Completing your online uni application on UCAS Apply isn't a small task so make a plan to schedule when you're going to complete each section and start as soon as possible.
Here's some handy tips from members of The Student Room who have successfully applied to university.
Registering through school or college
You should be able to apply through your school or college using their buzzword. This is like a password and has been assigned by UCAS. By registering this way your teachers will be able monitor your application’s progress and help you through the process. It also makes adding the teacher references easier.
If you are still at school or college, do not register yourself as an Individual applicant.
Registering as an individual
This is usually only appropriate if you are applying after you have left school or college, or if you are home schooled. It’s also the most common route for overseas. If you making an application during your gap year, you might be able to use your old college’s buzzword – just make sure you ask first.
Deadlines for initial applications are different for different courses.
There is an October deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge, and for all applications for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary courses.
The general application deadline for initial application is in mid-January. Some Art and Design courses have a later deadline in March.
Email addresses and other contact details
Universities nowadays rarely use letters to communicate with applicants. Most communication is via email so it is important you get this right.
Don't use an email address like [email protected]. Make sure your email address is professional and simple i.e. [email protected]. If you use a school or college email address, make sure this is one you can access outside school - otherwise you may miss vital emails from universities during school holidays
Don't put a silly nickname as your 'known by' name. Joe for Joseph or Lizzie for Elizabeth is acceptable. Big Ears isn't.
If you are at boarding school, make sure you also list your home address, email and phone number. This is vital for the period leading up to A-level results in August when you won’t be at school.
If you change anything to do with your home address or other contact details (especially your email address) after application, it is vital you tell UCAS immediately. They will pass this on to the universities.
Make sure you check your email regularly once you have applied. This includes your junk mail or spam folder. Many unis now use forms of auto-emails that are machine generated to tell you vital stuff about interview appointments and visit days. Many emails providers filter these as junk mail - so keep an eye on all folders!
Using UCAS Apply for the first time
UCAS Apply main toolbar
When you log in for the first time, check out the main tool bar and familiarise yourself with the key sections that you’ll need to fill in. You can log in and out as often as you like, just doing bits of each section each time as you go.
You can can choose up to five choices through UCAS. These choices can be applications for a single course code at 5 different universities or 5 different courses at a single university. You do not necessarily have to add all your choices at the same time, but you are advised to use up any remaining choices by the equal consideration deadline in mid-January.
What is the equal consideration rule and why is it important?
By making an application on or before the January 15th deadline you will be guaranteed equal consideration by universities so don't worry that the uni is going to run out of places. The bonus of getting your application in early is that it will give you more time to focus on nailing your predicted grades. However, you should only submit once you have completed your research, attended open days and perfected your personal statement.
If your school is imposing an earlier deadline i.e. November, this is because they have to manage all of the applicants at your college - this means writing references and reviewing personal statements.
Should I use all the five choices?
As a general principle using fewer than your allowance of five choices is sensible only if you are committed to specific unis for practical reasons, or your course is so specialised that there are few places that offer it.
If there are only 3 or 4 unis you want to apply to, leave it at that - but remember that the fewer Unis you apply for you will have less chance of an offer and may not have an obvious lower-grade offer to make your Insurance choice.
Remember, if you apply to fewer than 5 choices initially it is possible to add extra choices (until you have 5 in total) at a later date.
Should I put my choices in order of preference?
The order you enter your choices in doesn't matter - UCAS will reorder them by institution code and course code so it doesn’t imply a 'favourite' uni if you put it first.
Can all the universities see where else I've applied?
Universities cannot see where-else you have applied until you make your firm and insurance choices much later in the year, so they will not be influenced by 'also applying to Cambridge' or 'only applying to one uni' or any other presumptions many applicants think they make.
Adding your choices
Institution code: Is the university code, a single letter followed by two numbers. Click on the "see list" button and select each chosen university from the list. Make sure you get the name right - the University of Bath is not the same as Bath Spa University.
Course code: The UCAS course code is 4 digits/letters. Remember, whilst a course may be called the same thing at each uni you have chosen, the course code may not be - so don't assume, always check.
Campus code: This can refer to either the campus you will be studying on or the college you are applying to. Most Unis don't have different campuses so you probably wont need to select anything here. If you do, click on the "see list" button and select your desired campus/college from the list.
Start date: Click on the see list button and select the relevant date for each course. Most UK uni courses start in September or October, however some courses will also have a January or March intake.
