Dates for your diary
Get to grips with the application process and deadlines, says Paul Bray
Applying to university may miraculously transform your teenager into a mature, organised and communicative human being. But just in case it doesn’t, here’s a crib sheet on how to keep their application on the rails.
Choose a course
This is now becoming urgent, as the application process will soon be in full swing. The Telegraph’s University Course Finder (coursefinder. telegraph.co.uk) and Ucas Search Tool (search.ucas. com) are both invaluable for discovering which institutions offer which courses.
But syllabuses and teaching methods vary, so check that your child has also consulted the university websites to ensure that the courses offer what they really want. When? Now
This is highly advisable, and something parents can really get involved with. Most institutions run open days for prospective students, where you can quiz the teaching staff and view the campus and accommodation facilities. You may need to book in advance. Self-guided, ad hoc visits are sometimes possible, too. When? As soon as available
Register with Ucas
The application process is handled by Ucas for a fee of £23 (or £12 if applying for only one course). Sixthform students usually register with Ucas through their school, but it’s worth double-checking. When? As soon as possible
Write a personal statement
This vital document explains why the student wants to study at university and why they’re a good candidate for consideration. Because most courses now don’t require an interview, it’s usually the only way for applicants to sell themselves.
It’s often the hardest part of the entire process, so parental support is
When? By October half-term
Complete the application
This is done online and is fairly straightforward; schools often check and finalise it. Students can apply for up to five courses, with no order of preference.
The deadline for most courses is January 15 (October 15 for Oxbridge and some medical subjects). But many universities start making offers earlier, so the sooner your child applies, the better. If they miss the deadline, don’t panic: they can still apply until June 30. Applications made after that go straight into Clearing. When? Ideally before Christmas
Most universities should reply to applications by the end of March. Offers are conditional on the student’s exam results, and the required grades may not exactly match the course prospectus, so it pays to check carefully.
Once all their universities have responded, students must confirm their first (“firm”) choice. Most also accept a second (“insurance”) choice, usually requiring lower grades.
There’s a hard deadline for replying, after which any offers not accepted are automatically declined, so don’t miss it. When? By May 7 (if all responses have been received by March 31)
Apply for finance
As soon as students have a firm choice they can start applying for finance (loan and grant). You will need to furnish evidence of your income, too.
There’s a deadline, usually around the end of May; if you apply after this date the cash may not be available by the start of your child’s first term. Also check whether you need to apply now for university scholarships or bursaries. When? As soon as a firm offer has been accepted
Most universities make an effort to accommodate all first-year undergraduates in halls of residence. Single rooms with self-catering facilities are the norm and en suites are common, but not all halls are on campus. It’s usually first come, first served. When? As soon as possible after accepting an offer
Accept a place
When the exam results are issued they are sent direct to Ucas, which automatically notifies the universities. Even if your child doesn’t get the required grades, one of their choices may still agree to accept them.
If not, they automatically go into Clearing, where unplaced applicants can apply to any course that still has vacancies. It’s a frenetic and stressful process, so parental advice and support are very welcome. The plum places are filled fast, so don’t be on holiday when the exam results come out. When? From August 14 (A-level results day)
See for yourself: parents can accompany students to university open days to give a second opinion