How do I use UCAS?

Unfortunately, UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) will end up being both your devil and your angel for a few months of your life, if you decide to go to university. But never fear, Career Camel is here with a guide to get you through it with as little stress as possible. Follow the guide below and you’ll be just fine.

1) Check deadlines

See when your course deadline for applying is, and then get into action well in advance. Most deadlines are in January but make sure you check because some are in October and some are in March. If you’re applying through school or college they might have an earlier deadline too so they can sort out your reference, so make sure you bear that in mind too.

2) Get applying

As soon as you can, get registered on UCAS here. You’ll fill in some basic personal details, set a username and password, and take note of some security questions. If you’re at school or college, you’ll include the buzzword you were given by the centre. If you’re applying independently, you’ll answer a few extra questions.

3) Log in

Once you’re signed up, you can log back in and fill in the rest of your personal details. This will include your funding and sponsorship, residential status, special needs and disabilities and any criminal convictions. Sounds complicated, but the simple application process will take you through it step-by-step! Add your email address too and verify it – that way you can be instantly notified if the status of your application changes.

4) Fill in some additional information

If you’re a UK applicant, you’ll be asked to fill in some optional questions for statistical, not selection, purposes. They include ethnic origin, national identity, summer schools or taster course, care, parental education and occupational background. You can also add your student finance arrangements – this isn’t your actual application but UCAS can share your details with the appropriate organisations to speed up the process, if you so wish.

5) Add your course choices

When you’ve made your course decisions using helpful advice from Career Camel, you can choose up to five courses, and you do not have to enter a preference order. Your universities or colleges will not see where else you’ve applied until you reply to any offers you receive. There are a couple of restrictions though: if you’re applying to study medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science, you can only apply to a maximum of four courses. Also if you can only apply to one course at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge if you’re applying as an undergraduate.

6) Enter your education

You must enter your full education history, including the most recent institute you have attended/are attending. You then need to enter all of the qualifications you have received a result for, even if they were ungraded. Add in any qualifications for which you’re waiting on results for, and then check this list – if your qualifications are listed then UCAS automatically sends on your results to your chosen university or college. If they are not listed, you will need to send your results to your university or college yourself once you have received them.

7) Add your employment history

If you’ve had any full-time or part-time paid jobs, you can add details for up to five of them. You must include company names, contact details, a job description and how long you were working there for. Save unpaid and voluntary work for your personal statement.

8) Write your personal statement

Check out Career Camel’s ultimate guide to writing a perfect personal statement on the next page.

9) Proof-read!

Check through everything, even the most basic of details, to ensure there are no mistakes. Then mark it as complete, save it, and agree to the final declaration (exciting!).

10) Get your reference

If you are applying through your school or college, they will do this for you after you’ve paid. If you’re applying as an individual, you need to find somebody who knows you academically – a teacher, tutor, or employer. Once someone has agreed to write it, give them plenty of time to do so and add their email and phone number to the reference page, clicking ‘Ask referee to complete reference’. They will then complete it online, and you will be emailed once it has been submitted.

11) Pay your fee

If you’re applying to just one course, the fee is £12, or if you’re applying to multiple courses or sending your application after June 30, it’s £23. It is payable by credit or debit card online. Remember you can only apply once per cycle, so make sure you get it right!

12) Get tracking

Once you’ve applied, you’ll receive a welcome email and you can log into track, UCAS’ online system. Basically there’s not a lot you can do until you’re emailed an update to your application, then you can log in and see if you’ve been invited to interview, or offered a place on the course. If you’ve been made an unconditional offer, congratulations! You have a confirmed place at that university or college. If you have been made a conditional offer, it means if your future results meet the requirements of the course, you have a place at that university or college. Your application to a course may also be unsuccessful.

Once you’ve received (or not received – see below) all your offers, you can reply to the offers you’ve been made. If you’re lucky enough to have received more than one offer, you can choose which is your firm choice and which is your insurance – your insurance should have lower entry requirements than your firm, in case you miss your firm offer. Once this is done, all you need to do is try your best in your exams and then wait for your results!

13) Going into adjustment or clearing

So you’ve got your results and logged into track. If you got what you needed to meet your firm or insurance offer, congratulations! But if you didn’t meet either of your offers, or if you received no offers at all, it’s time to check out other options. First of all, call up your firm and insurance choices, and see if they’ll still take you; if you only narrowly missed your offers, you may still have a chance (the same goes if you met your insurance offer, but just missed your firm). If this doesn’t work, you can go through clearing, which allows you to apply to unfilled university places. Remember though, don’t make a rushed decision as your choices will be limited and you may be forced to completely change your course. So if you want to resit and reapply with higher grades next year, or take a gap year [LINK] and gain some work experience, that’s fine too!

If you absolutely smashed your firm offer (well done!) you might want to consider adjustment. This allows you to search for places with higher grader offers – you have five days to search, with your firm place secure, and must accept a place by August 31. There is no obligation to do this though if you’re happy with your firm place!

If you’ve followed all of the steps above, then congratulations, you’ve survived UCAS. You’re ready to begin your university adventure!