The University Application Process Explained: What to Expect

10. The second Thursday in August.

After you’ve sat your exams, the excruciating wait of results will dominate your summer holiday, and there’s little that can keep you distracted. During this time, every possibility will go through your head: What will happen if I fail? What will my parents / teachers / self say? What happens if I actually get in? I had one bad exam (I ended up getting a D grade in that paper and a B overall), but because I knew that I hadn’t done as well as I wanted, in the weeks before Results Day I convinced myself that it would jeapordise my entire results. That didn’t happen. A Levels are an amalgamation of the modules that make up your AS grades, which you’ll already know, and your A2s. For something to go wrong, it requires consistent mistakes. But there are things you can do if this is the case.

Clearing opens at the end of June and closes again a few days before Results Day. It reopens the night before. Here, you can apply to an available university in the hope that they’ll accept you, depending on your results. Many successes occur here as a lot of universities fail to fill their places, meaning that undesirable results for one university may be perfect for another. If your grades are not what you wanted, you can also take another year in school to resit – if you’re allowed to – and reapply the following year.

If your results are what is expected by your firm or insurance choice university, your place will become unconditional. Track opens at 8am on Results Day for you to check this. If this is the case, you’re free to celebrate! In the upcoming days your university will get in touch to confirm your place and inform you of all you need to know before you start university at least a month later.

If you exceed your predicted grades, you can always go through adjustment. Here, you have a week to research and apply for another university that meets your grades more than your firm choice did – e.g. if you got A*AA and your university required BBB, this could be ideal. But it is completely your own choice.


So there you are: how to apply to university in the UK in 10 easy(ish) steps. This may seem like a lot of information, but it is a year’s worth of work. And you’ll always be guided on what to do next, whether that is by your parents, your teachers, your friends, or the million emails UCAS send throughout the year.

If you’re thinking of applying to university, I hope it all works out for you. I suppose the hidden 11th step lasts the whole year and is to envisage your future and never stop working for it. Above your textbooks and essays, picture yourself holding your amazing results and jumping like a High School Musical extra in your local newspaper, or plan which book you’re going to read on the journey to your new city, or think all the wonderful new people you’re going to meet. The final year of school is hard, but it is not impossible to reach the end of it.

I wish you the best of luck.

Words by Caitlin O’Connor


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