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 the US, UK has no 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 15th October 2017.
- For majority of the other courses, the official deadline for application is 15th January 2018.
- Some art and design courses keep the deadline on 24th March 2018. (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.
In the UCAS, you can only apply to five universities. This restriction makes it important for you to know how to space out limited university choices in terms of which ones you aspire to join, which ones you have a good chance of getting into, and which ones you definitely feel you will get into. You cannot have all the 5 institutions you choose be the top universities in the UK – this would be a very risky thing to do, especially when your test scores and school grades fall short of the requirements. You need to have some backup options at the same time, so that such a case doesn’t arise where none of the five universities admits you (even though there is a facility UCAS offers for such a situation).
There is another restriction – among the 5, you can only choose 4 universities for Medicine. That means you need to have carefully choose your final option – as you might end up with that if you get rejected from the 4 medical programs.
Lastly, there are some restrictions in the combination of universities you apply to. For more information on this, refer to the last subheading ‘Extra Notes on Universities’.
Applying early has its advantages of getting to know your results earlier. This keeps you mentally aware about your likelihood of getting into a college, and lets you plan in advance your next course of action. However, some students prefer to turn in their application a bit later. This could either be because you are taking a test a bit late, and the results for that won’t be out soon, or because you are going to do an activity in the later half of the application timeline that you might want to include on your UCAS.
Whatever the case, students applying to medicine need to give in their application by 15th October. Predicted grades, test scores, and other activities/research opportunities student has undertaken – all 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 you meet all the prerequisites of the university you are applying to (such as taking a test) well in advance so that you don’t have to worry about not having completed something in the last minute.
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 you applied, you will get your results back accordingly (if you applied earlier in the admissions process somewhere in Sep-Oct, then you should be expecting your results earlier; if you applied somewhere in Dec-Jan, you might get the results a bit later).
If you do get selected, the next step would ideally be an interview. Over half the medical schools absolutely 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 you are successful in the interview, you would get a conditional offer from the university with a required score that you need to get in your final exams so as to secure a seat in the university.
If you are unfortunate enough to not get accepted into any of your five choices of colleges, UCAS offers a facility known as UCAS Extra, allowing you to add a sixth choice to your application. There is no guarantee that you will get into the college that you put down as a 6th option, but you still get 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.
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.
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)