UCAS is the fastest, smartest and often the only way to apply to undergraduate programs in the UK. For courses starting in September 2018, the application deadline is January 15th, 2018. UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It’s a standardized college application website operated by an independent charity organization, available at www.ucas.com.

If applying to a university in the UK is in your future plans, here are some key facts you should know about UCAS.

London South Bank University, this takes up two of your five slots. Each university and each course has its own UCAS code, which you will need to enter into your application. You can find these codes via the UCAS course search, or on the websites of each individual university program. It costs 13 British pounds to apply for one course via UCAS, and 24 pounds to go for two or more.

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Important Deadlines

Most bachelor’s degree programs in the UK start in September. This means the general UCAS application deadline is Jan. 15 of the same year.

This applies to universities like;

University of Dundee

York St John University

Middlesex University

Coventry University

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However, for Oxford and Cambridge Universities, as well as most medical programs, the deadline takes place already a few months before, on Oct. 15. Also, for some art and design universities, you have until March 24 to apply for entry.

Either way, there’s no harm in submitting your application earlier than the official deadline: many schools offer rolling admissions. This means that you may get accepted into a university even just a few days after you send in your UCAS application. You generally don’t have to accept the offer until May, and you can wait until you have received answers from all of the programs you have applied to. The other schools will not see where else you have applied until you start accepting or rejecting the offers. You can only accept one program as your firm choice, and you have to reject the others.

At the very latest, the schools have to notify prospective students by May whether they got in or not. If all of your choices have rejected you by March, you can choose an extra program to apply to. If nothing works out even after that, you can re-submit your application after June 30 to take part in Clearing. This is a process where universities try to look for suitable students to take the unfulfilled slots in their programs.

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Application requirements

To start an application, you will need to create a username and password for yourself at www.ucas.com. After this, you will fill out some basic information about yourself. You can also take breaks while compiling the application – just remember to save your progress.

For the application, you have to type in your education history, starting with your secondary education. If you are still in the middle of your senior year and don’t have your final grades yet, you can submit your predicted scores. In this case, when universities offer you a spot via UCAS, they may extend a conditional offer to you. This means that in order to be accepted for sure, your final grades must be similar to your predicted scores. If you accept a conditional offer from a university via UCAS, you can also choose another offer as your back-up, also known as your insurance choice. This way you’ve covered your bases, even if your final grades aren’t quite as high as you estimated.

Besides grades, a personal essay of 4,000 characters and 47 lines is one of the most crucial elements of the application. As the same essay will be used by all the schools and programs you have applied to, you should not mention specific universities or study programs by name. It’s better to write a general essay, describing why you are interested in a particular field of study and how you have prepared for your upcoming studies.

Additionally, you will need to provide one letter of recommendation in your application. You could ask this from a teacher, or your high school counsellor.  

You can also include information about your extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. Even if they aren’t directly related to your future field of study, it doesn’t hurt to mention them - it’s good for universities to see that you are an industrious person and a well-rounded candidate.

SchoolApply is here to help

If all of this seems overwhelming, feel free to get in touch with SchoolApply. Our professional education team is here for you – they will happily guide you through the complicated UCAS process, and help you hone your application to perfection.

About the Writer: Mirva Lempiäinen is a US-educated freelance journalist from Finland. After calling New York City home for about a decade, she now resides on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.