Don't worry about the January deadline, you've still got time to apply to start university this year
How late is too late? If you're applying to university, 6pm on 15 January marks the point after which you are considered late to the party for that particular academic year.
So with that milestone having passed, does that mean you're locked out of starting uni until next year? Definitely not! You can still apply, and there's just one key difference – your application will no longer be guaranteed equal consideration.
Universities are expected to give equal consideration to every application that lands in their inbox before the January deadline. No matter whether you send in your application at the start of September or on 15 January, your application will be given just as much priority. But, once the deadline passes, universities are free to start allocating places – starting with those who applied by 15 January.
That means, if you're applying after that date, you might find some courses have started to fill up – or perhaps closed completely. Sound scary? Don't stress: if you're looking outside the most ultra-competitive uni/course combinations, you should still find plenty of options.
The 15 January deadline is relevant to the majority of uni applicants, but if you're applying to Oxbridge or a medicine, dentistry or veterinary course then the deadline is 15 October.
Making a late uni application
Those remaining places won't hang around forever. But, even though the temptation might be to rush something together as quickly as you can, time spent putting together a really good application will certainly be time well spent. You’ll still need to make sure your application is thorough and as good as it can possibly be.
The new deadline you're now looking at is 30 June. Everyone – whether a home/EU or an international candidate – gets until then to submit an application for immediate consideration. The big difference is that it's now first come, first served. So you want to be swift, but don't rush it.
Timing your application
The only time where late applicants are best advised to hold back their application is in the days immediately after the January deadline. At this point, it can actually be beneficial to wait a while.
As universities will be processing the applications received before the deadline, they may not know for a few weeks afterwards whether they can consider any more. So, if you hold out until mid-to-late February, universities will be notifying Ucas whether they will be in Ucas Extra and if so for which courses. That gives you a better idea of what's still out there.
Once you're past late February, however, you should get your application in as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of success.
Checking what's on offer
The course search facility on the Ucas website is a good first port of call to check on places that are still available.
You can back up your research with TSR's UniMatch tool. This lists details for all UK university courses, alongside real reviews from students, helping you to nail down your shortlist. You can also find the relevant university forum to ask university official reps and current students your questions.
Bear in mind that course availability is changing all the time. You'll need to check with the universities that interest you before making an application. That means it's time to hit the phone. This is your chance to quickly find out whether there will be availability on the courses that interest you, and also get an insight into whether that university is actually the right one for you.
During your phone call, make sure you explain your circumstances, your grades or predicted grades and tell them a bit about yourself. They will tell you whether they would consider you, and if they say 'yes' then you can apply. If they say 'no', then don't waste your application and find somewhere else instead.
Your personal statement
All other aspects of the application process remain the same. You will need a good personal statement and a reference. Let your teachers know as soon as possible that you're intending to apply so that they can get your reference arranged.
There's no need to approach your personal statement any differently, but you might find the extra time has given you more to talk about. Our personal statement builder can help guide you through the process of writing a personal statement, and you can ask specific questions in the personal statement advice forum. The general advice in our piece on how to avoid getting five rejections applies to late applicants too.
What happens if you miss the 30 June deadline?
If you miss the 30 June deadline, you can still apply. It does mean that your application will go straight into the Clearing pool, but with more than 60,000 students finding their uni place via Clearing every year, that's not necessarily a bad place to be.
Remember that you also have the option to wait and apply next year instead. This means that you will have an extra year to think about what you want to do, and if you haven't taken your exams yet, it also means you'll be applying with confirmed grades. This can help lessen the stress of applying, as you'll know exactly where you stand and won't have to worry about conditional offers and meeting predicted grades.