Applying through UCAS – a guide for parents of international studentsby Judith Charlton
Applying to university is an exciting time for your child, especially if they have decided they want to study at a university in the UK.
As a parent, you want to support them. However, the key to this is understanding UCAS for international students, how the UK university application process works, and what your child needs to do to secure their place at university.
(Although we use the terms child/parent throughout this blog for simplicity, it is intended for anyone fulfilling a parenting role.)
What is UCAS?
Applications to UK universities are made online through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
UCAS provides information, advice and admissions services to students applying for undergraduate courses in the UK.
Applying through UCAS
Your child can apply independently, or get help with their university application from a local adviser or education agent. This could be a member of staff at their school or college, an advisory service or an agency that provides information about studying in the UK.
We work with a number of agents in countries around the world who support students applying to us. To find out more, check out our country pages – type in your country and select the 'Apply' tab to see the agents we work with.
When your child applies, they will need to register with UCAS online. They will be guided to create their own UCAS Hub and this will be their personal online space where they will prepare and submit their application. The Hub is also where they will track their university application and any offers they receive.
To register, they will fill in a short form, enter their name, email address and create a password. They must keep this password safe as they will need it every time they log in to their Hub.
They must apply in English, but they can use some European characters in their personal details, personal statement, employment and referee details (more about these sections later).
After registering they will be taken to their Hub dashboard where they will be able to select the ‘Your Application’ tile to start their application.
As part of their application via their UCAS Hub, your child will need to supply some basic information about themselves, including:
- contact details
- education history
- details of any part-time paid jobs
- English language proficiency and any tests they have taken, such as IELTS and TOEFL
- how they expect to pay for their studies
They’ll also have to complete a number of key sections:
1. Adding course choices
Your child will be able to add up to five university course choices to their application. They don’t have to fill in all five options, but the more courses they apply to, the more chances they have of securing an offer.
They can only apply to a maximum of four courses in:
- veterinary medicine
- veterinary science
However, they can use their last choice to apply for a completely different subject.
They can only apply to either the University of Oxford OR the University of Cambridge.
Before adding their choices, your child will need to check the course entrance requirements – these are the grades and conditions they must meet to be accepted on to a degree programme. UK universities set their own entrance requirements, so these will vary depending on the subject and the institution.
At Newcastle, we accept a broad range of EU and international qualifications. Your child can find the relevant entrance requirements for the qualifications they are studying on our course pages.
2. Writing a personal statement
As part of their UCAS application, your child will need to submit a personal statement. It is an important part of their application and could be the very thing that earns them a place to study their dream subject at their favourite university.
Although they might be applying to multiple universities, they only need to write one personal statement. However, it needs to reflect their suitability for all the courses they are applying for.
They will need to tell a university about their ambitions, skills, and passion for their subject. and why they want to study in the UK – so it can be tough to write, To help we have developed a guide you can download, giving practical advice on how they should structure their statement, as well as tips from our academics, staff and students.
3. Attaching a reference
Your child will need to attach a reference to their application. This is a written recommendation from a teacher, adviser or professional who knows them academically and can talk about their work at school and their suitability for higher education.
If they are applying independently, they will need to supply their referee’s details, including an email address, so that UCAS can contact them.
Or they may be given a ‘buzzword’ by their teachers to add to their application. This links their application to their school or college, allowing their teachers to attach their references.
4. Application fees
The application fee is £27.50 for up to five choices. They will be guided as to how they can pay this fee online.
5. Submit before the deadline
Although university courses in the UK usually start in September, the deadline to apply can be almost a year in advance.
If your child is applying to start their studies in September 2024, they should submit their application to UCAS by:
- 16 October 2023 – for Oxford and Cambridge applications and most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry
- 31 January 2024 – for the majority of undergraduate courses
Universities may continue to accept applications from international students after the January deadline. If your child applies via UCAS after 30 June 2024, they will be automatically entered into Clearing (more about this below).
Your child will be able to check the progress of their application at any time by signing in to their UCAS Hub.
They will be able to see if they have been made any offers and, if so, whether they are:
- Unconditional: they are guaranteed a place regardless of their exam results
- Conditional: they need to meet certain entrance requirements
- Unsuccessful: they haven’t been made an offer
Replying to offers
Once your child has received decisions on all their university choices, it is time to reply to their offers.
They will need to sign in to their UCAS Hub and choose:
- a ‘firm’ choice – this will be their first choice university
- if their firm choice is conditional and they hold other offers, they can choose an ‘insurance’ or back-up choice
Your child can only make one firm choice and one insurance choice and they must decline all other offers.
If your child used all five of their course choices in their application, but hasn’t received any offers – or none they want to accept – they can still find available places through UCAS Extra, or UCAS Clearing.
This service will open on 28 February 2024 and close on 4 July 2024, the day before Clearing starts.
Using UCAS Extra your child can add new course choices to their application. There is no limit to the number of choices they can add, but they can only add them one at a time. They must wait for each university to reach a decision before they add another.
This process matches students with vacancies on university degree programmes. Clearing will open on 5 July 2024 and run until mid-October.
Your child is eligible to use Clearing if they:
- are applying after 30 June
- haven’t received any university offers, or none they want to accept
- don’t meet the conditions of their offer
- decline their firm place using the ‘decline my place’ function
They will be able to contact universities direct via the Clearing hotlines advertised on their websites to discuss course vacancies.
Published By Judith Charlton on 27/05/2022 | Last Updated 30/10/2023