Parents Advice is available at  This is a bespoke   section to support parents of students going into higher education.  Not only   can parents sign up for quarterly e-newsletters to receive timely information   and advice as well as download a PDF copy of our Parent Guide, but they can also   find out about finance, offers and how their son or daughter can make an   informed decision for their higher education future.


UCAS (the universities and colleges admission service) is  the vehicle through which students apply to universities and colleges to  undertake degrees after they have completed their two years in the sixth form.  Applications are online and can be completed on any computer that has an  internet connection. The website, is full of useful information about applying and has links to all  university/college websites. You can apply to attend university in the academic  year after you have finished school, or you can defer entry until the year  after. Either way, we recommend that you complete an application during year  13, even if you are taking a gap year, because it is easier to do than the following  year when you might be planning to be abroad. The choice is however, yours. You  might like to apply after leaving school when you know what your A2 grades are.

The great majority of students choose to apply  for the maximum number of 5 separate courses that UCAS allows. These courses  can be chosen from any of those listed in the UCAS webpage; you can even apply  to 5 courses in the same university if you want to! There is no ‘first choice’  university, and no one university knows where else you have applied to. In high  demand subjects, like medicine and veterinary science, students are limited to  4 such choices; the other 1 must be an alternative course as a back up in case  you are rejected by your medical choices. It is very important that you  write down your UCAS passwords and remember where you have put them! You don’t  want to have to phone UCAS and have to admit to losing them, so be organised  from the beginning of the process. The UCAS charge is £22 for 5 entries. You  will have to arrange to pay UCAS by a debit card before your application is  sent off.

What follows is a chronology of the UCAS year.  This process will take a year to complete, beginning in June of year 12 when  you will register with UCAS and ending the following August when hopefully you  will receive confirmation that you have a place on one of your two choices of  university or college courses. The aim of this section is to give you the  relevant information so you know what to expect to do, and when to do it!

For those entering university in autumn 2012,  the UCAS offices are open to receive completed applications from the middle of  September 2011. When they receive your application, they send individual  applications to each of your 5 choices. UCAS has 2 deadlines, October 15th  2011 for all applications to Oxbridge and all medical, dental and veterinary  degrees and January 15th 2012 for all other applications.   These are the deadlines for the forms to be  emailed to UCAS, not the internal school deadline; make sure that you  are aware of these internal deadlines.


  1. Late June 2011. Register with UCAS in a General  Studies lesson.  This process  generates your unique passwords; don’t lose them!  You will register under your form  grouping so your tutor can monitor your progress.
  2. By the end of the summer term you should have completed  the sections on personal details, part time employment, the GCSE section of the  qualifications and have written a first draft of your personal statement.
  3. Those applying to study medicine, veterinary science,  dentistry, some law and academic subject courses will need to take aptitude  tests in the Autumn term. It is your responsibility to find out what the  registration requirements are, as these vary considerably. (See your Head of  Year or form tutor). These tests incur costs. Check the UCAS and university websites  for further details.
  4. During the summer holidays you should continue to  research your university/college choices and undertaking any relevant work  experience.
  5. After results day you should update your form to include  your AS results and your 3 or 4 subject choices for A2 study.
  6. In early September you will be issued with a UCAS  planning sheet. You must then obtain your predicted A2 grades from your subject  teachers so as to inform an appropriate course choice. You have to initiate  these conversations with your subject teachers; they will not do it for you.
  7. Shortly after Parents’ Evening in mid-September, you  should enter any AS re-sit modules in the qualification section. Your results  should now have been entered chronologically.
  8. As a result of this research, you should then complete  your course choices and your personal statement. (See separate section on  writing a personal statement).
  9. This is a formal document and you must take great care  to complete it with absolute accuracy. Too often students make careless errors  which slow down the whole process unnecessarily. After final corrections have  been made, you should then send the final document electronically to your Head  of Year.
  10. Once your form has been approved by your Head of Year  the Head will make an appointment with you to discuss your reference.

          Once the Head completes your reference, your Head of  Year can send off your application to UCAS. 

Deadlines. Read This Carefully!

You can see that all of this will take time,  especially if the Head has many references to write at the same time,  consequently, Oxbridge, medical, dental and veterinary candidates should aim  to submit their completed UCAS forms to their Head of Year by the start of October. Non-Oxbridge applicants should aim to apply by the start of November. It  is a however a balancing act between getting your choices right by undertaking  thorough research into university courses, which takes time, and deciding in  haste and making an inappropriate choice. Some courses may allocate places  by mid-November and so a prompt application is encouraged. It is a good  idea to attend open days to help you make up your mind BUT don’t overdo this  and miss important work at school; attend as many in the summer holidays and at  weekends as you can. You must excuse yourself from lessons to attend an open  day. Only attend open days for courses which ask for grades which you can  realistically achieve.

After your application has been sent to UCAS,  you can track its progress through the UCAS website. This enables you to see  what decisions the universities and colleges have made about your application. Again  you will need your UCAS passwords to access this service, so don’t lose them! Universities  and colleges will inform you of their decisions on-line. The possibilities are;  rejection (their loss, not yours), decision pending (they might be waiting for  more applicants before they decide. Don’t worry, this is not necessarily a bad  sign) and conditional offer, (they offer you a place provided you get certain  grades or points). Unconditional offers are usually only given to those  students who already have A2 grades. When you have all 5 decisions you will be  sent an offer letter from UCAS. This does not usually happen until after February  2012. This will detail the outcome of your 5 choices. The best outcome would be  5 conditional offers and the worst would be 5 rejections. In the case of the  latter, you have the option of applying to UCAS Extra, which allows you to  apply for  a further university course.  If this applies to you, you must seek advice from your form tutor or Head of  Year.

With your letter you will be sent an ‘Offers  Deadline’. This is the date by which you must have decided which offers to keep  and which to reject. If you don’t reply to UCAS by this deadline you will  lose all offers and therefore will have no university or college place to go to  in September (next September for gap year students); there are no exceptions.  The date of this deadline varies individually, so don’t be worried if it isn’t  the same as your friends. You can hold 2 offers, one your ‘firm’ offer and one  your ‘insurance’ offer. Your firm offer is the course with the higher  grade/points requirement and the insurance offer is the offer with the lower grade/points  requirement and will only be taken up if you fail to get the grades needed for  your firm offer. There is little point selecting a firm and insurance offer  with the same points/grades because if you fail to get the grades needed, you  won’t get a place on either course! The whole point of the system is to give  you a safety net, in the form of your insurance choice, to use if you don’t get  the grade/points you expect to in the exams. Although we hope that you achieve  the grades required for your firm offer course, you must be equally happy to attend  your insurance offer course if necessary.

On results day you should hopefully achieve the  grade/points needed to take up your firm or insurance offer. If you have just  missed the requirements, it is worth phoning up the university or college to  see if you can still take up your place. School will be open on this day to  give help and advice. Bring in your UCAS passwords, as the computers will be  available for you to check your status. If you fail to get either of your 2  offers, you can go into ‘clearing’. In this process UCAS will attempt to get  you a place on the basis of matching your results with any places on courses  that haven’t yet been filled. This can happen quickly, literally in hours, or  it can take longer, over a few days. It is best to be around during this  period, so that you can respond quickly to any offers that clearing gives you.  You are welcome to come into school and use the computers to help you during  this period.

 Finally, if you are still confused after reading  this tome, seek advice, don’t just drift along and hope for the best; be  proactive, after all it’s your future and therefore you should put lots of  effort into making it the future you want to inhabit!

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