Applying through UCAS

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What is UCAS?

UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It provides an impartial service that enables you to apply to universities, performing arts colleges, and conservatoires in the UK.


Applications open on 1 September for entry the following September. Most courses have an application deadline of 31 January for 2024. If there are places left on the course you can still apply up to the end of June.

After this date, your application will become part of the Clearing process. If you’re applying through Clearing, your process for applying will be slightly different. Read our guide to how Clearing works.

Making an application

You apply by filling out a form at The form allows you to apply to a maximum of five institutions. The good news is that you only complete the form once and it will be sent to all the universities you’ve selected.

The form is broken down into different sections covering your contact information, academic history, and a personal statement that enables you to outline your passion and enthusiasm for the subject you want to study. Read our guidance on creating a personal statement that stands out.

Your application also needs to include a reference from someone who knows you well and can talk about your suitability for the subject you want to study, such as a teacher at school or college. You will need to pay a fee to UCAS to submit your application. 

Understanding your offers

Once your application has been submitted, you can follow its progress on UCAS track. This is how you will hear about the decision a university has made.

There are three possible outcomes:

  • A conditional offer
  • An unconditional offer
  • A rejected application

A conditional offer is the most common type of offer. It means that if you achieve the grades they’ve asked for, and any other conditions, such as English language requirements, you will be able to attend the university.

An unconditional offer is less common. It means that you have been given a place regardless of the grades you achieve. These are usually given to students who have achieved exceptional results or applicants who are applying after a gap year and have already achieved the entrance requirements.

If your application is rejected it means that it has not been successful. You can always ask for feedback from the university, and they can let you know what you need to do to be successful next time round.

Deciding between your offers

Take a look at your offers and decide which university you most want to go to.

To help you work out which is your top choice, you might want to attend open days or applicant days where you can talk to academics and current students to find out more about studying at the university. 

Once you’ve chosen your favourite, you make this your firm choice. As long as you meet the conditions of your offer, you’ll be able to attend this university.

You also need to choose an insurance choice. This is a back-up in case you don’t get the grades for your firm choice. You should still really like this university and the grades should be lower than your firm choice.

You then decline all the other offers that have been made to you. All of your decisions are recorded in UCAS Track. You do not need to contact the universities directly.

On A-level Results Day, if you’ve received the grades you need, your place at your firm or insurance choice university will be confirmed in UCAS Track.

If you didn’t get the grades you needed for your firm or insurance choice, don’t panic. There will be lots of options to apply to other universities through Clearing in August.