After application

Accepting offers

UCAS - Using Track

After Applying: What Next?

A full application timeline can be found here.

For applications via UCAS the following steps occur:

  1. UCAS process the application
  2. UCAS send a welcome letter confirming personal details and HEI choices
  3. The HEIs applied to receive a copy of the application
  4. The HEIs decide whether to make an offer or not or may decide to invite the applicant to an interview. Detailed information on the UCAS applications process is available on the UCAS site.
  5. Once the applicant has had a response from all their choices they then need to decide which HEI will be their firm choice and which will be their insurance (or back up) choice. Their decision needs to be updated on their UCAS Track.
  6. Results are sent from the exam boards directly to UCAS, who send them to the HEI
  7. The following will then happen:
  • If conditions of  firm or insurance choice are met: the place is automatically confirmed
  • Borderline applicants might be offered an alternative course by the HEI but applicants should call up to check
  • If applicant does not get a place at their firm or insurance choice, they can search UCAS Clearing for vacancies
  • If applicant exceeded their conditional firm offer, they can use UCAS Adjustment to view available courses with higher entry requirements 

As soon as the applicant's placed is confirmed they will then start to receive mail and emails about enrolment, course or module choices, accommodation, Fresher’s week and induction. 

Key Points

  • The welcome letter includes a personal ID to access UCAS Track which enables applicants to follow the progress of their application. The only “official” offers are those sent by UCAS on the “Statement of Decisions” letter.
  • Any questions a applicant has about any offers should be directed to the relevant HEI. Interview decisions are sent directly to the applicant rather than via UCAS. If the applicant cannot make a particular interview date they need to contact the HEI as soon as possible. HEIs must make a decision about an application by the end of March, for all applications received by 15th of January. The statement of decisions letter from UCAS includes a date by which the applicant has to respond. This date will vary from individual to individual but is usually in April or May. Applicants who have not used up their 5 choices can add a further choice(s) at a later date if they wish. 
  • Applicants can change their choice of HEI(s) up to 14 days after the application form has been received by UCAS. After this date applicants will need to contact the HEI directly to discuss further.

Top tips

  • Applicants often receive verbal or written/e-mail offers from individual HEIs but these should not be considered as confirmed until a confirmation from UCAS arrives. Applicants who have not been invited to an interview should attend an open day before deciding whether to accept an offer. 
  • Applicants can defer entry to HE for a year by indicating this on their UCAS form. In their personal statement they should explain their reasons for wanting to take a year out, as admissions tutors look for positive plans. They should check with their chosen institutions that they accept deferred entry. Most admissions tutors view a year out, if used constructively, as a beneficial experience.

Unconditional Offers

Several Linking London partner college staff have mentioned that they have noticed an increase in universities making unconditional offers to students who have not yet satisfied published entry criteria and still have a number of months to complete their course.

We know the issue is not a new one – in 2012 the University of Birmingham hit the headlines when it made a considerable number of unconditional offers, but it seems to be becoming more prevalent. 

The increase in unconditional offers is likely to have a number of unintended consequences for both students, colleges, and higher education institutions. These include the potential impact on the motivation of students to achieve the best possible grades on their level 3 course, and their preparedness for HE study. It can be quite demotivating for students who have received and accepted an unconditional offer.

In some cases it can also lead to college students failing to complete their level 3 course and therefore missing out on the learning, skills and experience they would have gained from completing, not to mention the fall out for colleges who may see an increasing number of students failing to complete their studies.

It also does not take into account that level 3 qualification grades are not only important for university places but other opportunities, e.g. internships, sponsorships while at university. In addition, graduate employers often specify grades or tariff scores for level 3 qualifications taken.

From a university perspective it could lead to a perceived loss of credibility and reputation, and the possibility that the universities’ league table position may suffer if their grades lower as a result. To some students an unconditional offer smacks of desperation on the HEI's part. 

Finally, it could pressurise college tutors to inflate their students predicted grades in the hope that the student may obtain an unconditional offer.

Advisers need to know how to support their students to make informed decisions when receiving an unconditional offer. Two articles provide information and advice aimed at advisers in this situation:

Accepting an unconditional offer – 2nd February UCAS blog Unconditional offers – What should students do? The Complete University Guide

Supporting Professionalism in Admissions Programmes (SPA) have also produced a guide for HE providers:

SPA National Expert Think Tank (NETT) Considerations on unconditional offer-making Information, Communication and Review Guide for HE Providers (September 2014) which you can download below. 

Considerations on unconditional offer-making Information

What if a student doesn't receive any offers?

Before they do anything else, ask them to consider why they didn’t receive any offers – do they need to take time out to try to gain relevant work experience, or were they being over- ambitious? Making a realistic application is important especially when competing against others.

If they didn’t receive any offers and really want to try to get into university for the coming academic year, then they have two options:

UCAS Extra 

  • Available from late February until early July (check this on the UCAS website) and is designed for students who have been turned down by all of their choices or, for whatever reason, have turned down their offers (remember - if students turn their offers down, they can’t go back and ask universities to take them later in the same academic year)  

UCAS Clearing 

  • Each year Clearing is available from July to September and can be used by all applicants who do not have any offers or have not met the conditions of their offer once they receive their results.
  • Through Clearing the applicant will need to identify courses with vacancies that interest them and contact each provider one at a time to see if they have a place available.