The UCAS timeline can be confusing, with so many courses to choose from with different deadlines and entry requirements. Managing your time wisely and staying organized are key to your success in submitting your application on time. Knowing the ins and outs of the UCAS timeline is especially important if you’re looking at UK medical school applications, since you’ll apply through UCAS. In this blog, we’ll discuss when to start your UCAS application, key deadlines and requirements you need to know, a timeline of when to complete your application components and more.

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When to start your UCAS application

UCAS will open its online application portal in early September of each year. Students will be able to submit their completed application at any time, and typically hear back within 2 or 3 weeks. Some courses you can apply to through UCAS have different deadlines, but all UCAS applications should be prepared well in advance of these deadlines.

If possible, it’s recommended to start preparing your application the year before so you have plenty of time to put together all the written components, your UCAS reference letters, personal details, academic history and more. Most students start applying in their final year of school or college. Applying early is also recommended so you have a better chance of landing a coveted spot in your chosen program. Courses fill up quickly, and if your application is late, there may not be a spot open for you, or you may miss out on student funding opportunities.

If your application is submitted before the deadline, it is guaranteed to be considered. If you’re applying late, there are circumstances to consider, which we will cover later in this blog.

It’s possible that your school will be submitting your application to UCAS on your behalf. If you’re not applying directly through UCAS but through your school or college, you may have a different deadline. Follow this deadline to get your application in on time so your school has time to read your application, check your qualifications, write and attach your reference to the application package and submit it through UCAS.

Interested in a summary of some key points covered in this blog? This infographic is for you:

Deadlines for UCAS programs

Deadlines for UCAS applications vary by program, but the majority are due at the end of January each year and have similar entry requirements, with some exceptions. These deadlines are the final day your application can be submitted and given equal consideration, meaning all the programs you’ve applied to are obligated to consider your application equally among all the others they’ve received. Below we’ve outlined some of the key components and deadlines for UCAS programs.

UCAS application components

To start your UCAS application, you’ll start by filling in your personal details and course choices. You’ll also need to attach your reference letter—or ask your school to do so if needed—and pay your application fees. You’ll also need to answer questions about your residency status and how you plan to fund your studies in the UK.

The next key part of your application will be your personal statement, to demonstrate to university admissions boards why you’ll be a good student and to give you the chance to expand on your personal background and interests.

The entry requirements will vary depending on which school or program you’re applying to, but you’ll be able to review the course requirements, exam grades and subjects needed when you review your course choices. Be sure to double check to make sure you meet all the requirements and make note of which components you still need. Your academic history and professional experience will be two large parts of your application.

Some programs will also require you to submit an admissions test as part of your application, such as the UCAT for students applying to med schools in the UK or the GAMSAT for med schools in Australia. The deadlines for these tests differ just as the application deadlines, so be sure to check the key dates and whether an admissions test is required.

Need to work on your personal statement? These examples will help get you started:

When to complete your UCAS application components

A UCAS application is a long process, and it requires not only filling in a great deal of information but acquiring and providing important documentation, writing a personal statement, college CV or resume, and making key decisions about your studies.

It can be an overwhelming task, and it’s easy to get lost in the process. Below, we’ve outlined a timeline of how to complete your application, which components to complete in what order, and how long you will need to complete them on average.

Late UCAS applications and clearing

If you miss your key deadline for your UCAS application, you’ll still have a chance to apply to your chosen programs. UCAS offers an option called “Clearing”, which opens from July to October to allow students to apply to university if they haven’t received another offer, they’ve changed their mind and declined their place at a previously chosen program, or they’ve missed the main deadline.

Clearing is used by UK universities to fill any free places they have left on their courses before the school year starts. If you apply through UCAS clearing, you may have a chance to be accepted as normal. The first thing you should do is consult with a college advisor or college admissions consulting service to determine which courses you’re still interested in. Then, check the UCAS list of courses to see which ones have vacancies—keep checking back as these are regularly updated.

After this, you can call universities that have vacancies you’re interested in and ask them if they’ll consider you for admission. You’ll need to provide your clearing number, which will be included in your UCAS profile. If a university accepts you, they may offer an informal acceptance over the phone. Once you have the school’s permission, add your clearing choice to your UCAS application online. You can only add one clearing choice at a time, but if the school accepts you through the UCAS portal, it will become a confirmed acceptance and you can start getting ready for your studies.

Deferring a UCAS application

Deferred entries for UCAS applications simply means that you’re requesting to delay your studies. You can delay your start of study at a university for up to a year, whether this is to take a gap year, you’ve changed your mind about your studies or you want more time to consider. Many students choose to take a gap year to gain work experience, travel, or they choose to defer because they have other commitments which will interfere with their post-secondary study.

If you’ve chosen to defer your studies, be sure to mark this choice when you send in your UCAS application. You’ll also need to confirm directly with any universities that accept you that they’ve approved your deferral. If you’re applying for a conservatoire program, you’ll need to contact the program directly to confirm a deferral. Not all programs will accept deferred entries, so take this into account when planning your year and your studies.

FAQs

1. What is the timeline of a UCAS application?

UCAS opens its applications in September, and most deadlines are in late January of the following year. Clearing begins in July and extends into October.

2. How early should I start my UCAS application?

As soon as possible! Give yourself as much time as possible to put your application together, write your personal statement, review your application and submit it in time for the deadline.

3. What is the deadline for a UCAS application?

The deadline for a UCAS application can vary by program choice, but the majority of program deadlines are in late January or mid-October.

4. Is UCAS first come first serve?

All applications received by the deadline are considered equally by UK universities. Clearing, or late applications, are considered on a first come first serve basis for students hoping to get into a free spot after the initial deadline has passed.

5. How long does the UCAS application take?

The UCAS application can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. Students usually start preparing their applications well in advance.

6. How long do UCAS decisions take?

Applicants typically hear back within 2 to 3 weeks after applying, regardless of when their application was sent in.

7. What components are in the UCAS application?

The UCAS application consists of your personal details, academic background, work experience, a personal statement and reference letter.

8. Should I apply to UCAS sooner if I’m an international student?

Yes. As an international student, you should give yourself at least 6 months before the start of your chosen program to prepare and submit your application, as well as arrange your accommodations, funding and documentation needed to make the move to the UK.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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