Everything You Need to Know about UCAS

25th September 2021 Shannan Humphrey Study

UCAS is an essential part of the university applications process. Based in the UK, the organisation is responsible for running the applications process for all British universities. Before you apply, it’s a good idea to learn more about UCAS and how it works. Find out everything you need to know below…

What is UCAS?

Wondering what does UCAS stand for? The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is an independent charity that offers information and advice, alongside admissions services. Each year, it handles a huge number of applications. In 2019, a total of 2.79 million undergraduate applications were processed from UK, EU, and international students.

How does the UCAS application process work?

When applying through UCAS, there is quite a lot you’ll need to do. For this reason, it’s best to start as early as possible, rather than leaving it until the last minute. To make an application, you’ll need to follow the steps below:

1. Apply online

Head over to the UCAS Apply registration page if you are applying in 2021. This will require you to fill in personal details and answer select questions. If you plan on studying in 2022, you can register via the UCAS Hub.

Once registered, use the search tool to find courses you are interested in and apply. Different courses have different deadline dates, so be sure to double-check when you need to apply. You’ll need to provide up to five course options and include a personal statement. This should tell universities why you want to study with them and let them know the skills and experience you have.

2. Wait to hear back

After making your application, you’ll need to wait approximately two to three weeks to hear back. When you finally do hear back, you will either:

  • Receive a conditional or unconditional offer
  • Get an unsuccessful or withdrawn response

Receiving a conditional or unconditional offer is a good thing. A conditional offer means you have a place on your chosen course if you meet set criteria. That could be that you need certain grades to guarantee your placement. An unconditional offer means you have been accepted and the place is yours if you still want it.

If you are unsuccessful, it means you haven’t been accepted for the course you chose. This could be for a wide range of reasons. Alternatively, the course may have been withdrawn by the university. The reasons will usually be shared within the letter or email.

3. Respond to your offers

As you applied for up to five different universities, it’s possible you could receive up to five offers. You can only accept one offer, so you’ll need to make a choice. The one that you choose is referred to as your ‘Firm Acceptance’. You’ll also be able to choose a second offer as your ‘Insurance Acceptance’. An insurance acceptance is often there as a backup choice in case you don’t meet the set criteria of your first choice. You will need to turn down all other offers.

4. See if your place is confirmed

You can see if your place has been confirmed through your UCAS account. Remember, if you received an unconditional offer, it means you are already accepted. If you are waiting on results for a conditional offer, UCAS will send them over to the university as soon as they are published. Use Track to stay on top of your offers to see clearly when they are confirmed.

5. Use clearing if unsuccessful

If you have been rejected, don’t panic! Thousands of students sadly don’t get the place they wanted. Universities receive a lot of applications, and they can’t accept them all. That is where clearing comes in useful.

You can apply through UCAS clearing to see which universities still have spaces on their courses. This can be a great option for students who didn’t get the grades they needed for a conditional offer.

How much is a UCAS application?

To apply to your chosen universities, you’ll need to pay UCAS a fee of £26 for multiple courses, or a reduced £20 fee for a single course. If you don’t get accepted and you need to apply through clearing, an additional £6 per application will apply.

What are UCAS points?

A lot of qualifications, such as A-Levels, have a UCAS Tariff value. Your UCAS points relate to the qualifications you have and the grades you achieved. Higher education course providers use this points tariff to check that you meet their entry requirements. You can view the latest tariff tables here.

How to get more UCAS points

If you want to strengthen your application, you might find it useful to increase the amount of UCAS points you have. You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Take extra AS level courses – If you complete extra AS level courses, it’s going to give you additional points.
  2. Volunteer – Did you know there are community-based courses you can undertake from ASDAN to help boost your points?
  3. Take up an instrument – If you reach above grade 6 when learning an instrument, it contributes a lot more UCAS points to your score. If you use a private tutor, you’ll be able to get graded much faster.

As you can see, UCAS is extremely important in terms of university applications. Understanding how it works and what to expect is crucial before you start making applications.

Shannan Humphrey

Shannan Humphrey

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