Further details: Fill this in only if it's clear you need to (see the course search on the UCAS website or the university or college prospectus). This is often used for general courses to specify which specialisation you are applying for, ie. ceramics pathway within an art & design degree course. It can also be used if you're applying for a particular scholarship scheme. It is not the place to specify which accommodation you want to live in or enter your predicted grades or anything else that has nothing to do with the course you are applying for.
Live at home: Completing this helps the universities to estimate numbers for uni accommodation.
Point of entry: This is the year of the course you are applying to start in. For almost everyone this will be year one (also called point of entry one).
If you have agreed with the university/college that they are willing to consider you for later year entry should you enter something different ie. because you have already completed a Year 1 elsewhere.
If you are applying for a foundation year, enter 0.
Getting started with the education section
Universities look at academic qualifications first - make sure you enter everything correctly here or your personal statement won't even get read. It is vital you get all details and grades correct.
Should I add the subjects I didn't get good grades in?
Yes. Universities expect you to declare all grades for all the qualifications you have. Even if it's a U grade. Any resits should also be included. Don't be tempted to forget a grade. If the university discover you're fibbing they have the right to withdraw your place.
Complete this section with all your certificates to hand
It's important you get all the details absolutely right so get out your GCSE and AS-level results slips so you can enter them onto the site without mistakes. If the exam board and specification you took for each subject isn't listed on your results slips, it may be a good idea to ask your school what the specifications are - especially for GCSEs.
Adding schools and colleges
- Firstly, you'll be asked about the secondary schools, colleges and universities you've been to; there is no requirement to enter information about your primary school.
- There is space for up to 10, but it's likely you'll only have one or two to list.
If you were only at a school temporarily make sure you still list it.
- If you've taken any additional qualifications outside of your school or college, you are required to add these details in. This includes where you sat the exams because UCAS will this information to match your qualifications.
- If they have to check any details with you, that will hold up you application going to the Universities you've chosen.
When you've finished adding schools and colleges, click add qualifications under the relevant centre (school or college where you took them). Then select your qualification from the menu and sub-menu that appears.
Most GCSEs will just come under GCSE. However, if you did a short course or a double award you need to select that from the main menu.
For the subject title, pick it from the list. If you're not sure which specification you did, just choose the normal one. For example, pick business studies rather than business studies A or B.
Under date most people put the month and year they received the results.
Adding AS/A2 Levels
For the awarding body, make sure you choose the correct exam board. This is important for UCAS to match your results. When you've finished each one, click save and add similar. This will add your qualification and take you to a screen where you can add another qualification of the same type.
Once you have filled out all qualifications of this type, check all the details and only then click save for the last qualification. This will take you to your education summary screen.
- Before adding any AS/A2 levels, you must find out whether or not they are cashed-in (also referred to as certificated).
- If your AS-levels are cashed in then even if you are resitting a module you must put the cashed-in grade on UCAS Apply as an achieved qualification.
- If your AS-levels are not cashed in they must be entered as pending qualifications, no matter how brilliant the grade.
- If you are resitting modules for a cashed in AS, the AS needs to be entered twice, both as an achieved and a pending qualification.
- A2 grades will always be cashed in so if you are resitting modules to improve your A2 grade you will also need to enter them twice.
- If you have a certificated AS as well as the completed A level in a subject, both are entered as achieved qualifications.
- You must enter all qualifications you have a result for, including any which were ungraded
Adding cashed-in AS/A2 Levels
Follow the same instructions as above (selecting GCE Advanced or GCE Advanced Subsidiary), but notice that you can now include details of all your unit grades. Entering unit details for AS and A-levels is optional. When you have filled out all the boxes finish the application as above.
Add UMS grades
You cannot add the UMS marks that you got for each unit, only the grade. However, if one of your UMS marks was good (e.g. only a couple of marks off the next grade up), you may want to ask your referee to include this in his or her reference. Some universities, including Cambridge, will ask you to provide details of UMS marks and/or unit grades at a later stage.
Even if you are planning to re-sit some AS modules, you must include the AS subject and overall grade achieved, with unit results if you wish to give them. You should then enter the AS level again under pending qualifications, to cover the re-sit, with the overall and unit grades entered as "pending".
Adding non-cashed-in AS Levels, A2s you haven't yet completed, and planned resits for AS or A2
Selecting GCE Advanced or GCE Advanced Subsidiary, enter the details for each subject as appropriate.
No matter what units you have taken and what your predicted grades are, you must put the grade for all units as "pending" and the date in the future (usually June) when you will take the final exams. If you are particularly pleased with any module marks you have received, have your referee mention these in his/her reference instead.
