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Applying to university in 2024 | A parent’s timeline

Applying to university in 2024 | A parent’s timeline

by Judith Charlton

Is your child thinking about applying to university in 2024? If they are, it might feel like you have plenty of time before they start this next big adventure.

But actually, there are things you could be doing now, both to support them and help make sure their application goes smoothly.



  1. Step 1: carrying out research

  2. Step 2: planning a visit

  3. Step 3: application preparation

  4. Step 4: time to apply

  5. Step 5: receiving and choosing offers

  6. Step 6: navigating Clearing and Results Day


Step 1: carrying out research

Talking to your child now about their subject strengths, interests and career aspirations will help identify the degree that’s right for them.

Encourage them to send away for university prospectuses, and read course overviews and more in-depth module information on university websites, so they understand what they might be learning.

While they’re doing their research, make sure they explore what a university is like, its facilities and accommodation, as well as the student experience.

Teachers, family and friends might be able to offer further advice, so encourage your child to make the most of this. They can also reach out to current university students via the Unibuddy platform to really find out what a particular university is like.

Get them to research university rankings and accolades – they’re a valuable indicator of an institution’s strengths. And, by exploring in-degree opportunities, such as work placements and study abroad programmes, they’ll see how they’ll be supported to prepare for the world of work.

There are over 160 higher education institutions to choose from in the UK, so helping your child develop a clear picture of the degree they want to study, as well as the university they want to attend, is vital for the next step.


Step 2: planning a visit

Help your child shortlist the universities they’re interested in and plan some visits, either virtually or in person. That way you’ll both get a better sense of what their university experience could be like.

But don’t be tempted to draw up an over-long list of possibilities. Instead, help them identify their top choices so that, during an Open Day, they can really concentrate on their chosen degree course and explore what that university has to offer.

Open Days, both on campus and virtual, are running now and will carry on throughout the year, so check university websites for details. You can find out more about our Open Days by signing up to receive alerts.

UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) also hosts a series of exhibitions, each attended by multiple universities, so check the UCAS website for further information.




Step 3: application preparation

University applications are submitted online via UCAS. The application portal opens in May, although students can’t submit their applications until early September.

For their application, your child will need to supply some basic information, including existing qualifications and predicted grades, as well as references and a personal statement.

Although they’ll be able to apply for up to five different degree courses, they’ll only write one personal statement. However, this still takes time and a lot of thought as their personal statement is their chance to tell admissions staff about their ambitions, skills and experience.


Step 4: time to apply

Traditionally, there are two deadlines for submitting applications through UCAS:

  • in October – for Oxford and Cambridge applications and most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry
  • in January – for the majority of undergraduate courses

However, bear in mind that your child's school or college may encourage them to complete their application sooner, to give teachers time to write and attach their references.

If, for whatever reason, they miss these deadlines, they can still apply. But it’s worth encouraging them to contact the university they want to apply to direct, to see if they have any vacancies on their chosen course. This is particularly important for degrees with an October deadline as they’re very competitive programmes.

The final deadline for your child to submit a late application is in June; after that, their application will be entered into Clearing (see below).




Step 5: receiving and choosing offers

Universities make decisions on offers at different times but, in general, your child should receive their offers:

  • in May – if they meet the January deadline
  • in July – if they miss the January deadline, but meet the late application deadline

These offers could be ‘unconditional’, ‘conditional’ on the results they achieve in their exams, or ‘unsuccessful’. Your child will have a deadline for responding to their offers and they’ll need to pick a ‘firm’ and ‘insurance’ choice.

If your child doesn’t receive any offers they can apply through UCAS Extra. There’s no limit to the number of choices they can add to their application, although they can only add them one at a time and must wait for each university to reach a decision before they add another.

This service opens in February and closes the day before Clearing starts.


Step 6: navigating Clearing and Results Day

Results for Scottish Higher qualifications are normally released in early August, with A Level results following a little over a week later.

Your child is eligible to apply through Clearing once they’ve received their results and if:

  • they haven’t met the conditions of their firm or insurance offer
  • they don’t hold any offers at any universities
  • they are applying to university in 2023 through UCAS for the first time after the June deadline

Clearing allows them to identify university degree programmes that have vacancies. They’ll need to contact universities via their Clearing hotlines to discuss course vacancies and should find out almost straight away if they’ve got a place.

Although Clearing can be stressful, particularly if they’ve been disappointed with their results, it is another opportunity for your child to realise their dream of going to university.


Although we use the terms parent/child in this blog for simplicity, it is intended for anyone fulfilling a parenting role.


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