University: getting in
When the time comes for your child to negotiate the maze of university application, there is a lot to take in and remember... but we've got some hints on UCAS, Clearing, gap years, fees and all other essentials… bar the way to the Student Union!
You and your child will need to get started by matching their subject choice and predicted A-level results, with appropriate universities and courses. You can do this through prospectuses and websites. Once you have narrowed down the choices, you can arrange to visit the universities themselves through open days.
Remember there's no point in applying for courses not in line with predicted grades. For example, if the choice is medicine then three predicted A-grades in maths and the sciences are required.
You need to register with and apply through the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) - you'll find this at UCAS.
Then list the top five choices (for courses and universities). Each university selected will not know about any of the other choices. But remember:
- with medicine/dentistry/veterinary courses there are only four choices
- you cannot apply for both Oxford and Cambridge
Your child will need to complete the education section, where they will list their existing qualifications and predicted results. Then they will need to write a personal statement to say a little more about themselves, their interests and so forth – as you might do in a job application. They will also need their reference and the application fee to complete the application.
All applications are to be made between mid-September and mid-January, except for Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses (who require applications by October 15).
Your child’s chosen universities receive copies of their application via UCAS and decide whether to make an offer. Some may invite them for an interview, some will just make a straight offer (which may be conditional or unconditional) or a rejection. If your son/daughter receives more than one offer then they'll be able to choose their preference. Offers which are conditional, will require your child to get certain grades to be granted their place. Offers which are unconditional will be theirs without any caveat.
GOING THROUGH CLEARING
Some offers will be ‘conditional’ upon your son or daughter achieving specific grades in their A-levels. If he/she fails to achieve these, they will not be able to take up their place, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot go to university at all. They can use Clearing to find an alternative course for which their grades are appropriate.
Clearing allows application for courses with vacancies and starts in July. More than 30,000 students gain university places through Clearing each year, so it's certainly not stigmatised.
Find out more: Clearing, A Second Chance at University
Thousands of students do this each year. Many apply through UCAS, get offered a place which they defer until the next academic year, so they can experience their gap year first.
If your child did not get the grades they needed for their conditional offer, they could always choose to take a gap year while their reconsider their options, and then reapply.
For more information on helping your child work out what the best options for them are, check out: Options after school: helping your child decide
PAYING FOR IT
University education does come at a price. Fees for courses (even similar courses) can vary quite a bit. As you look into different courses at different universities, you will be able to see the different prices.
Students can apply for a student loan, which will help cover the cost of their tuition fees - currently up to £11,007 in total (April 2018) and their living costs.
Students only start paying these loans back after completing their courses and earning over a certain threshold a year.
In certain cases, there may be other support available to help cover the costs – these may include bursaries from your course provider, or some a potential employer.