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UCAS and the application process

UCAS and the application process

UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Almost everyone who applies for an undergraduate degree in the UK will apply through this service.

Once an application has been submitted, its progress can be monitored through the online service, UCAS Track. For other types of HE qualifications, such as HNDs, HNCs and full-time foundation degrees, applications are usually made directly to the institution, and not through UCAS.

View or download our Applicant Guide and Clearing Guide 2023

Personal statements

The personal statement gives applicants the chance to sell themselves and demonstrate why they have what it takes to be successful in their studies.

Contrary to what you might hear, the personal statement is a critical part of the application process. In fact, with the more popular courses, such as psychology, it can make or break an application.

When writing a strong personal statement, it helps if the applicant has engaged in extra-curricular activities during their time in school or further education. These could include:

• Duke of Edinburgh Award
• Ten Tors
• volunteering
• sports or music clubs
• part-time jobs
• summer schools or residential trips

Admissions tutors love to see these types of activities, as they show commitment, teamwork, time management skills and much more!

Results day

A-level results day will be one of the biggest occasions in a student’s life so far. It can be a stressful day for both pupils and parents, especially if the results are not what were expected.
Familiarising yourself with the possible outcomes below will help ensure your day is memorable for the right reasons.

Clearing and adjustment

When a student doesn’t achieve high enough grades to get onto their firm or insurance offers, UCAS Track will show their status as being in Clearing, along with their Clearing number.

Clearing gives applicants a chance to apply for a different course at the same, or different, institution. It’s also a chance for universities and colleges to fill empty spaces.

Remember, thousands of students get into university or college each year through Clearing. Many report that although they were initially upset about not making their first choice, going through Clearing worked out best for them in the end.

Adjustment is for applicants who have surprised themselves by exceeding their results. It allows them to apply for a course that has higher entry requirements, if they so wish.

For those that have been accepted to university or college, but have decided to take a gap year, deferred entry might be an option. This is when a place on a course is held for a person to start the following year.

Clearing 2021 is our guide containing everything you need to know about the process – plus we have a guide especially designed for parents and carers

Possible outcomes on results day

They receive the grades required for their firm (first) choice.
Well done! Check with UCAS Track (online) to ensure the system has updated (this might take a day or two), then start planning for the exciting times ahead!

They receive the grades required for their insurance (second) choice, but not their firm choice.
This is still a reason to be cheerful! Although not their first choice, they will be going to university or college. Check that UCAS Track has updated, and then start planning. If the applicant only just missed out on the grades required for their first choice, it might be worth contacting the HEI, as sometimes (but not always) they will make an exception.

They receive higher grades than expected.
In this case, applicants will have secured their firm choice, but have the option to make an Adjustment and apply for a course that has higher entry requirements. This could be at the same, or a different HEI.

They don’t receive the grade required for their firm, or insurance choice.
Don’t panic! All is not lost. Check in with UCAS Track, or contact the first and second choice HEI, as there’s still a chance of being accepted. If not, the applicant will be automatically entered into Clearing.

Find out more: UCAS

Next: Support for students in higher education

Previous: Choosing a course, and university and college


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