Supporting their HE Application

there are many different ways in which you can support your students' he applications, below we have put together an overview of things you can do


Firstly, what is higher education and UCAS?

Higher education (HE) includes a diverse range of courses and qualifications (such as undergraduate degrees, foundation degrees and Higher National Diplomas). Most courses are taught in universities, but some are available at Further Education colleges and specialist course providers. UCAS (the University and College Admissions Service) is the centralised service that students use to apply for HE courses in the UK. Students complete an online application for up to 5 courses that UCAS sends directly to their chosen universities to consider. All decisions and offers from universities are made electronically through UCAS.

Given the wide range of HE study options, levels and courses available, it can be a challenging and often daunting process for young people to navigate their way through. Schools and colleges typically have a structured programme of activities and experienced staff members to help with this.


    There are two key dates in terms of the HE application process, which are always the same each year:


    • 15th October 2019 – Deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge, as well as all medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses.
    • 15th January 2020 - Deadline for the vast majority of other undergraduate courses.

    Encourage your students to do their HE research thoroughly to help ensure they make an informed decision about what and where to study. This is often a more time-consuming exercise than students expect so starting to think about HE plans as early as halfway through Year 12 is recommended. Leaving the UCAS application and accompanying research until the last minute can result in a hurried choice of university or course, both of which are less likely to result in a positive outcome.


    There are a number of websites students can use to exploreChoosing a course and university course ideas and make comparisons between different courses and institutions on key criteria (such as entry requirements, location, study modules, student satisfaction and future employment prospects). The following websites are recommended in particular:


    Attention to detail is critical when researching courses to avoid overlooking important information and causing later regret. For example, courses with similar titles don’t always cover the same learning, some subjects might not necessarily be based on the main university campus and some degrees, such as psychology or law, aren’t always accredited for entry into the occupation in question.


    When selecting a course, encourage your students to be realistic about the grades they will potentially achieve. In terms of entry requirements, a healthy mix of ambitious and safe choices for the five selections made via UCAS is definitely a good idea. It is helpful also to avoid overly focusing on making choices based on the perceived status or reputation of a university (or what they consider is a ‘good university’). There are in fact plenty of excellent options available at universities that may be positioned lower in the university league tables.

    If any of your students already have a clear idea about their future career plans, this can make choosing a HE course easier. However do make sure they carefully check qualifications needed for their chosen job as some require a specific degree at entry (such as dentistry, veterinary and architecture).

    If, as is more commonly the case, your students feel unsure about their career or degree course, you can reassure them that they don’t need to worry at this stage. Many students start university without a clear career plan but with a desire to study a specific subject area. During their time at university and through a combination of academic studies, work experience and extra-curricular activities, new ideas and possibilities emerge which then shape their future career plans. In addition, it is perhaps comforting to note that there are many professional and managerial roles are open to graduates with a degree level qualification in any subject.


    Encouraging your students to visit the universities they are considering in person is a vital and yet sometimes overlooked part of the HE research process. University open days give potential students the opportunity to speak to and question staff and current students, visit departments of interest (and sometimes attend sample lectures), see the accommodation and facilities and even explore the local area. All of these experiences help students to get a more in-depth insight into the university. However in order to make the most of open days, it is helpful to plan ahead as there is often so much on offer that it can feel quite overwhelming for attendees when they arrive on the day. Afterwards, you can encourage them to reflect on which aspects they liked and disliked and whether they could picture themselves living and studying at this place for 3+ years.


    Most university open days take place between May–July of Year 12 and September–November of Year 13. Students can find out when open days are and book places to attend either via the universities own websites or the online open days database.

Source of further information

The UCAS website provides comprehensive information on how teachers and advisers can support students and parents or carers with the application process here.

Contact us