UCAS - What happens when?
Applying to HE can appear to be a complicated process. To help you understand and support
students along the way, here is a breakdown of each stage and what is expected.
18 months to go • Research begins!
• Narrowing down course and
14 months to go institution choices
• Open days & Visit days
12 months to go • Opening date for UCAS applications
• Universities to respond to applicants
• Replying to offers, (unconditional,
9 months to go conditional, reject)
• UCAS Extra (26th Feb – 6th July)
6 months to go • Revision and Exams
2 months to go
• Clearing process opens
UCAS what happens when?
18 months to go. This is when researching the options in higher education is important and
talking with careers tutors in school or college can be very helpful. Afterall the more
research that is carried out the more informed the choice, therefore more likely to be the
There are a lot of resources available to help the decision process and this guide is a starting
point. UCAS will be a very important tool in the initial research as they keep a detailed
database of HE courses at universities and is very simple to ‘do a course search’ on the
website www.ucas.com . If possible attend a higher education convention to gather more
information (these take place throughout the UK from March onwards again the UCAS
website will detail all locations and dates) We have a team of experts from BCU that
represent the university at these conventions, go along and meet one, it is a great
opportunity to find out about what Birmingham City University has to offer.
14 months to go. During the summer term it is time to start narrowing down choices of
courses and institution, you can support by encouraging and attending visits to open days
which is definitely the best way to get a feel for a place. It is important to get as much
information as possible at the open days about the course and study facilities, the
surrounding area, accommodation, social facilities.
You can visit www.opendays.com for help. Our main Open days are in June and October,
but our different subject areas have additional visits days, you can find further details on our
Before you make your final decisions, you should double-check the entry requirements. The
UCAS Tariff is a points system used to report achievement for entry to higher education in a
numerical format. It is a way of allowing 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. Do not apply for any course if you feel you will not be able to meet
the entry requirement. 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 – it is worth checking!
There are other methods of application, such as direct application to the institution for part-
time courses. It is worth checking with the institution to make sure you are applying by the
12 months to go. In September it is time to start the online UCAS application form, listing
up to 5 course choices. Ensure it is submitted to UCAS by the deadline, who will then 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 the application: many institutions do not hold interviews and admission
tutors rely on the information given in the personal statement when making their decision.
It is the applicants 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,
whilst showing they are interesting, positive and committed. 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 then it is important to note that disclosing a
disability or specific learning difficulty as early as possible in the application process is
advisable so that that an assessment of support requirements can be carried out. This
assessment can help to identify any potential barriers that may be faced particularly when
choosing the right course.
You can also begin your application for Student Finance in September. Once you have
completed your UCAS application go to www.directgov.com and start your application for
finance with Student Finance England.
*Students from NI will need to contact their Local Education and Library Board (ELB) and
students in Scotland should contact the students award agency for Scotland (SAAS)
9 months to go From October to March official responses from universities will be sent
through UCAS. A lot of universities send an invitation to an interview or a subject specific
open/visit day, this is a great opportunity to re visit institutions because once all responses
from all universities are received it is time to make a firm and insurance choice and the visit
days may help make that decision
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 – this should be the offer the student would most like to accept
Insurance choice – If the conditions of the firm offer are not met and the university can
no longer offer a place, then the insurance offer is a back up.
If you have applied to UCAS and used all 5 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. This can be a stressful time for those applicants who are
currently studying A-levels, BTEC national diplomas etc as they cope with the pressures of
revision, then actual exams and the wait for the results. This time can be as stressful for
parents and supporters of these students at this time.
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 the student results are very close, they may still
get a place. If an applicant doesn’t get the results predicted, 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 broad sheet papers 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 the student (or supporter) has any
questions or concerns about any aspect of the application process and is currently studying
in a school sixth form or college, support and help is available there. Alternatively, if
individuals are applying outside school or college, then support can be found at UCAS or
indeed the universities that are being applied to will offer advice and guidance. Either way
giving encouragement to the student to ask questions and to research should help towards
a successfully completed application.