Everything you need to know to complete and submit your UCAS form, and what to look out for along the way.

Student loans aren’t the only tough decision to make come application time. Finding the right University to apply to and how to apply is a difficult process. It’s even harder knowing how to make your application a successful one.

When can I apply?

UCAS Undergraduate Apply is currently open for 2017 entry. You can start preparing your application now. Submissions are accepted from 6 September.

The deadline for most undergraduate courses is 15 January 2017, but you should check the course details to be sure. Some art and design courses may have a later deadline. Most courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science have an earlier deadline of 15 October 2016. Applications to Oxford and Cambridge University also require submissions by 15 October 2016.

Where do I apply?

First you need to register. You’ll be asked to enter a buzzword, which links your application to your college or 6th form (ask your form tutor if you’re not sure what this is). If you’re applying independently, you just need to answer a few extra questions. Now you’re ready to get started.

What goes into my application?

  • Personal details

This includes your funding and sponsorship options, residential status and special needs or disabilities. Your email address is important so UCAS can notify you by email you when your application is updated.

  • Finance

In this section, you need to let UCAS know how you’ll be funding your studies and give permission for UCAS to share your details with the relevant organisations. This just helps speed up your funding applications.

Most students choose to take out a government student loan, which offers low interest rates and graduate-friendly repayment terms. Any bursaries, scholarships or awards you’ve applied for (these are offered by individual universities) should also be noted down here

If you think you’ll need further financial help, take a look at what Future Finance can offer. You’ll also find heaps of money advice on our blog. Try our Six tips for managing your student finance or read up on How government student loans work.

  • Course choices

Did you know there are over 37,000 undergraduate courses at 395 providers in the UK? Well, it’s time to narrow down your dream degree or college course to just five choices.* There’s no order of priority and the universities or colleges you apply to won’t see who else is on your list. You don’t have to give five choices, but the more back ups, the better.

*The rules are a little different if: 1) You’re applying for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science. The maximum number of courses you can apply to in any of these subjects is four. Or 2) You’re applying to Oxford or Cambridge University. You can only apply to one course at either Oxford or Cambridge.

  • Education history

All qualifications, achieved or pending, must be entered here. If you’re an international student and your qualifications aren’t listed, just add them in the ‘Other’ box. You may be asked to provide proof later on.

  • Employment history

This section is for any paid jobs. You should save details of your voluntary work for the personal statement.

  • Personal statement

This is without a doubt the toughest part of any UCAS application. Your goal is to sell yourself and describe your motivations for applying to your courses in a compelling way. You should expect to write a few drafts and get feedback from teachers, friends and family before it’s ready to submit. Need a few pointers? UCAS offers some helpful advice on writing a UCAS undergraduate personal statement.

  • Reference

You’ll need a written recommendation from a teacher or another professional who can vouch for your academic performance. Don’t use personal contacts, such as friends or family, as your application may be cancelled as a result. It’s a good idea to discuss the content of your reference with your referee first. Make sure they’re aware of anything pertinent, for example, relevant work experience and any long-term career goals. The reference can also include details of any personal circumstances that have affected, or could affect, your academic performance.

How much will my UCAS application cost?

The application fee is £13 if you’re applying to one course, and £24 for multiple-course applications. You’ll also be charged £24 if your application is sent after the 30 June deadline. Either you’ll pay UCAS direct, or indirectly via your 6th form or college.

When will I hear back? How long do I have to accept?

The deadline for decisions and accepting offers will depend on when you submit. Check UCAS key dates for details.

What happens if I don’t get an offer?

On 25 February, Extra opens. This means you can add additional courses to your application before 30 June (when UCAS Apply closes) if you’ve received rejections for all your course choices, or if you’ve declined all your offers (if you’re still waiting to hear back from a uni or college, you’ll need to cancel the choice in order to add a new course via Extra).

Only courses with vacancies will be available via Extra. You’ll find a list on the UCAS website. You can only add one course at a time, so you won’t have an insurance choice this time. If you still hold no offers by 5 July, you can go through Clearing.

For more help with your application, go to the UCAS website.

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