How to apply to university in 2023

George Metcalf on 24 January 2023
Wooden desk next to a window with a MacBook, mug filled with black coffee, notepad, pen, and mobile phone

Applying for uni is a huge step, but fear not, we’ve broken it all down here to get you on the course of your dreams.

How do I actually apply to university? 

If you’re applying via UCAS, you’ll first want to register an account with them. As part of registering your account, you’ll have to indicate which academic year you’re wanting to start university. It will also ask you what level you’re applying for, whether that’s undergraduate or postgraduate.

Once the basic registration is complete, it will guide you through a form asking for more details about you and your circumstances. This will include your residency status, personal circumstances like whether you’ve been in care, how you plan to fund your studies, and whether you want to give a parent/guardian access to your account.

Then you’ll have to fill in the details of your qualifications so far. For most people, this will be your GCSEs and the grades thereof, with your referee later providing predicted grades for any current subjects. There’s also a section for your employment history if you have any. You should be able to bash these sections out in one go.

Now it’s time to put down your course choices. At this stage, they don’t need to be in any particular order as you’ll state your preference once you receive all your offers. It’s worth remembering that medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences have different processes and allow fewer choices.

Then it’s time to write your personal statement. We’ll go into more detail about this further down.

Submit your application, confirm the details of your referee (form tutor or anyone assigned to you in a more general faculty), pay the application fee and boom! Your applications are on their way to the institutions.

Can I apply to university directly? 

For full-time undergraduate courses, most of the time the answer is no. If you have graded qualifications already, you may be able to squeak in through Clearing, but they’ll still report that they’ve admitted you to UCAS anyway. It’s a slightly different story for part-time courses.

When it comes to postgraduate studies, rarely do you specifically need to apply via UCAS. It can certainly be a useful tool if you’re considering multiple options, but much of the time people apply directly. Our advice is that if you’re staying where you are or know exactly where you want to go, don’t bother with UCAS.

What are the key UCAS application deadlines? 

For applications to Oxford/Cambridge and courses in medicine/veterinary medicine, the deadline was in October last year (a bit late, sorry). Most other universities and courses have the 25th of January as the deadline for applications. Applications after this date will still go through, but do not have a guarantee to be considered (although most will, dw). If they receive the application after June 30th, it will automatically be added to Clearing.

If you're thinking of applying for 2024, the dates haven't been released by UCAS just yet, but will likely be similar. So mid-October for Oxbridge and medicine-adjacent courses, end of January for guaranteed consideration, and end of June for automatic Clearing.

How do I write a personal statement? 

For your personal statement, you have 4000 characters or 47 lines to express your passion for the desired subject. Not only that, but you should also explain how your subjects, employment and hobbies so far could have prepared you for it. Finally, they’ll also want to see that you can write with good accuracy and attention to detail.

We’ve covered personal statements loads before, as it’s a vital step. So here are a couple of guides that will help you solidify your place at uni:

How do I apply for student finance? 

Start by registering an account with Student Finance in the UK nation you’re from. This is dependent on where you’re from or usually live, not where the university is. There’ll be an online form for you to fill out, including your choices and details of your household income. Your parents/partner will have to confirm their earnings for the previous tax year and this will decide how much maintenance loan you get.

Important: Make sure they have the correct bank details for you as they will pay your maintenance loan directly into your bank account.

There are grants available for disabled students that can cover the costs of specialised equipment you may need and provide extra funds. We have a guide on the Disabled Students’ Allowance if you think you may be eligible. There is also help for those who are estranged from their parents or who have children. You can find more information about extra help you can get here.

When should I apply for student finance? 

While there is no set deadline for student finance applications, the process can take a while, especially if you’re submitting household income evidence. The government website states that it can take up to six weeks, but given the Student Finance companies’ ability to “misplace” evidence, you should allow for more time than that. Do it as soon as you have the offers you want to accept as your firm and insurance choices.

How do I apply for accommodation?

Each university will have its own process for applying to them. They’ll usually send you details of how to do so once you accept their offer and choose them as your first choice. Most of the time this will be a form they send you with details of the accommodation available and a system where you rank your preferences. Make sure you do look through the options and you can even check online for reviews from previous first-year students.

When should I apply for accommodation? 

A lot of the time, the selection process for accommodation works on a first come first serve basis. Get your application done as soon as they send it to you to avoid disappointment. You don’t want to end up in accommodation you can’t really afford.

Have you started your application process? Are you feeling ready to embark on this journey? Join the Student Hut Community and let us know how you’re feeling about it via our paid surveys.

George  Metcalf
George Metcalf on 24 January 2023