How to Apply

If you’ve read our advice on Assessing Your Options, you should have an idea of the college courses you’d like to apply to. The application process is pretty straight-forward but there’s a few things you’ll need to bear in mind.

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When do I submit my college application form?

There is no set deadline for college applications. Instead, places are offered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Once a college has filled all the places on a particular course, it will be full for that year. That means you must submit your application form as soon as possible.

Most colleges start accepting applications in January for courses that will start in August of that year. So, for example, if you’ll be leaving school in June 2023 and want to start college in August 2023, you’ll need to apply for your chosen courses in January 2023.

Remember, there’s a lot of competition for college places. So get your application in as soon as possible.


How many college applications can I submit?

You can apply to as many college courses as you like. There’s no limit. We recommend that you submit at least 3 or 4 applications so that you have a back-up plan in case you don’t get accepted for your first choice.


Where will I find the application forms for colleges?

Most applications are now completed online. You’ll find the forms on the relevant college website.


What are college application forms like?

Application forms vary a bit between different colleges so make sure you read the requirements of each college carefully. Generally though, you’ll be asked to enter:

Your Course Choices                                                                                          

Some colleges will ask you to enter a first and second choice here. Enter the exact course title you’ll find through the website course search. If the college has different campuses, remember to specify which campus you want to go to.
Mode of Study (Full time or part time)
Personal Details (Contact address etc.)
Qualifications (Nationals, Highers etc.)
Employment History (Details of any jobs you’ve held)
Reference (Contact details of an appropriate referee e.g. a teacher)
Personal Statement or 'further information' (See below)


What is the ‘personal statement’?

Every college application form will have a section that allows you to explain why you want to study the course and why you are well-suited to it.

It might be called a ‘personal statement’ on the form, or you might simply be asked to ‘provide further information to support your application’. Either way, you’re being asked to do the same thing: to write a few paragraphs that tell the college why they should offer you a place on their course.

This is an important part of the application so we’ve put together some tips on writing your College Personal Statement.


What about my qualifications? I haven’t sat my final exams yet…

As well as entering all the qualifications you’ve gained at school so far, you’ll enter all the Nationals and Highers that you’re taking exams in and awaiting results for.

Often, once you’ve submitted your application, a college will give you something called a ‘conditional offer’. That means they agree to give you a place on their course if you gain the grades required in your final exam results. That’s why they need to know in advance what exams you’ll be taking.


What happens after I’ve submitted my application?

Most colleges will allow you to track the progress of your application online.

For most courses, if you meet the entry requirements, you'll be invited to attend an interview. Have a look at our advice on preparing for College Interviews.

Following your interview, you'll usually be contacted with one of four responses:

This means you’ve already met all the entry requirements so the place is yours if you want it!

This means you'll get a place if you meet certain conditions. Usually that means waiting until the summer to see if you get the exam results you need to meet the entry requirements.

If all the places on a course have been filled by the time the college processes your application, you may be put on a waiting list or you may be advised to reapply next year.

This means the college has decided not to offer you a place.


If you’ve been offered a place, you’ll then contact the college to accept (or reject) the offer.


What can I do if I’m on a waiting list or if my application has been unsuccessful?

Remember, you might hear from one college earlier than others. So even if you’ve received one unsuccessful response, you might have been successful in another of your applications.

If you’ve been put on a waiting list for a course, you could still have a chance of getting a place. For example, some applicants might decide to reject their offer and accept a place somewhere else.

If you’ve been unsuccessful, the college may be able to offer you a place on a different course (e.g. an NC rather than an HNC).

In both cases, contact the college. They’ll be happy to help.