decide whether or not to make you an offer.
  • Students may need to wait to see what a student’s exam results are as any offer may be based on results (i.e. conditional). If the student has already met the entry requirements, the university/college may make the offer (i.e. an unconditional offer).
  • A student may receive an invitation to attend an interview instead of getting an offer straight away. The track service alerts the student to this and allows them to reply and change the date or time if necessary. The College/University will decide if they are going to make you an offer after you have attended the interview.

Your reply

  • Once all the universities and colleges have made their offers, students must reply to these offers by a certain deadline.
  • Select a ‘Firm Acceptance’, i.e. your first choice. If this is an unconditional offer you will get the place in that university.
  • You have the option to choose an ‘Insurance Acceptance’ if the ‘Firm Acceptance’ is conditional. It is a good idea to choose a course that has lower offer conditions, but it is also important that you would be happy with if you got that choice.
  • The insurance acceptance is a back-up plan for students to ensure they get a course offer. You cannot choose between your first and second choice when you get your results so make sure you are happy with your choices and their order.
  • If a student decides they do not want to accept any of the offers they can ‘Decline’ them all. The UCAS have an ‘Extra’ service that allows student to add extra courses. Or they can see which courses have spaces on the ‘Clearing’ service.
  • Once a student has selected a Firm and Insurance acceptance they must decline any other offers they get. This must all be done before a certain deadline.

Learn whether you got a place

  • The ‘Tracking’ service will make the student aware if their place is confirmed or not. Once again, if the place was Conditional, the college/university will update a student’s status once they receive their exam results or proof that the course entry conditions have been met.
  • If the student did not meet the conditions and are unsuccessful in getting both their firm and insurance choices they can use the UCAS clearing service to find courses with vacancies.
  • Some students may have done better than they had anticipated; they may meet and exceed the conditions of the Firm choice. If they wish they can search for an alternative course using the ‘Adjustment’ service.

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