It had to happen sooner or later, but it's nothing to worry about

Whatever you did over your summer break – relaxing on a Spanish beach, hiking through the foothills of the Himalayas or simply “enjoying” the wet British weather – the last thing you were probably thinking about was applying to university.Well, now’s the time to start thinking about that giant step into higher education.Here’s how you do it...

A simple process

It really couldn’t be easier to apply. All you need do is to get yourself online and head to, look for the word “Apply”and click on it! From there you will find a whole host of information on the site guiding you through the application process.You can also search for course information and, once you have submitted your application, keep an eye on its progress using the “Track progress” tab.

If you are applying from the UK or the EU, the normal time to apply is between 1 September 2008 and 15 January 2009. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you decide that you would like to apply to either Oxford or Cambridge, or want to apply to courses in medicine, veterinary medicine, veterinary science or dentistry, the application deadline is 15 October 2008. Anyone wanting to apply for an art and design course should check out the Route B section at the end of this article for information on how and when to apply.


Once you are in the Apply section on the website, the first thing you need to do is register. At the registration stage you will be asked for your personal details.When you log in for the first time, you’ll be asked whether you are applying as a school or college pupil, as an individual not currently in education or through a careers service. If you are at school or college you will have to find out their buzzword, as you will need this when accessing the system; it means that your school or college can access your application to check it and add the reference you need.

You will be asked to come up with a password to accompany your username, which the system will provide you with.With your username and password you can come and go as often as you want, allowing you to complete your application at your leisure, concentrating on each section in turn.That means it doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting, so don’t feel you have to nip to the shop and stock up on coffee! That does mean that remembering your username and password is important: you will be asked to provide four memorable questions and answers so that if you do forget either of them you can retrieve them without having to ring UCAS.Do write them down somewhere safe, though!

Your personal statement

One of the most important parts of your application is the personal statement which, when you see the space you have to write in,may send a shiver down your spine. Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it looks. Follow these nuggets of advice and you’ll be on your way to creating a top personal statement:

* Use nice, concise sentences; don’t ramble!

* Structure your statement clearly with paragraphs – making it easier to read – and don’t leap from one idea to another.

* Get someone to read it for you: if they find it hard to read, you’ll probably want to think about revising and restructuring it.Make sure you ask someone you trust and who you know will be brutally honest with you.

* You won’t be able to include absolutely everything you want to, so pick out the most relevant points.

* Whatever you do, do not be tempted to cut and paste someone else’s personal statement from the internet. UCAS has sophisticated software to combat plagiarism, so you will be found out!

Last but not least

What happens next? Well, for those of you applying as individuals, you must complete all sections of the application and then approach your referee.You will need to ask them to e-mail a reference to you so you can cut and paste it onto your application. Once you have double-checked everything is complete, all you have to do is pay your £17 fee online.

For those of you at school or college, once you have completed all of the sections and are happy that there is no more to be done, you send the application to your referee online; they will then add your reference. If your referee finds something that they think needs amending, the application will be returned to you. Once the reference has been added to your application, your school or college will then send it to UCAS.You will then either pay the fee to your school or directly to UCAS.

By keeping to the recommended deadlines, taking care over what you are writing and making sure you are well prepared, you should have no problems filling in your UCAS online application.Good luck, and remember UCAS advisers are always available to help: give them a call on 0871 468 0 468.

Route B Courses

There are two ways to apply for art and design courses:Route A and Route B.Route A follows the main application process (see main article).Route B courses follow a different timetable and a different application process.This is to allow time for those students who are studying a foundation course in art and design to decide what they want to specialise in and prepare a portfolio. However, you don’t have to do a foundation course to apply through Route B; there are some art and design courses that are not available through Route A, so whether you are doing a foundation or not you will have to apply through Route B.

If you do apply for a Route B course, you can list up to three choices in order of preference. UCAS needs to receive your application between September 2008 and 24 March 2009, although it is recommended that you hand it in before 7 March 2009 to avoid a last-minute rush.

On your application you will need to indicate your first, second and third choices. Once UCAS has received it, they will send it to your first-choice institution, who will decide whether or not to make you an offer. If they do and you accept, UCAS will cancel your other choices. If you turn down the offer or don’t receive one, UCAS will then send your application to your second choice, and so on.

Just to mix things up a little further, you can actually apply for both Route A and Route B courses on the same application form.You can mix a total of five choices, although you cannot chose more than three Route B courses.Go to for the complete guide to Route A and Route B, including a series of diagrams explaining how they work.