Adding other qualifications
Many other qualifications are worth UCAS points. This includes formal music exams. Even if you are applying to unis that don't use UCAS points for selection, its still worth adding them as it gives more information about what you do in your spare time.
A final note about finishing the education section
When you come to mark the section as finished, you may be asked for BTEC Registration Number and your Scottish candidate number. If these don't apply to you, simply leave them blank.
If you have your certificate, you can find your BTEC registration number printed on it. It is the second item on the bottom line of the text. It is a letter followed by a six-digit number. If you do not yet have your certificate, you will need to ask your tutor to find out the number.
Adding your personal statement
It's likely that you've hours into your personal statement by the time you come to adding it to your UCAS Apply. Here are our tips to make sure a simple cut and paste job doesn't end in disaster.
The best way to ensure that nothing is erased from your personal statement when adding it to apply is to copy your PS from Word into Notepad and then copy from there into the UCAS Apply box - this removes some of the formatting that Word applies that UCAS doesn't accept.
Once you have pasted it into the correct section make sure you check it again. In particular check spacing and format but most importantly, check spelling, grammar and syntax. This matters.
The employment section
This section is for paid work only. Unpaid work-experience can be mentioned in your personal statement. If you have a part-time job it is worth adding it here even if it isn't directly relevant to your subject or course. Even a Saturday job at Tescos shows that you have initiative, and have a life outside school. Many unis are aware that those with part-time jobs will not have as much time for extra-curricular activities. They won't know this unless you tell them.
This section is very important for mature students because the main space where you can list what else you have done with your life.
The about you section
First names, surname, title, sex, date of birth will be filled in automatically from the details you provided when you registered. You’ll need to complete your address, telephone numbers and email address.
- Make sure you use a sensible and professional sounding email address.
- It's also a good idea to provide a home telephone number as well as your mobile number.
- Only include a mobile phone number if you're willing for UCAS and universities to send you text messages.
- Make sure that if any contact details change you tell UCAS. Universities may try to get hold of you on results day.
Check your email account regularly - especially junk and spam folders. All communications will come to you via email - interview dates, post offer visits etc, and if you miss them, that could mean a uni rejects you.
Further details - including residential category
For most applicants your residential category will be home/EU. For those of you applying from outside the EU they will be overseas.
Do not assume that if you live overseas but you have a British passport, or are an overseas student at a British boarding school that your residential category will automatically be classed as home. Your fee status will depend on where you and your parents normally live - not nationality. And being in the UK for education alone with parents still living overseas is not the same as being resident here.
Sometimes this can be tricky for applicants to determine themselves - especially if your parents have jobs that involve them moving around the world for work. The important thing is that you are honest about things like your Home Address, and the location of schools you have attended etc.
If the uni has any doubt about which residential or fee category you fall into they will send you a questionnaire to complete and return with documents like a copy of your passport and relevant visas etc, so don't worry about getting the home/EU versus overseas category wrong at this stage.
You should tick the box only if you have a relevant criminal conviction.
- If you're applying for NHS funded courses (Nursing, Midwifery, Audiology, Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Radiography) then select 05 for DH/regional health.
- For any other course (including medicine) if you're living in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or EU then select 02 LEA/SAAS/NIBd/EU/ChI/IoM or Student Finance England.
- Only select 01 Private Finance if you're expecting to pay international fees (£10k pa up front).
The information you give in this section includes details of any non-exam-based activity you may have undertaken in preparation for higher education, together with other information designed to help UCAS and the unis/colleges to monitor applications and equal opportunities.
Preparing the online application for submission
Before submitting the online application, use the front page of Apply to check whether you need to verify your email account.
Go through each section checking for errors, marking them completed as you go.
When all the sections are marked as completed it’s a good idea to click on 'view all details' to print out and check the whole application.
Double check all details - exams boards, grades, dates, spelling of subjects etc.
Only when you are totally happy with your application, should you click on pay/send button from the left-hand menu. The declaration page will then be displayed. You will need to tick all the boxes to indicate you have read and agree to the declaration.
Once you have chosen the appropriate payment method your application will be sent to your referee.
Your application will then be sent to your referee for them to complete their section. If they spot something wrong they can return it to you to correct before they send it finally to UCAS. It's best not to rely on this though.
Remember that your teacher is likely to be writing numerous references and may simply not spot subject exam grades errors or similar information.
You can read more about how to get a super teacher reference here.
Moving on from Apply to UCAS Track
From here, if you sign into Apply all you can do is see whether your referee has finished your reference yet and whether your referee has submitted your application. When the application is submitted you'll be able to use UCAS Track to start monitoring any updates from the unis you have applied too.
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