How and When to Apply to a British University

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Applying to a university is one of the adult decisions that really requires commitment and time-management. And there is nothing more reassuring than understanding the whole process from head to toe. Here is a guide and a timeline for the application process in the UK.

Application to the university

Bear in mind that the whole application must be in English. Therefore, if you are an international student, keep in mind that documents from your school should be translated into English.

Step 1. Register on ucas.com.

“UCAS” stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. This website is the unified platform which enables you to fill out one application form and send it to universities of your choice.

Step 2. Fill in your personal information

The application on UCAS consists of several sections including personal information, previous education, employment history, personal statement, and recommendation letters.

Step 3. Fill in your work experience

If you have had an experience of paid employment, you may include your full-time or part-time jobs with details on the company and the position.

Step 4. Choose universities

The service allows you to choose courses at multiple universities in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. For the undergraduate course, you can choose up to five universities and up to ten for a graduate course.

Amongst other things, what determines your course choice is which A levels or other examinations you are going to take. On how to choose your A level subjects, have a look at our article on subject choices for universities.

To make an informed decision on your university choice, read our guide on choosing best universities.

Step 5. One personal statement for all universities

Along with other documents, your personal statement allows universities evaluate your application holistically. This is a 4000-character essay that includes your aspirations for the future, past and current successes in academia and extra-curricular activities.

When writing your personal statement, don’t write in general terms. Always keep in mind the degree that you are applying for. Think of which qualities of yours, which experiences, and skills will make you stand out as a candidate.

You only need to write one personal statement for your application. This means that when choosing universities and degrees, you need to choose related degrees. Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, and Biomedical Sciences would be related but Drama, Physics, and Management wouldn’t UNLESS you can find a connection between three of them and provide experience and achievements relevant for all three degrees.

A good tip would also be to leave out any names of universities out of your application (unless you’re only applying to one) – this way there won’t be any confusion in the application process.

Step 6. Recommendation letters

These are the documents that give an overview of you as a student in the academic environment. You will need two references for the application. Reference letters are usually written by the principal, your subject teachers or your tutor.

Step 7. Proof-reading and fee payment

Make sure that your personal information is accurate and that you don’t have typos in written answers and your personal statement. Also make sure you have provided an up-to-date address and email that you occasionally check so that when any notifications are sent you receive them and respond in a timely manner.

In order to submit your application, you will need to provide a payment. For the 2020 entry, the fee will be £20 for a single choice, or £25 for more than one choice.

Step 8. Meet the deadlines

Meeting the deadline for submitting the UCAS application guarantees that universities will review your application.

If you are applying for Cambridge or Oxford as well as medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science, submit your application by 15 October 18:00 (UK time).

For other courses, the deadline is 15 January 18:00 (UK time).

If you are planning on applying to a conservatory, you application must be sent by 1 October 2019.

In case you missed the deadline, contact the university to see if you can still submit your documents as a “late” applicant.

Planning ahead is crucial when applying to universities. We tend to underestimate how much time we will need for a task so practice adding extra 20% to how much time you’re planning on spending.

Photo: Shutterstock

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