Study in the UK - Application Overview

UK Application Guide

Application Guide

5. Study in the UK – Application Overview

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Study in the UK – Overview of UK university application

So, you want to study in the UK? The application to universities in the UK are generally centrally administered via a website called UCAS. Your application comprises numerous different parts, some being more time consuming than others.

The UCAS application is comprised of the following segments:

Category Description You Someone else
UCAS Application Personal details
Student finance
Personal statement
Admissions tests TOEFL
Potential subject-specific tests (ex. Law, Medicine etc.)
Potential course-specific tests (ex. PPE at Oxford)
Portfolio / school projects Only some specific programmes
Interview For Oxford/Cambridge/a few other top schools
For medicine/veterinary/dentistry programmes




UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the central application system for universities in the UK, for undergraduate- and graduate level studies. All academic programmes open for application are listed in UCAS’ database. Registration and filling out applications is free of charge and available for anyone. Simply go to to set up an account.

UCAS saves you a lot of time since you only need to write one application. This application is then sent out to every university that you’ve applied to. Keep in mind that different programmes may have admission requirements that are not specified on UCAS. Some art schools, for example, want to look at a portfolio containing your work samples while some courses demand a specific admission test or that you write an essay. UCAS only administers the parts of an application that are common across all different academic programmes, so it is up to you to look up if there are any further requirements for the programmes/schools you’ve applied to. You can find more information about this on the respective university websites, under “Admissions”.

In the next chapter we present each individual step that is contained in a UK university application, step-by-step. Some of the steps are presented in a more detailed manner in separate chapters later on in this guide.



Deadlines for UK applications

This calendar is intended for the fall- and spring semesters leading up to your enrollment to university. Note that exact dates for TOEFL are not given, as there are numerous different dates provided around the world throughout the year (each or every second week).

Date Deadlines for university applications Other important dates
21 Deadline for registration to UKCAT admission test (medicine-/dentistry-/veterinary-programmes)
1 Deadline for registration to some admission tests, ex. BMAT (medicine/veterinarian-programmes),
5 Deadline for registration to LNAT if you’re applying for the Oxford Law programme
15 Deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge

Deadline for applications to medicine-/dentistry-/veterinary-programmes

Deadline for registration to Oxford Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), if you’re applying for programmes like PPE and E&M at Oxford
1 Good time to start thinking about TOEFL unless you’ve done so already.
Interviews at Oxford and Cambridge, and for medicine-/dentistry-/vet-programmes
15 Deadline for applications to most programmes
20 Deadline for writing LNAT if you’ve applied for Law programmes at universities that require LNAT
24 Deadline for some courses within art and design
31 Notice of acceptance/rejection for all applications submitted before January 15th
7 Last day accept/reject your offers from universities
30 Applications to programmes with vacant spots are under consideration until this date. (you may apply for the less popular programmes after January 15th)



How do “Extra choices” work?

If you didn’t receive any offers in April, you may be allowed to apply for a few additional programmes. The programmes available as “extra choices” are the less popular ones with vacant spots left. Exactly how this works is outlined on UCAS’ website (

The relevant dates for extra choices are NOT outlined in our calendar above. You can find more information about deadlines etc on



Cost of applying to the UK

Below you’ll find a summary of the costs involved in applying for undergraduate programmes in the UK. The numbers are a rough estimate and may differ slightly. The total cost will depend on:

  •  The specific requirements of your programme (admission tests etc)
  •  How many times you repeat TOEFL
  •  If you need to travel for an interview
  •  Possible additional (optional) costs (books, application guidance/mentoring, tutoring etc.)
Description Cost (GBP) Comments
Application fee 23
LNAT/Oxford TSA/UKCAT 50-80 For select courses
Interview (travel expenses) 200 Only for some programmes. Some may require further interviews, most require none.
TOEFL 250 May be repeated to improve score







5.1 Study in the UK – Application Step-by-Step


UCAS step-by-step

Before starting your application we strongly advise you to read former chapters of this guide about “Personal Profile”, which will be greatly useful as you’re going through the UCAS process.



Personal details

This step is easy and straightforward. Fill out your personal- and contact details, and make sure to provide an email account that you frequently check. All communication from UCAS is handled via email.



Additional information (UK only)

No need to fill this out as an international applicant



Student finance

International students rarely use the british student loans and grants. You’ll find more information about this on UCAS under the specific section, should you still be interested. Many countries have their own student finance systems that cover international studies as well.




This part of the application is very important: this is where you enter which programmes and universities you will to apply for. You can apply for maximum 5 different programmes. We recommend that you fill out all 5 fields, as you can never be too sure about being accepted. There is a lot to consider when choosing which academic programmes to apply for. Read more about this in the chapter of this guide called “Choosing University and Plausibility Analysis”.

