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What is UCAS and How It Works

Only a few UK universities accept a direct application. To apply to the majority of establishments, a student has to use a special service called Universities and Colleges Application Service (UCAS). This centralized program is a universal tool when it comes to UK universities. The only exception is postgraduate studies that allow the direct approach. For all the undergraduates, facing UCAS is unavoidable. 

Thus, to make university application successful, they have to learn everything possible about the service from its official form to UCAS track and more.

Firstly, let’s mention that currently, UCAS operates as an Internet portal that offers its services online. A student can simply complete the application form and send it online. To do this, you must become a UCAS user by creating your own account on the website.  For this, there is a special UCAS login button on the main menu of the website. There, you can choose “Apply” and register on the website. The application process is a standard one where you have to read terms, agree to them and fill in personal information to be assigned a unique username. It will need the following information:

- Gender

- First and family name

- Date of birth

- Residency

- Country and address

After the registration is complete and you have an account on the service, you can finally submit an application and use UCAS progress tracker to see the status of your form. This feature is available at any moment and from any device. You can just enter your username and password from anywhere and get access to your application. In addition, a student can trace its UCAS form with the help of the government-supported service called SI-UK that consults students and helps them through the application process as well. 

UCAS points

There is a system of UCAS points that is used by universities as the reference to student qualifications. The number of earned points determines your chances of enrollment. All universities have their own point standards, the more the better. 

But do those points work? They are awarded according to UCAS Tariff that assigns certain numbers for all grades in a qualification. For those educational establishments that take points into account, the general number is very important. 

To learn how many points you have, there are special convert tables that show examples of the points awarded for specific AS and A levels. For example, A levels from E to A* are awarded UCAS points from 16 to 56 respectively. 

Scottish highers have a bit different table and may get up to 33 points for an A. 

International Baccalaureate qualification is also converted into points and postgraduate application is also allowed through UCAS.

UCAS clearing 

For those students who didn’t receive any offers from universities and are applying after June 30, UCAS clearing is open. This is a good offer for universities to fill in the vacant spots that may be left and for students to make some last-minute arrangements. The service offers a search tool that shows the courses that are still available and can be applied to. The most popular universities and courses are usually taken by this time, though there still may be great options in the less known establishments with quality programs. 

In this case, an application gets a status of “you are in Clearing” and the information is updated when the decision is made. 

Note that UCAS Clearing is not available for conservatories. A student has to check them separately and make sure they are still accepting applications. Conservatories are tricky to apply to via UCAS in general. They set the earliest deadline of just a month right after the opening of application season. When applying to conservatories, it is better to visit them anyway for any additional info and requirements. 

UCAS additional information 

When applying for a university with the help of UCAS, every student completes an application form and must submit a few other documents alongside it.

When registering, you provide your personal information, but there is more to add. One of them is a personal statement that also has to be included. This is a short work that should show why you are worth the attention and have to be accepted. This is a chance to show your best sides and ambitious personality. This is a statement that should tell something more about you than the grades and those numbers awarded to you by the UCAS points calculator. This is the only chance to show that you are the right person even if your grades are not as perfect as the others. For most places, a simple written statement will do. However, there are certain courses that welcome other creative types of statements as well.

In addition to UCAS personal statement, every student has to include a written recommendation from a teacher or a counselor or any other reliable professional. This is a mandatory requirement for all applicants. 

When all documents are ready, it is time to pay the application fee of £18 when applying for one curse and £24 for multiple options. 

UCAS application form

Completing a UCAS application is the crucial step in getting into a UK university. The information provided in this form is viewed by all universities and determine your future career. Though the fields are standard and easy to fill in, it is recommended to view a UCAS application beforehand as the information you submit has to be 100% accurate. A small mistake may ruin the whole application. 

The choice of courses is one of those crucial details that cannot be messed with. UCAS has a comprehensive search tool with all possible universities and courses. The last UCAS course search update has added such functions as saving searches, advanced filtering, creating course shortlists, and so on. Thus, people may add several options for later and view them at any time. 

The UCAS form allows to add up to 5 options at a time. You may either choose to select 5 different courses in one university or stick to one course in 5 establishments. The low limit of options makes the choice significantly more important. Thus, UCAS search assigns a certain number to every course that should be later added to the application form. 

Also, before hitting UCAS apply button, check out whether the education section contains all your grades and achievements. This information is used by the universities to rank applicants and you wouldn’t want to miss any additional points. Add all modules, check the results, etc. 

UCAS deadlines

No matter how good your grades are and how perfect the application seems to be, if you miss UCAS deadline, none of these matters. There are strict deadlines that have to be met. This year, the opening date for UCAS applications was set to be September 5. The first key date on the schedule is October 5 as the end date of music course applications for conservatories. October 15 is the set deadline for Oxbridge and most courses in veterinary, medicine, and dentistry. The regular deadline applicable to most undergraduate courses in the majority of establishments is January 15. The end of February marks the opening of UCAS Extra that will be open till July 4. 

The reply deadlines are May 1 and June 6 depending on when you receive the offer. All applications received after June 30 are submitted to UCAS Clearing. 

Note that these are the deadlines for the undergraduate full-time programs. To apply for part-time education and post-graduate studies, students have to contact a university and either apply separately or consult before using UCAS. 

Speaking of UCAS Extra, this is a special service used by the students who do not receive any offer by any of five initial choices or have changed their mind about the choice they’ve made. Starting from February and up till July, they can add another option to their list. It may sound like a perfect 6th option, but the offers are very limited at this time. This function is available to all students before they go into Clearing in July. 

Though the overall number of universities is limited to only 5 by the UCAS form, there is a way to apply to more establishments. Some universities and colleges accept undergraduate applications directly. So, you can cross them out separate and leave for UCAS only those options that work with this service alone.