University Tips Blog
An image of a parent and student discussing a university application
A headshot image of the author, Susie Kilburn

by Susie Kilburn

UK Student Recruitment and Schools Liaison Officer at City, University of London

posted on 5 Jan '24

A guide to the university admissions process and offer-making

Supporting your young person through the university admissions process may be a slightly daunting experience, whether you’ve been through it yourself or not. Here’s a short summary of the admissions process to help.

Application timelines

• UCAS applications can be submitted from the middle of September in Year 13

• The deadline for students applying to all courses at Oxford and Cambridge, or at all universities for Medicine, Veterinary Science/Medicine and Dentistry was 16 October (for 2024 entry)

• The deadline for all other courses and institutions for 2024 entry is 31 January 2024

Your young person will usually be given an earlier internal deadline by their school or college, and it’s important they adhere to this over the national deadlines.

What do admission tutors receive from UCAS?

From the student:

• key personal information (e.g., nationality, education, work experience etc.)

• their personal statement

From their school/college:

• a reference, which may include contextual or individual circumstances

• predicted grades for any qualifications the student is currently completing and actual grades for achieved qualifications, such as GCSEs

Depending on the course and university, your young person may be required to take an additional step in their application such as an interview or test. It should be clear on the university course pages if any of these stages are required. The student’s performance at this stage will be considered by the university before they provide a response.

Using this information, admissions tutors then consider:

• does this student meet the entry requirements for the course?

• does this student show enthusiasm for the course?

• does this student have the skills and experiences needed to succeed on the course?

Admission tutors are not able to see the other universities your young person has applied to at this stage.

Offers your young person may receive:

• Conditional: They have been offered a place on their chosen course, providing that they meet the grades specified by the university

• Unconditional: They have been offered a place that carries no conditions

• Alternative course: The university has not been able to offer your young person a place on the course they originally applied for, but have offered them a place on an alternative programme

• Unsuccessful: They have not been offered a place

Response timeframes vary from university to university, but they all have a decision deadline to meet which is usually around the third week of May.

Your young person will typically select two offers:

• a firm choice – this should be their top choice

• an insurance choice – this is their back-up choice. Their insurance choice should have lower predicted grades in case they miss the grades for their firm choice

If your young person does not receive any offers, or decides to decline the offers they receive, they have the option to apply to another university through UCAS Extra (until 4 July) and/or Clearing (from 5 July).

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