UCAS Application Cycle

Making an informed and strong application through UCAS is a lengthy process, lasting approximately 18 months from initial research to enrolling on a degree programme.

The UCAS application process can be broken down into four distinct sections.

Step 1


Research should begin as early as possible, ideally during the GCSE years to ensure that the correct suite of FE qualifications are selected and that the necessary GCSE grades are obtained.

Once a student enters the sixth form their research should increase, they should be encouraged to request prospectuses, attend Open Days, UCAS fairs and ask lots of questions to ensure that they are fully informed about all of the options available to them and that the decisions they subsequently reach are as focused as possible.

Step 2


Students can start to complete the sections of the UCAS form in the July of year 12 and continue to work on it throughout the summer.

Applications officially open in September of year 13 and close in October for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science and in January for all other courses. Forms received after this date will be marked as late and universities are not under any obligation to consider them.

At this stage students do not have to indicate or rank their course choices in order of preference, they are listed alphabetically and UCAS act as a mailing house, it is not possible for a university to see the other institution choices that an applicant has made.

Students should be made aware that they only make one application and therefore they need to ensure that their course choices are either the same or similar so that their form remains focused.

Step 3

Making final choices

If an application is received on time, then students will receive decisions from their university choices.

They then have until May to decide which will be their first choice of university (known as their Firm) and their second choice (known as their insurance), once this decision has been reached students need to indicate their preference on the UCAS Hub.

Please advise that this is irreversible, so discarded courses at this stage cannot be retrieved.

In order for the Insurance choice to act as a life line should results not be as expected it should ideally have an offer of 40 UCAS points/two grades lower than the Firm choice – although this may not always be possible.

Ultimately, the Firm choice needs to be the one that the student most wants to attend.

Step 4

Results and confirmation

Once a student receives their FE results it will hopefully be a time to celebrate! If they have met (or exceeded) the conditions of their Firm offer then their place will be confirmed, similarly if they have missed their Firm but achieved their Insurance offer then this will be confirmed.

If a student has unfortunately missed the grades required for both Firm and Insurance then they will be entered into Clearing and able to approach alternative institutions to try and secure a place.

Once their place has been confirmed students can continue to prepare everything that they may need and begin the countdown to their Freshers week!

The university application process

Year 12

Year 13

Next steps