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Each of the different Higher Education options has a different route of how to apply. This page provides an overview of how each of the different application processes work for University, Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes.


If you are looking at applying to university we have developed this 10 step guide to help support you through the different stages.
If you click on each image below more information will be provided on the different steps.

Where to Start? Investigate

Within the UK and abroad there is a wide range of courses, universities and pathways for you to consider. Currently there are 164 higher education institutions in the UK and over 50,000 different courses. So you might be thinking where to start. Here are a few ideas of things to consider and how you might start to form a list of universities and courses to apply to.

The first thing to think of is what would you like to study. If you have an idea of what you would like to study, then start looking at university entry requirements to see if you meet them. You can check university entry requirements at UCAS (UCAS is the organisation who is responsible for applications to most higher education courses in the UK)  or specific university websites. If you are not sure what you would like to study, it is worth thinking of do you have a career aspiration in mind and does this require a particular degree? For example, if you wanted to be a paramedic you would require a degree and would need to research the entry requirements for. The other option is to think of what you enjoy where you are currently studying and see if there is a similar course to that. There is such a wide range of courses available some you may not have heard of include:

  • Puppetry Design and Performance | Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Contemporary circus and physical theatre | Bath Spa University
  • Surf science and technology | Cornwall College
  • Adventure filmmaking | University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Once you have selected a course you can start to think where you might want to study. For some courses there might be a wide range of options where of where to study and for others the options might be more restricted. Either way there are several things you will need to consider.

  • Do you want to study at a campus university, city-based university or online?
    • Some universities are campus based which means there is a small village with a mixture of academic facilities and living facilities exclusively available for students. A city-based university will have the universities facilities not centrally located and will be spread throughout a city. At some universities there is also the option of studying remotely and having the content delivered online.
  • How far away from where you are currently living do you want to be?
    • It is worth considering if you want to stay close to where you are currently living or if you would like to explore somewhere new. You need to think about will you need to have to visit where you are often and how easy will it be to get back?
  • Are there any facilities you specifically require?
    • Every university has different facilities available and it is worth looking into these to see what is available. You may need to look at the accommodation available at each university. There are also some specialist facilities such as sports or subject specific you may wish to research.
  • What social opportunities are available?
    • Most universities will have a students union who will run a number of clubs called societies and there will be a number of sports clubs available too. Do look into seeing if there is something on offer you would be interested in having a go at.

By thinking about all of these things you will start to get an understanding of what you may want to study and where you might want to go. It is worth keeping a list of any possible options at this stage and we will go through how to reduce this down over the next few pages.

Your Top Universities

Now that you have started to investigate what is available to study and where you might be interested in you now need to be thinking how to reduce your list down to a manageable selection.

You will be able to apply for up to five courses during your application. It is worth noting there are some courses which will have an earlier deadline and have restrictions on applications. The courses that have different requirements are medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science or if you are looking at studying at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

To be able to research into specific universities and find out more information there are a few ways to find out more information.

  • Look at the university’s website.
    • Each university will have a website which will have details of the facilities on offer and the specifics of each course. It is important to investigate what makes each course different and what specialisms the university prioritises.
  • Order the university’s literature
    • Most universities will have the option for you to order some literature about the university and the course you are interested in. This may be a prospectus or a mini guide.
  • Is the degree type you wish to apply for available?
    • There are a range of degree courses available including BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), LLB (Bachelor of Laws) and MEng (Undergraduate Masters in Engineering, other courses are available). When looking at universities it is important to check which one you are applying for.
  • Visit the university’s Open Days
    • Each university will hold Open Days to show the facilities on offer and enable you to gain a feel what it would be like to be a student at that institution. It is recommended that you visit your preferred universities so you are able to compare what each is able to offer. To find out when Open Days are taking place there is information available here and here.

Pros and Cons – The Top 5

Having looked at what is on offer at each of the universities you now need to select the five options you will be applying for. You can apply for more than one course at one university or it could also be you apply for five of the same course at different universities. The options are very much down to you.

To help you with this it may be useful to write a pros and cons list of each provider. You will need to think through all the different parts from the course to where you may be living.

Assess Individual Support

To ensure that your university experience is tailored to your specific needs it is worth researching how each university can support you if you have any individual needs. There is a wide range of support services which are on offer for students from extra time in exams to specialist accommodation. If this is something that applies to you the earlier, you let the universities know the more support they may be able to offer.


