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Applying through UCAS – a guide for parents of international students

Applying through UCAS – a guide for parents of international students

by Judith Charlton

Applying to university is an exciting time for your son or daughter, especially if they have decided they want to study at a university in the UK.

As a parent you want to support them, however, key to this is understanding how the UK university application process works, what your son or daughter needs to do and when.

(Although we use the terms son/daughter/parent throughout this guide for simplicity, it is intended for anyone fulfilling a parenting role.)

What is UCAS?

Applications to UK universities are made online though the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

UCAS is a charity set up to provide information, advice and admissions services to students applying for undergraduate courses in the UK.

Applying through UCAS

Your son or daughter can apply independently, or get help with their university application from a local adviser – a member of staff at their school or college, an advisory service or agency that provides information about studying in the UK.

Whatever they decide, 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, entering their name, email address and creating 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 son or daughter will need to supply some basic information about themselves, including:

  • contact details
  • their education history
  • their nationality
  • details of any part-time paid jobs they have had
  • their 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 son or daughter 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:

  • medicine
  • dentistry
  • 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 son or daughter 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 UK, EU and international qualifications. Your son or daughter can find the relevant entrance requirements for the qualifications they are studying on our course pages

2. Writing a personal statement

A vital part of their UCAS application is your son or daughter’s personal statement. This is their chance to tell a university about their ambitions, skills, and passion for their subject. and why they want to study in the UK.

Regardless of how many universities they apply to, they will only need to write one personal statement which they will attach to their application.

3. Attaching a reference

Your son or daughter 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 reference.

4. Application fees

If your son or daughter is applying for just one course, the application fee is £22. This rises to £26.50 for multiple courses. 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 son or daughter is applying to start their studies in September 2022, they should submit their application to UCAS by:

  • 15 October 2021 (6pm) – for Oxford and Cambridge applications and most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry
  • 26 January 2022 (6pm) – for the majority of undergraduate courses

Universities may continue to accept applications from international students after the January deadline. If your son or daughter applies after 30 June 2022, they will be automatically entered into Clearing (more about this below).

University offers and what they mean

Your son or daughter 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 son or daughter 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 son or daughter can only make one firm choice and one insurance choice and they must decline all other offers.

No offers?

If your son or daughter 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 Clearing.

UCAS Extra: This service will open on 25 February 2022 and close on 4 July 2022, the day before Clearing starts.

Using UCAS Extra your son or daughter 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.

Clearing: This process matches students with vacancies on university degree programmes. Clearing will open on 5 July 2022 and run until mid-October.

Your son or daughter can use Clearing as long as they have their exam results, have previously applied through UCAS and are not holding any offers. They will be able to contact universities direct via the Clearing hotlines advertised on their websites to discuss course vacancies.

We hope you have found this blog post useful. More advice and guidance written specifically for parents and anyone fulfilling a parenting role, can be found here