This page has basic advice about how to start you UCAS application. It is not a substitute for the information direct from UCAS itself - UCAS How to Apply and you should ALWAYS check this website for any current or updated information.
If you've already sent your application, there is advice on TSR about this too - click here.
Registering with UCAS
Registering through school or other organisation
If you are still at school or college, you usually apply through that school/college and therefore you need to use the registration instructions provided by your school/college/etc., as each institution has its own "buzzword" (like a password). This is so the school can monitor its own students applications and help you through the process. It also makes adding references etc easier. If you 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. Its also the most common route for Overseas applicants whose overseas school isnt part of the UCAS system. Some schools will let you apply to UCAS via the school if you recently left and are taking a Gap Year, so always ask before you register as an Individual.
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. If you miss this deadline, there are no second chances and your application will automatically be rejected. Therefore for the October deadline you need to start researching courses and writing your PS much earlier than those applying for courses/Universities covered by the general application deadline for initial applications which is in MID-JANUARY. Some Art and Design courses have a later deadline in MARCH.
UCAS info on these deadline dates here.
Important stuff about 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember who's going to be looking at this on your application so use something than doesn't look silly or juvenile, even if you have to start a separate email account you use only for your University applications.
- If you use a school or college email address, make sure this is one you can access outside school - otherwise you will 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 wont 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.
- You MUST 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, visit days etc. Many emails providers filter these as junk mail - so keep an eye on all folders!
Filling out the online application
Once you've signed into UCAS for the first time, you'll see something like this. Clicking each of these takes you to a different section of the form 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.
The "Courses" SectionApplicants can choose up to 5 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 (and anything in between). 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. 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.
You're only allowed to apply to EITHER Oxford OR Cambridge not both.
Only 4 of your choices can be used to apply for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science/Veterinary Medicine.
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.
The order you enter your choices in doesn't matter - UCAS will reorder them by Institution Code and Course Code so it doesnt imply a 'favourite' Uni if you put it first.
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.
Information requested by UCAS
- Inst'n Code: university code, a single letter followed by 2 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: UCAS Course Code, 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 taht has nothing to do with the course you are applying for.
- Live at Home: If you plan to live at home if you study at this university, select 'Yes'. Select 'No' if you will need accommodation information from the university/college. This allows a Uni to to gauge numbers for Uni accomodation - it isnt usually binding. Usually Uni accommodation is not available to anyone with a Home address within 30 miles of the University - you are expected to live at home.
- Point of Entry: This is the year of the course you are applying to start in. For almost everyone this will be Year 1 (also called Point of Entry 1). Only if you have agreed with the university/college that they are willing to consider you for later year entry should you enter anything other than this, ie. because you have already completed a Year 1 elsewhere. If you are applying for a foundation year, enter 0.
The "Education" Section
This stage takes a fair amount of time and requires care and attention. Its 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. Universities look at academic qualifications first - if you fail this point, your Personal Statement wont even be read so it is VITAL you get all details and grades correct, and that you include everything, including qualifications you feel you 'failed'.
NEVER lie about qualifications you have or are taking, or try to hide retakes by leaving some results off your application. Comparing the info you have given with the info they receive from the Exam Boards is one of the first fraud checks that UCAS does. UCAS takes any attempt at fraud very seriously - remember, this can include cancelling your entire application.
Adding Schools and Colleges
- Firstly, you'll be asked about the secondary schools, colleges and universities you've been to.
- Do not enter primary schools.
- There is space for up to 10, but most people will only have 1 or 2 to list Even if you were only at a school temporarily you must still list it.
- If you've taken any exams outside of your school/college - for example taken additional A Levels during evening classes - you still need to add details of where you sat those exams because UCAS using this info to 'match check' 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 (ie. school or college where you took them). Then select your qualification from the menu and submenu 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/year in which they received the results, usually August.
- For the awarding body, make sure you choose the correct exam board. Again 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.
Adding AS/A2 Levels
- Before adding any AS/A2 levels, you must find out whether or not they are cashed in (also referred to as "certificated").
- If your ASs 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 ASs 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.
- 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. (Note: 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.
The "Statement" Section
For information on writing a great PS, see the Personal Statement FAQs. Be sure to make sure that none of your formatting is erased when you paste it into UCAS. The best way to do this is to copy your PS from Word into notepad and then copy from there into the UCAS Apply box - this removes some of the "intelligent" formatting that Word applies that UCAS doesn't accept.
Once you have pasted it into the correct section - CHECK IT. Check spacing and format but most of all, 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 isnt directly relevant to your subject or course. Even a Saturday job at Tescos shows that you have initiative, and have a life outside school - and many Unis are aware that those with part-time jobs will not have as much time for extra-curricular stuff. They wont 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 the email address provided is fairly sensible (see above)). It's a good idea to provide a home telephone number as well as your mobile number, but 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 - especially before Results Day because if a University can't get hold of you this may mean you wont get offered a 'near miss' place.
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 their Residential Category will be Home/EU. For those 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/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.
Fee code: ONLY select 01 Private Finance if you're expecting to pay International fees (~£10k pa up front).
If you're applying for NHS funded courses (Nursing, Midwifery, Audiology, Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Radiography) then select 05 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.
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.
- Look at you PS critically. Does it make sense? Have you explained clearly why you want to do this subject? Have you used any overly pretentious words or phrases? Are any sentences too long, paragraphs too rambling? Tighten up your writing wherever you can.
- Then ask someone else (teacher, parents etc) to double check it for errors. Its very easy to overlook something like a missing word even if you've re-read it endlessly.
- ONLY when you are totally happy with your application, should you click on 'Pay/Send' 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.
- You will then be asked how you want to pay - the options will depend on what your school has chosen - by credit/debit card, direct to the school/college, or a choice of both. Once you have chosen the appropriate payment method your application will be sent to your referee.
- Your application then goes to your referee for them to complete their section. If they spot something obviously wrong they can return it to you to correct before they send it finally to UCAS, but don't rely on this. They will be writing numerous references and may simply not spot that you told all your Universities that you took your GCSEs in the wrong year.
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, go to Tracking and Replying to your Offers to find out about the next step.
See also: UCAS Important Dates