Now you have selected which courses you would like to apply for you will need to use the application process provided by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The main UCAS deadline is January 15th at 18:00 (GMT) for the majority of courses. There are a few exceptions to this including medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science or if you are looking at studying at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. The deadline for these is 15th October at 18:00 (BST). It is important to remember this deadline is when the application needs to reach UCAS so you will need to leave time for your references which will most likely be from you previous place of study.

The application form is made up of a series of sections which you will need to go through and answer. There is a useful explanation of all the sections on the UCAS site here. It is worth noting there is a charge to apply through UCAS and details of this are listed on the UCAS site.

One key part of the application form is the Personal Statement. It is your opportunity to showcase both your academic ambitions and personal interests to admissions staff where you are applying. Universities use the personal statement to enable a comparison between students, so it is important to know what they are looking for. You can only write one personal statement for all your UCAS choices, so it is best to not name any specific university in the statement. There is lots of advice available online however it is important not to copy anything, UCAS runs each statement through a checker to make sure nothing has been copied from any previous statements or online.

The statement can be up to 4000 characters which is roughly 500 words or 47 lines of text. Some universities may offer specific advice on how best to write a personal statements but to help here you will find some tools to help you write the statement.

UCAS – How to write your personal statement

Which – 10 things for your personal statement 

Once you have checked your application and you are happy with the content it is time to submit!

Wait to Hear Decisions

Once you have submitted your application UCAS will send your application to the relevant universities. Each of the Universities will not be able to see if you have applied anywhere else.

You may hear back from some universities before others so it is important to understand what they are offering and what conditions they have asked for. There is also a deadline they need to respond to you by and a deadline for you to respond. You will not be able to respond to any offers until you have received a response from all the institutions you have applied to.

The different options that you could be offered are:

  • Conditional offers – Means there will be conditions you will need to meet to be accepted into that university.
  • Unconditional offers – Means you have a place, there may however be a few things that need to be arranged
  • An unsuccessful or withdrawn choice removes that option, but you could add more.

Further details of this can be found on UCAS.

Before your offer is made you may be invited to Interviews, Applicant Days, Tests or Auditions. Further details on this can be found in the next page.

Attend Any Interviews, Applicant Days, Tests or Auditions

Each university has the option of requesting you attend either an Interviews, Applicant Days, Tests or Auditions. For some courses these may not be required however, if you are required to attend you will hear from the university directly or UCAS track. Most universities offer advice on what to expect for each type of event so it is worth researching what is available. You are also able to contact the university if you have any questions about what you have been invited to.

Interviews – These will normally be specific to your course and will help the admissions teams at the university in deciding on who to accept onto each course. It is important to be prepared and know all the details of the interview. They will be looking for you to display enthusiasm about the course whilst being able to study independently and enjoy a varied academic life along with other interests. It may be beneficial to have a mock interview with a teacher or adviser. It is also worth thinking of some questions for the interviewer as they will probably ask if you have any.  More information about interviews can be found at

Interview Information

Applicant Days – Applicant Days or Offer Holder days give you the opportunity to visit the universities you have applied for. They will often have more of a focus on the department you have applied for than an Open Day will. The department you have applied to will normally shape part of the day and you will have the opportunity to meet academics and current students.

Tests – Some courses require you to complete an admissions test. Each will have a different requirement and you will need to research the specific content for the test. If there is a test required the deadline for you to complete this may be earlier. An overview of all admissions tests is provided at

Admissions Tests Information

Auditions – For a selection of arts courses an audition will be required. Some may require multiple auditions. There will be a cost associated with the audition. Information about these are available here.

Auditions Information

Make a Firm and Insurance Choice

Once you have received all your decisions from all the institutions you have applied to you will receive notification from UCAS. You will have a deadline viewable on track and you will have between one and five weeks to respond.

You will need to make a firm acceptance and an insurance acceptance. The firm acceptance is your first choice and will be your place if you meet the conditions of the offer. If you have an unconditional offer and you accept the firm choice this is where you will be going to university. If you have a conditional offer this is where you will be going to university as long as you meet the conditions of your offer.

