If you’re in Year 13 and want to go on into higher education after sixth form, you can apply for up to five courses via UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The deadline to apply for most undergraduate courses* is 6pm on Monday 15th January 2018, but it’s likely you will already have completed your UCAS application as your school or college will have requested time to add their reference for you. And your teachers can check any incomplete student applications via the ‘Send to UCAS’ link in Apply.

For those students who have already submitted their UCAS undergraduate application, some will have started to receive offers, some will have had to sit admissions tests and some will have been having interviews – we’ll cover interview tips in more Facebook blogs.

But if you haven’t heard back yet, don’t worry: there can be any number of explanations. Most Unis will make a decision by the end of March and that’s still 11 weeks away!

What can I expect after I’ve sent in my application?

The next thing to expect is an email from UCAS. This will clarify the official date of your application and will quote your personal ID number which you use to then log into UCAS Track.

Track will become your ‘life’ for the next few months as you check regularly throughout the day on the progress of your application and the offers from the Unis that you applied to. However, UCAS will also email you with any updates so, between Track and your emails, it’s really easy to keep on top of your application over the coming weeks.

What else do I need to know about UCAS Track?

UCAS is the window to your application, so it’s important that UCAS (and therefore the Unis) have your correct contact details at all times and you can update these quickly and easily using Track. In the first few days, you can also update your choices on Track. And, as long as you haven’t yet had a reply from the Uni, you can also cancel one of your choices using Track.

What if I’ve changed my mind and don’t want to apply to Uni after all?

If you’ve changed your mind about going to Uni, you can withdraw from UCAS at any time. However, you won’t get a refund if you cancel on Track and you’ll only get your fee refunded if you phone UCAS within two weeks of the date of your undergraduate application.

What are the different Uni offers?

UCAS has a simple system; it comprises standard options which the Unis can select to respond to your application. The most common decisions that you’ll see in Track are: Invitation, Unconditional, Conditional and Unsuccessful.

‘Invitation’ is an interim response which usually means the Uni requires more from you than simply your exam results. Examples could be an audition, portfolio or interview and once this step has been completed, you can expect one of the other three responses.

‘Unconditional’ means that the Uni is so impressed that they want to offer you a place regardless of your exam results: you have a guaranteed offer of a place on the course – if you want to accept it.

‘Conditional’ means that you have an offer of a place, but that you’ll need to first meet certain conditions and the Uni will typically list the exam results/tariff points they will expect from you. Care: these may not be exactly the same as those quoted on the Uni website or on UCAS Search.

‘Unsuccessful’ means that, unfortunately, the Uni is not offering you a place on the course. This is not the end of the road because there are later opportunities to apply via UCAS Extra and via Clearing, but for simplicity, we’ll cover these in a later Facebook article.

What do I do when I see the Uni decisions in Track?

You’ll now need to reflect on the offers you receive and any conditions attached to them then make your replies in Track. You’ll have a few weeks to make your decision depending on how quickly they all come in, but as an example, if you have received all your decisions by 31st March, you’ll have until 2nd May 2018 to respond – you then reply via Track.

Care: don’t rush anything.

You may not be faced with exactly the same five choices you made when you originally applied: one may be an ‘unconditional’ offer, another may be ‘unsuccessful’ and the others may not have the same expected grades attached to them.

It’s time to reflect and potentially to reprioritise your plans. Talk to your family, talk to your subject teachers and tutors, go back onto the Uni websites and onto UCAS Search to remind yourself why you applied in the first place.

Narrowing it down to a Firm and Insurance choice

From the original five, you’ll then be expected to whittle this down to just two: a Firm choice and an Insurance choice.

The Firm choice is your favourite; it’s the one you most want to go to. If your Firm choice is an ‘unconditional’ offer, you won’t need an Insurance choice. However, assuming it is ‘conditional’, you’ll need an Insurance choice as a back-up plan.

Please just think very hard before deciding on an Insurance choice which has very similar conditions to the Firm choice because if you don’t get the grades in August, you won’t be going to either! Instead, why not consider one of your less demanding offers? At least then you have a Plan B which is holding a place for you in reserve. The remaining courses, you decline.

What if you’re going to miss the January deadline?

Well, it is still possible to apply later! UCAS have the January deadline to make it easier to manage the millions of applications they have to process every year. The application process runs smoothly because of these deadlines, but if you still want to apply, then you can – just call the Unis first to see if they have any vacancies left.

And if a course is very popular and over-subscribed, you may simply need to reconsider. Otherwise the next deadline is 30th June and any undergraduate applications received after this will go into UCAS ‘clearing’ – more on that in a future blog.

There’s further details on the UCAS website, on UCAS videos, on the many careers advice and guidance websites and in person from your teachers and tutors. UCAS also have a student helpline: 0371 468 0468 for undergraduate applications as well as a dedicated teachers and advisers’ helpline.

* Care: the entry deadline for some art and design courses is 24th March 2018.

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