How to Apply
Applying to university is actually quite a straight-forward process. Unlike college applications, you don’t need to apply to each university individually. Instead, you’ll use an online system called UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) to apply to all your chosen courses at once.
Universities want to know that you:
- Meet the entry requirements for their course
- Are enthusiastic about studying their course and will be well suited to the work it involves.
This information will be passed on to the universities you apply to via your UCAS application form.
Applying to the Conservatoire?If you’re interested in applying for a practical course in drama, music, dance, or production at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or a similar university elsewhere in the UK, the application process is different. Visit our 'Accessing the Performing Arts' page to find out more.
How does UCAS work?
The UCAS website allows you to:
- Search for courses
- Apply for up to FIVE courses
- Track your application and receive offers from universities
UCAS has detailed information on every course you can study at university in the UK. That means you can search for and compare courses. Read our tips on Assessing Your Options.
Once you’ve decided what courses you’re interested in, you can register an account on UCAS and begin completing an online application form.
What does the application form involve?
UCAS has detailed information on Filling in your Application.
You’ll need to include:
- Your personal details (address etc.)
- Information on any finance arrangements you’ve made, for example student loans. (See Student Finance)
- Your course choices
- Your school qualifications (Nationals, Highers etc.)
- Details of any jobs you’ve had
- A Personal Statement explaining why you’re interested in and well suited to your chosen courses
- A reference from a teacher
How will I choose and enter my course choices?
Medicine / Dentistry / Vet MedicineIf you’re applying for Medicine, Dentistry or Vet Medicine, your choices are a bit different. You can apply for a maximum of FOUR courses in these subjects. That leaves you with one option free to apply for a related course with lower entry requirements e.g. Biomedical Science. Make sure you visit our 'Accessing the Professions' page.
- You can apply for up to FIVE different courses at once.
- This could be the same subject at five different universities, or you could apply for two or more different subjects.
- Remember, you’re given five choices so that you can include at least 1 or 2 courses that have lower entry requirements. You need a back-up plan in case your Higher results fall a bit short.
What about my qualifications? I haven’t sat my final exams yet…
- As well as entering all the qualifications you’ve gained so far, you’ll enter all the Highers/Nationals that you’ll be taking exams in.
- Often, once you’ve submitted your application, a university 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 is the Personal Statement?
You must write a short (but very important) statement, explaining why you're interested in the courses you’ve applied to and why you think you're well suited to studying them. You’ll need to talk about your interests, your skills, and your experience, both in and outside school. This is the part of the form where you get to sell yourself so you want it to be good. Make sure you check out our advice on Writing your Personal Statement.
What is the ‘reference’?
You must ask one of your teachers to write a short reference to be added to your form. These references are like recommendations – whoever writes it will provide a statement about your suitability for university.
Your teachers should be on top of this but if they haven't mentioned it yet, ask them. They might want to look at our guidance on Writing UCAS References.
What’s the deadline for submitting UCAS applications?
Knowing these deadlines is really important. If you’re applying to go to university next year, your teachers should be helping you get your application together long in advance of these deadlines.
Make sure that your form is complete and ready to go before term ends for the Christmas break. That means your Personal Statement must be redrafted and complete, and your teacher must have organised a reference for you.
What happens once I’ve submitted my application?
After submitting your application, you'll be able to track its progress on UCAS Track.
Universities will look at your application and decide whether to offer you a place on their course. Usually you'll hear back from universities within 3 months of submitting your application but don't worry if some take longer than others! That's normal.
There are three types of response you could receive:
- Unconditional offer: This means you've already met all the entry requirements so the place is yours if you want it!
- Conditional offer: 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.
- Unsuccessful: This means the university has decided not to offer you a place.
UCAS has lots of clear information on the types of offer you will receive here.
How do I accept an offer?
You have to wait until you've received all your offers before you can reply.
If you've been offered a place on your first choice course, you can reply with a firm acceptance:
- If it's an unconditional offer, the place is yours.
- If it's a conditional offer, you'll also be able to select a second choice that has lower entry requirements. This is your insurance acceptance. In other words, this is a back-up plan in case you don't get the exam results you need for your first choice.
Have a look at the UCAS information on Replying to your Offers.