On this page you can also enter which starting date you wish to apply for. You can choose between starting the following fall semester or the fall semester of the following year, if you are looking to do a gap year in between studies. Entering starting date more than one year ahead is referred to “Deferred entry”. A lot of students choose deferred entry in order to “lock down” their place at a university one year in advance. This is a great way of planning ahead and avoiding stress throughout one’s gap year. A gap year may also give you many new experiences and merits that you can use for your application on the other hand. It is up to you to choose. Deferred entry does not change your chances of being accepted to a programme.

Finally, you must enter whether you are planning on living at home during your studies. This is simply a formality inquiry, and as an international student you are obviously not living at home while studying.




In this part of the application you must enter information about your high school studies.

Your “highest qualification achieved” is your high school education, even though you might not have graduated from high school yet. Try finding your high school in the list of schools available on the page. If your school doesn’t exist on the list, you have to write the name manually.

“Exam centre number” may be required of you if you’ve done the International Baccalaureate program in high school. It is, however, irrelevant for many local highschool systems. You can read more about this under this section on UCAS.

Now you must find your type of “qualification” in the given list. Name the qualification you were given from completing high school. The names vary between different school systems, but they should all equate that of a “school leaving qualification” or a “high school diploma”. You will for instance find “International Baccalaureate” in the list, for those who completed the IB programme.

In the next step you must list all the high school courses that you’ve taken. You should find the English translations of the names of all your courses. The correct translations are usually available online through official governmental online platforms. You can also ask your school to issue a grade sheet in English, and thus provide you with all the translations you need. You must list every course that you’ve taken in high school and the grades you’ve received, whether you’ve completed them yet or not. For the ones you haven’t completed yet, you can choose to either leave the “grade” box empty or provide a preliminary grade and enter it as a “predicted grade”. You enter your grades in accordance with your local grade system (ie. There is no need to convert your grades in any way).




Here you have the possibility to list up to five professional experiences. This is a great opportunity to show that you’ve manage to balance school and work, and that you’ve developed an understanding of a job that somehow relates to what you aim to study. You can mention jobs, internships and trainees positions – think about your personal profile and how to highlight it using your professional experience.

Admission committees in the UK are more focused on your academic qualifications, but a relevant professional experience can definitely factor into making your profile stand out. Use this section to your advantage and try to formulate your “job descriptions” in a way that relates to what you’re interested in studying.

For example, instead of writing “Selling ice cream in a kiosk”, write “Responsible for the full range of tasks (including all the buying, sales and book-keeping) in a small ice cream store during summer season”.

Before choosing which jobs to write about we strongly recommend you to go over the section of this guide titled “Personal Profile”.



Personal Statement

This is your chance to talk about yourself and your reasons applying to a specific programme.  Your Personal Statement should convince the admission committees that you deserve a spot at their school. This is the most important part of your application, along with your grades. Read more about this in the section of this guide titled “Personal Statement”.

Before writing your Personal Statement, we strongly recommend that you go over the section of this guide titled “Personal Profile”.



Reference letter

In this section you enter the contact details of the person writing your “reference letter”, or letter of recommendation. He/She will then receive instructions via email on how to submit the reference letter. Read more about this in the section of this guide titled “Reference Letter”.

Before asking a teacher to write a reference letter for you, we strongly recommend that you go over the section of this guide titled “Personal Profile”.




Confirm that the information you’ve entered is correct. Very simple.




You pay the application fee directly on the UCAS web page. Once this is done, you can submit your application!



Admission tests



If you want to study in the UK as an international applicant (not having attended English-speaking high school), you must prove to have a sufficient level of English by performing a test. Most universities accept results from both the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and iELTS (International English Language Test System). TOEFL is the most common one, and it’s easy to find a test location no matter where you are in the world.



Subject- and course specific tests

As the UK lacks a general university admissions test like the American SATs, there are instead a number of different subject- and course specific admissions tests. It is your responsibility as an applicant to find out if any admissions tests are required for the programme that you’re interested in, and if so which tests.

This information is available on the official websites of the universities, under the “Admissions” section.

Here are two examples of where you find this type of information about specific programmes admissions requirements:


University of Oxford


University of Durham


You’ll also find a summary of all universities and programmes that require special admissions tests on UCAS’ website. Always make sure that the information is correct by reading on the relevant university’s own website.


Some of the most common tests are:


You’ll find even more links to admissions tests in the section of this guide titled “Link Bank”.

Make sure to look up admissions test requirements early on during the fall semester. Last registration date is usually set long before the deadline for the application.



Examples of works

It is rare that admissions committees demand a show of work samples or essays, but it does occur. Information about specific requirements in this regard is available through the universities’ websites under the “Admissions” section.




Please see the section of this guide titled “Interviews”.




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