Applying for university: all you need to know

University applications

By theunipod community,

Applying to university can be a daunting process for students. Questions like 'where do you apply?' 'how do you apply?' or 'are there any special requirements?' can cause unnecessary stress, so here at theunipod we have created a clear and concise guide on the university application process to make sure your application is stress free. We will cover how to choose your university, how to apply through UCAS and coping with interviews.

Shortlisting your university choices

Students shortlist their university choices based on criteria such as preferring to live at home, knowing friends who are also going to a specific university, or who perhaps have a set career path, with some universities having the best degree for that career. We have more detailed guide to choosing a university, but regardless of your choices, the next step in the application process is applying through UCAS.

Some students will use the university league tables as a guide to pick out the top universities, or those best for a particular discipline, and you can use our university and course search to narrow down and create your shortlist.

Applying through UCAS

To apply to a UK university, you will need to fill in a UCAS application, where you can apply for up to five courses at the same time. All UK applications are completed via UCAS, and dependent on your course, it’s likely there will be plenty of competition. Deadlines for most courses are January, but some are in October and March – here are some key dates for you. Also beware that if you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge then deadline are much earlier.

Key deadline dates:

  • 15 October 2013 - applications for Oxford, Cambridge or any course in medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science 
  • 15 January 2014  - applications for the majority of courses should arrive at UCAS by 6pm on the 15th 
  • 24 March 2014 - applications for some art and design courses (check course details to confirm the correct deadline as some are 15th Jan)
  • 30 June 2014 - 6pm is the last chance for uni applications to be sent to your chosen unis and colleges; after this date it’s Clearing
  • 2 July 2014 - last date to apply through Extra
  • 31 August 2014 - Adjustment ends
  • 20 September 2014 - the final deadline for applications to 2014 courses
  • 22 October 2014 - the deadline for adding Clearing choices and unis or colleges accepting Clearing applicants

Apart from your personal details and student finance documentation, your UCAS application will also include a personal statement. This is an excellent chance to show all your academic and extracurricular achievements.  You will need to explain why you are applying to your chosen course (remember your personal statement will be used for all five applications, so don't mention any course or university names), why you think you are suitable and what personal skills show you are a suitable candidate. Also, attached with your personal statement will be a reference from your school, which will help reiterate your skills and qualities to universities.

Once your UCAS application has been sent off, you can see your progress on Track. Whilst this is a big step and you will no doubt feel nervous, all you can do is wait for the decisions of your choices. Track allows you to see whether you have been invited to any interviews, have received any university offers or have been rejected.  If you fail to receive any offers, then you can consider UCAS Extra or Clearing.

I want to study abroad

If you want to study abroad as part of your degree, you will have to select a course that offers this option. Usually a study abroad degree is a four year long course, with one year abroad. When you are searching for courses, make sure you recognise the difference between courses that offer a year abroad and those that don't. If a year sounds too long, why not see whether your university is part of the Erasmus exchange or the universitas21 programme - these offer six months abroad at universities around the world.

International students applying to UK universities

Applying to university in the UK as an international student is largely the same process, except there are a few differences. Like other students you fill in an application online on the UCAS website.  You also have access to Track, where you can see which courses you applied for and any offers you have received. However, your offer may have specific conditions, such as completion of an English language test.

You will also need to apply for a visa, to allow you to study within the UK. When you have a place on a course, the course providers will assist you in applying to the UK Border Agency for your visa.

You might be able to receive financial help for your fees - the best way to check this is to visit to see what support you can receive.


Some universities may invite you for an interview during the application process. This is usually for courses that are highly competitive or care-related, as it provides universities with an ideal opportunity to see what you are really like in person.
Courses may expect you to provide examples of your work, which could include a portfolio or an essay. If you are invited to an interview you may be contacted directly, but it should also appear on Track where you can accept, decline or ask for the date and time to be changed.

The best way to prepare for your interview is through planning. Make sure you know when and where your interview will be held. Be ready to answer questions. Try and think about what your interviewer will ask you - this will require research and practice. Use this research to also show your awareness about current affairs in your subject area and in general. Make sure you have a mock interview with your teacher or careers adviser and get feedback - this will help your confidence and preparation for the real interview.

A- Level Results day

A-Level Results is the most important day as a school student, and no one can prepare you for this rollercoaster experience. In the space of hours you will feel a variety of different emotions as you wait for or receive your results.

On the day, you can either use Track to check your results, or you can go into your school to receive your grades. Depending on your results, you can may have the options of Clearing, UCAS Adjustment or will be simply accepting your firm offer. For a detailed guide of what to do on Results Day, read our guide to A-Level results day and our guide to Clearing to help you prepare for the big day!