All UK university applications for full-time undergraduate courses need to be made through the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Regardless of the course or university you are applying to, having a good grasp on the UCAS deadlines can make the application process smooth for you.

Unlike US universities, UK universities do not have early decision/regular decision differentiation. The deadlines are fixed and may be different based on the course you wish to pursue (medicine applicants need to apply well in advance compared to other course applicants). However, since the UCAS is the portal through which you are doing your registration, all Universities in the UK follow the same deadlines.

Keep in mind that all applications:

  • For Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary courses need to be done by 15 October 2018, for 2019 intake.
  • For majority of the other courses, the official deadline for application is 15th January 2019, for 2019 intake.
  • Some art and design courses keep the deadline on 24th March 2019, for 2019 intake. (Check the details of the course to see if this applies to you)

The above points summarize the key dates you need to keep in mind if you intend on applying to the UK. Below is a more detailed view on these dates, other services that the UCAS offers, when you should ideally be expecting results from the universities, and other procedural requirements.

How many universities to apply to?

In the UCAS, students can only apply to five universities. This restriction makes it important for students to know how to space out limited university choices – in terms of the ones they aspire to join, ones where they have a good chance of getting into, and ones they believe they definitely will get into.

Students should not have all the 5 chosen institutions be the top universities in the UK – this would be a very risky thing to do, especially when their test scores and school grades fall short of the requirements. Students need to have some backup options at the same time, so that such a case doesn’t arise where they are admitted to none of the five universities.

There is another restriction – among the 5, students can only choose 4 universities for Medicine. This means that students need to carefully choose their final option – as they might end up with that option if they are rejected from the 4 medical programs.

Lastly, there are some restrictions in the combination of universities students apply to. For more information on this, refer to the last section titled ‘Extra Notes on Universities’.

What is the best time to send in the application?

Applying early allows students to know their results earlier. This keeps them mentally aware on their likelihood of getting into a college, and allows them to plan their next course of action in advance. However, some students prefer to turn in their application a bit later. This could either be due to taking the test a bit late, resulting in the delay of the results, or due to an activity that you want to include in your UCAS being conducted during the later half of the application.

Whatever the case, students applying to medicine need to submit their application by 15th October 2018. Predicted grades, test scores, and other activities/research opportunities that have been undertaken need to be organized, completed, and provided to UCAS by this date. Students applying to other courses get a bit more time to enhance and build their application, but the same does not hold true for medicine applicants, and so it is necessary to keep track of your application procedures according to the course you are applying to.

The UCAS application is a one-time thing – no changes can be made once you have sent in your UCAS. This is why it is important for students to meet all the prerequisites of the university well in advance so that they need not worry about not having completed something in the last minute.

When should you be expecting to hear from the universities?

Universities usually have deadlines assigned to them by the UCAS which details by when they have to give their decision on an application, usually by the beginning of May (the exact date will be published on the UCAS’ official website that can be accessed by applicants). Depending on when students have applied, they will get their results back accordingly (if they applied earlier in the admissions process, they should expect receiving their results earlier and vice versa).

If students do get selected, the next step would ideally be an interview. Over half the medical schools require candidates to attend interviews at the university. However, the remaining medical schools do make alternate arrangements such as video-conferencing over Skype, flying interviewers to Asia, or providing a video-link for the interview at a local agency.

If students are successful in the interview, they would get a conditional offer from the university with a required score that they need to get in the final exams so as to secure a seat in the university.

What if I don't get into any of the colleges I applied to?

If students do not get accepted into any of their five choices of colleges, UCAS offers a facility known as UCAS Extra, allowing students to add a sixth choice to their application. There is no guarantee that students will get into the college that are selected as a 6th option, but there is still an opportunity to try. The application for UCAS Extra opens later in the application process (25th January 2018) and the deadline for it also differs from the normal one (4th July 2018). Check out the UCAS website for more details on this.

Extra notes on some colleges

University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford (Oxbridge):

Candidates may not apply to both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the same application round. Although the reason for this restriction is not clear, it allows students to think more deeply about which University they really want to choose (the final choice being a highly individual one).

University of Warwick:

Do not offer undergraduate courses.

Swansea University:

Do not offer undergraduate courses.

University of Buckingham:

Applications can be made independent of UCAS.

Courses start in January instead of October (so if you are looking to start college late, this might be a good option)

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