SUBMITTING YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION THROUGH UCAS
Students apply to UK universities through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Over 20 UK universities also participate in The Common Application but UCAS is generally preferred, especially if applying to more than one program.
UCAS has 3 significant advantages over The Common Application:
1. It’s much cheaper – Students apply to a maximum of 5 programs at a total cost of approximately $35 USD
2. It’s easy to apply – With just 6 sections to complete and no transcripts, test scores or exam results to upload at point of application, students can apply quickly and efficiently.
3. It’s also a useful search tool – Students apply at program level. Using UCAS students can see every university in the UK that offers.
What you'll want to know
Students submit ONE online UCAS application and as part of that application, students choose 5 programs. A student can apply to more than one program at the same institution but typically students will apply to a program or ‘major’ (called a ‘course’ in the UK) at 5x different universities. Admission officials at the universities where you have applied cannot see where you applied, and it does NOT matter what order you list the universities when you apply.
N.B. Students considering Oxford or Cambridge can only apply to one of these two universities as part of a UCAS application.
The online application form has just 6 main sections for students to complete:
- Personal details
- Program Choices (called a course in the UK)
- Education (Test scores)
- Personal statement
- Work experience
- Reference (usually an advisor, guidance counsellor or teacher)
Education – As admissions decisions to UK Universities are based on academic grades and a personal statement, students must evidence all their academic qualification and testing in the education section. Students must include classes, tests and exams from their senior year (they may not have taken them yet) to make universities aware and able to make a conditional or unconditional offer. US students should typically be including in this section:
- High school diploma
- ACT Scores
- SAT Scores
- AP classes and Test Scores
- SAT Subject Test scores
- Honors courses/college level courses
- IB scores (if applicable)
Personal Statement – This has a strict limit of 4,000 characters (circa 500 words) and is sent to all the universities where you have applied (i.e. they all read the same statement, so don’t mention any universities by name). The focus of this statement is why you want to study the program you have selected and so it should evidence your motivation and passion and avoid non relevant information.
N.B. If you are applying for a program that interviews, the personal statement will often form the basis of that interview.
Additional Requirements – Some Universities require additional application documents, testing or portfolios but these will be requested by the universities directly.
The UCAS website contains a useful video on how to complete an application which can be found here: UCAS
Applications open on the 1st September of your senior year. There are 3 important dates to be aware of:
15th October – This is the deadline for applications for medicine, dentistry, and most veterinary science programs and for all applications to Oxford and Cambridge. You cannot apply to those two universities or those specific programs after this date
15th January – This is the deadline for equal consideration. Students can still apply for programs after this date, but some programs may be closed.
The UK has rolling admission and so applying within these dates above is fine and there is no benefit to applying earlier or later. There is no early action or early decision.
30th June – is the deadline for students to apply using UCAS to any UK programs. After this date students can still apply but will need to go through clearing.
Once submitted, applicants can follow the progress of their application using UCAS Track. After applying for your 5 programs you will receive a response (often by the end of March or within 1-2 months of applying) from each of the universities. You will either be unsuccessful or will receive one of the following 2 things:
A Conditional Offer* – This guarantees you a place at the university upon attainment of final exam scores (e.g. AP exams; ACT, SAT or Subject tests or GPA). Therefore, you may not be sure of your place until those results are available in the summer.
An Unconditional offer* – This guarantees you a place at the university with no conditions.
* These offers are legally binding on the part of the university and cannot be rescinded.
Once you have received responses from all five of your program choices UCAS enables you to hold two of them and you must discard the other three. The first one you hold is your firm choice (1st choice) and the second is your insurance which provides you with a safety net should you not obtain the results required by your firm choice.
Students that have done their research properly should not face this situation, but should this happen there are two options:
UCAS Extra – Students who have not been accepted on a course can use UCAS Extra to make one more application and this free service is open between late February and early July.
Clearing – Clearing runs from July to September and is the period during which universities can fill any places they still have available. Students with no offers are automatically released into clearing. Many top ranked universities will enter clearing to fill their remaining places on less competitive courses.
NEED MORE ADVICE ON YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION?
At UK College Admissions we are very experienced at supporting US students through the process of applying to the UK.
We can offer services to support you including:
A 2-hour consultation
Full application support and guidance