Applying for higher education courses

_DSC4787Once you've found the courses you're interested in, you need to think about submitting your application!

How you apply varies depending on whether you are applying for a full-time or a part-time course.  Both application processes are outlined below.

We've also provided some useful hints and tips on this page to help make your application stand out, and more helpsheets are available in our Resources area.

Applying for a full-time course

If you are applying for a full time undergraduate course (HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or Undergraduate Degree) you need to apply via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). All applications through UCAS must be made online, and you can select up to five different courses.
Visit the UCAS website for further information on the online application process.

As well as information relating to predicted grades, schools attended and any work experience, the application form also requires you to complete a 'Personal Statement'. In your Personal Statement you need to explain your motivations for applying to the course and the reasons the university or college should offer you a place. The universities in York have both produced guidance for writing a personal statement:

When to apply

In order to ensure your application is guaranteed consideration you need to apply before 15 January in the year you are hoping to start your course. It is recommended that you apply as soon as possible (after 1 September) once you've selected the right course. Be aware that some courses may require you to attend an interview before an offer is made.

Applications received after 15 January are considered at the discretion of individual institutions and there is no guarantee that they will be given the same level of consideration as applications received prior to the closing date.

From late February to June UCAS operates a system called UCAS Extra. This is for applicants who, for whatever reason, find themselves without an offer or wish to change their choice of course and decline previous offers. UCAS Extra enables people to have an additional choice and not have to wait until Clearing to find a place. Find out more about UCAS Extra.

Clearing operates after 30 June and is for applicants who have already applied through UCAS but not secured a place for a course. It can also help late applicants, who've not yet applied for courses. Find out more about Clearing.

For applying page - Scarborough 4804

What happens next

If you submit your application to UCAS before 15 January in the year you wish to start your course, by the end of March you should have received decisions from all the institutions you applied to.

If you apply between 15 January and June you should receive a decision by mid-July. Decisions on applications received through 'Clearing' will be made by the institution as soon as possible.

If you receive an offer of a place it will be either an 'unconditional' or a 'conditional' offer. An unconditional offer is one which is not dependent on you achieving certain grades, whereas for a conditional offer you will need to obtain certain grades or points in any exams you have yet to take.

Once you have carefully considered any offers, you need to let UCAS know which you wish to accept. You can accept two conditional offers, with your second choice having lower grade requirements (or being an unconditional offer), or one unconditional offer.

Applying for part-time courses

If you decide to apply for a part-time course you'll need to apply directly to the university or college you wish to study at. You should contact the Admissions department of the institution you wish to apply to for further information and to request an application form.

When to apply

In order to ensure your application is guaranteed equal consideration you should apply as early as possible and ideally before 15 January in the year you are hoping to start your course.

What happens next

The university or college you've applied to will contact you to inform you whether or not they are offering you a place. Timescales will vary depending on where you've applied and at what time of year you submitted your application - this may be something you want to ask your Admissions department about. In addition, you should be aware that some courses will only make an offer after you have attended an interview at their institution.

Page-break-GREEN-518px wide


Depending on the institution and course you decide to apply to, you may be invited to attend an interview.

Courses which require the submission of portfolios (e.g. art and design) along with those that required you to demonstrate practical skills (e.g. music) will typically involve interviews or auditions. It will be made clear in any course information (e.g. prospectuses) whether or not an interview is necessary. If you are a mature student without formal qualifications, whatever course you apply to, you are likely to be asked to attend an interview to discuss your skills and experience in more detail.

The main questions you will be asked will focus on:

  1. Why do you want to be on the course?
  2. What makes you the most suitable applicant?
  3. Why do you want to study at that institution?

Preparation is the key to interview success, so make sure you find out exactly what the course will involve and what will be expected of you.

What to expect at an interview

The aim of an interview is for the institution to find out about you and answer any questions they may have. You should aim to demonstrate the following:

  • A genuine motivation and enthusiasm for the course and place of study.
  • Credible evidence that you can do the course.
  • An interest in the course through asking a few questions.

Useful tips for any interview

  • Listen carefully to the questions being asked, do not repeat a pre-prepared answer that is not relevant to what you have been asked.
  • If you do not understand the question ask the interviewer to explain.
  • Try not to ramble and keep what you say relevant.
  • Keep a good posture, sit up straight, do not fidget, look attentive and interested and maintain an appropriate level of eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Be punctual (arrive at least ten minutes before your interview).
  • Make sure you are smart and well presented, wear a suit if necessary and polish your shoes. Women should tie back long hair if needed and avoid excessive jewellery and make-up.
  • For a phone interview, make sure you are available, in a quiet, private room where you will not be distracted.