The UCAS applications process is a lengthy one, and your child needs to start planning well in advance of starting university. This page gives you all the key dates and deadlines.
If you or your child needs additional help with the application process you might find it useful to read UCAS's How it all works.
18 months to go
Research higher education (HE) options and talk with careers tutors in school or college. There are a lot of resources available to help the decision process. UCAS keeps a detailed database of HE courses at universities and it's very simple to search for courses on the UCAS website. If possible attend one of the HE conventions which take place throughout the UK from March onwards - see the UCAS website for details. Experts from Birmingham City University attend these conventions and can tell you more about what we have to offer.
14 months to go
During the summer term, start narrowing down choices of course and institution. Encourage your child to attend university open days, which is definitely the best way to get a feel for a place. Get as much information as possible about the course and study facilities, the surrounding area, accommodation and social facilities.
Before you make your final decisions, double-check course entry requirements. The UCAS Tariff is a points system which allows comparability between different types of qualifications. For example, in A levels, A2 grade A equates to 120 points, B equates to 100, C to 80 points and so on. Don't apply for any course if you feel you will not be able to meet the entry requirements. For a mature or overseas student, it is worth contacting the HE institutions directly - often the entry requirements are more flexible, and non-standard qualifications and experience can be taken into consideration.
Some courses, such as part-time courses, require you to apply directly to the institution - check with the institution to make sure you apply by the correct method.
12 months to go
In September, start the online UCAS application form, listing up to five course choices. Ensure it is submitted to UCAS by the deadline. UCAS will send copies to each chosen university for consideration. Often schools/colleges have an earlier deadline than UCAS in order to supply references. The deadline for most courses is in January. It is important to check deadlines on the UCAS website.
As part of the application, students are required to write a personal statement. This is a crucial part of applying: many institutions don't hold interviews and admission tutors rely on the information given in the personal statement when making their decision. It is your child's opportunity to tell the universities and colleges why they are applying, why they have chosen the course and why the institution should want them as a student. Time and consideration should be taken when completing the application form and your wider experience of form filling could be invaluable to them.
If you are supporting a student with a disability, it is advisable to disclose the disability as early as possible in the application process. This enables an assessment of support requirements to be carried out, help to identify any potential barriers that may be faced and how they can be overcome.
Once you have completed your UCAS application, you can also begin your application for Student Finance in September*.
* Students from Northern Ireland will need to contact their Local Education and Library Board (ELB), and students in Scotland should contact the Students’ Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS)
* Student Finance England did not open for application until March in 2010, so dates can vary.
9 months to go
From October to March official responses from universities will be sent through UCAS. A lot of universities invite candidates to an interview or a subject-specific open/visit day. This is a great opportunity to re-visit institutions to help your child make their firm and insurance choices.
Types of response from the university
Unconditional offer – application has been accepted and a place has been allocated
Conditional offer – application will be accepted and a place allocated, provided that certain exam results are met.
Rejection - unsuccessful application
University needs to know from the student
Firm Choice – the offer the student would most like to accept
Insurance choice – a back-up if the conditions of the firm offer are not met and the university can no longer offer a place
If you have applied to UCAS and used all five choices, and have been unsuccessful or declined the offers given to you, there is an opportunity to make an additional course choice through UCAS, called ‘UCAS Extra’.
6 months to go
The summer term can be a stressful time for applicants studying A-levels, BTEC national diplomas etc as they cope with the pressures of revision, then actual exams and the wait for the results. It can be just as stressful for parents and supporters!
Results for a range of qualifications are issued at different times throughout the summer.
2 months to go
When results are released, and if the conditions of the firm offer are met, UCAS will be in touch to confirm a place. If your child's results are very close, they may still get a place. If they don’t get their predicted results, and have not got a place at either their firm or insurance offers, they may still make it to university.
Once UCAS has confirmed they have not secured a place, they can enter what is called the UCAS Clearing process. This matches up students looking for a place with institutions that have vacancies. These will be listed in broadsheet newspapers and on the Clearing section of the UCAS website - which will be available from July - from the day that A level results are published. Scottish vacancies will be available from the day that Scottish Higher results are published. During the Clearing period the Birmingham City University clearing hotline number is 0121 331 6777.
The application process can be quite complicated. If you or your child have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the application process and your child is currently studying in a school sixth form or college, support and help is available there. Alternatively, if they are applying outside school or college, support can be found at UCAS or the universities being applied to.