If you have a conditional offer it is best to make a back-up choice which is know as your insurance choice. It is best if your insurance choice has a lower offer condition than your firm choice. It needs to be an institution you are happy to attend as if you meet the conditions they have outlined this is where you will be accepted at university.

It is worth noting you can only attend your insurance choice if you do not meet the conditions of your firm choice, but you do meet the conditions of the insurance choice. You can not choose between the firm and insurance when you get your results, so you need to be happy to attend either depending on the result.

There is the option to decline an offer. If you decline all of your offers you will have the option to add another option in the Extra service or during clearing. Further information can be found here.

Apply for Student Finance, Accommodation and Visas

Once you have found a university you are happy to attend there are several things you may need to apply for.

Student finance – Most students apply for a student finance loan to support them through university. Every student will have their application assessed on household income and depending on the circumstances. If you are a student who meets the nationality or residency status requirements and you have not studied at University before you will be entitled to a loan for the tuition fees and may be eligible for a maintenance loan.

Full details can be found on the government student finance site

Accommodation – If you have chosen to move away for university you will need to find accommodation. Most universities offer some accommodation options or can offer advice. It is important to find out if there are any important deadlines to apply for so you don’t miss on out on the chance of being able to apply. It is best to look at your universities website to find out further information.

Visas – If you are an international student you may need to apply for specific visas to be able to apply to study at a university within the UK.

Further information can be found on UCAS

It All Begins!

Once you have applied for your university place and any additional requirements you can wait until results day. You will most likely hear from the universities you have applied to with information up to results day.

You may need to start thinking how to prepare for university. Is there anything that you will need to purchase before you go? Will you need a student bank account? What are the travel arrangements where you are going?

On results day it is important to be prepared for all eventualities. Hopefully all will have gone well and you will be accepted into your first choice of university. There are however options if anything has changed on results day.

If you had conditional offers but did not meet those conditions (e.g. achieve the required grades):

Clearing is the process of finding courses which still have places remaining. The course list will be available the day before results day so you will be able to look through these to see what is available.

If you’ve exceeded the conditions for your choices:

Adjustment is the process of finding alternate courses to reflect your results.

Whatever happens it is important to not give up and there will be something. We wish you the best of luck.


Applying for an apprenticeship has a similar process to applying for a job. There are several factors to consider when looking at apprenticeships and below are some factors to think about during applying.

There are different levels of apprenticeship so it is important for you to be aware of what level you are applying for. There are fours types of apprenticeships available including:

  • Intermediate Apprenticeship (GCSE Level equivalent – Level 2)
  • Advanced Apprenticeship (A-Level equivalent – Level 3)
  • Higher Apprenticeship (First year degree equivalent – Level 4 and above)
  • Degree Apprenticeship (Degree equivalent – Level 5-7)

Each type is different set at a different level which means the entry requirements will be different for each type of apprenticeship. There are over seventy universities and around two hundred colleges which are approved to deliver higher and degree apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to have a job whilst being provided with training.

As applying for an apprenticeship does not have an organisation responsible for the application process there are not set deadlines and vacancy applications may appear at any stage. If you wish to keep your options open you are able to apply for an apprenticeship and to university during the same academic year.

There are a number of places you are able to find where apprenticeships are advertised and you are able to apply. Use the links below to find apprenticeships. It is important to research each opportunity thoroughly to make sure you are happy with its responsibilities. It also is important to tailor your application to the job you are applying for.

Our top application tips are:

  • Research the role thoroughly to ensure you are prepared to answer the questions on the application and at interview
  • Use your hobbies, experiences and interests to help support your application
  • Make sure you get someone to check the application for any issues with spelling or grammar.
  • Link experiences to the skills they are asking for during the application. For example if you had a responsibility at school write about the skills you had to use.
  • Be prepared to write about yourself. Every application needs to showcase what you have on offer to the employer.


School leaver programmes are another option you may wish to consider once you have finished school. They are similar to apprenticeships as they offer a direct route into the work place whilst offering training. There is however, not as much structure as these programmes vary company to company. To apply you will need to research opportunities and apply like you would for a job.


The Outreach Hub is here to answer any question you might have regarding Higher Education. We will work hard to answer question you might have and signpost you to the most useful information. You can either use the form below or the details on our contact page.