Applying to University: Information for parents

For most UK-based students, applying to university will be done via UCAS. If your child is still at school or college, the application process will run concurrently with their final year of school or college, so it can be a stressful time with exams mixed in. Applying can seem intimidating to students at first, so as a parent, it's good to know the key dates to help your child navigate it. 

Summer holidays

If your child is at school or college, they will likely be encouraged to start thinking about their application towards the end of year 12. Help by discussing their options, identifying what their key academic interests are and encouraging them to attend early open days.


Your child will need to register on the UCAS website and choose their courses and universities. Around the start of September, they will be able to submit their application, however the deadline for submission is not until January.

There will usually be an internal date within schools and colleges to have their UCAS form completed by - this ranges from after October half-term up until before Christmas holidays.

The form itself is divided into sections and is accompanied by step-by-step instructions.

The information requested includes:

  • Personal details
  • Predicted grades
  • University choices
  • Preferred course
  • A personal statement about their interests and hobbies and why they wish to study that particular course


In the lead up to the January deadline, you should encourage your child to attend university Open Days. An Open Day allows them to see the campus, speak to current students and lecturers, explore facilities and see accommodation. Most visitors on an Open Day are accompanied by parents, as you will want to see where you child may be heading, too.

15 January deadline

This is the official final date to  submit the UCAS application form.

Applications can still be submitted after this and they will be sent on to universities if they have vacancies, though It is important to note that universities are not required to consider late applications.

After they've applied

When your child hears back from the universities they've applied to, the possible responses include:

  • Unconditional offer – application has been accepted and a place has been allocated
  • Conditional offer – application will be accepted and a place allocated provided conditions are met (usually, predicted grades/UCAS points)
  • Unsuccessful – unsuccessful application

During this time, universities will also need a response from your child, who will need to choose: 

  • A firm choice – the offer your child would most like to accept
  • An insurance choice – a back-up if the conditions of the firm offer are not met and the university can no longer offer a place

February – March

Now is the time for students to start applying for student loans and thinking about funding. Plus, if it has not already been done, arrange a  campus and accommodation tour which is also a great way to ask extra questions you or your child may have.

April – May

Your child should have accepted their offers and made a firm and an insurance choice. It is a good idea to encourage them to choose an insurance choice that has lower  grade requirements than their firm choice, and that it is still an institution that they would be happy to attend. 


Your child is likely to be contacted during this time by their firm choice university to book  accommodation. Support by helping them to research all options, looking at distance from university, facilities and amenities.  


This is the last opportunity for late UCAS applications, after this your child will need to go through the Clearing process if they want to apply to university.


Your child will receive their exam results. Some qualification results are not automatically sent by UCAS to universities so copies may need to be sent to confirm grades. If the required grades aren’t achieved it is still worth contacting the university, as they may still be able to confirm your offer. In the event that things haven't gone to plan, your child can enter the Clearing process.


Enrolment and freshers’ week is at the end of September, with teaching starting the following week. You can help your child to prepare for university by helping them to plan what they will need to take with them. If your child will be staying at home you can support them by helping to set up a dedicated area for them to study.

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