Are you starting to think about applying to university? The process can sound stressful and complicated, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems. Yes, it’s a big decision, but it can be made so much easier the earlier you start. If you’re wondering when to apply for university and when to even start thinking about going to university, then read ahead to find out more.

When to start researching universities

When do you apply for university?
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Some people know what university they want to go to when they’re sixteen, others don’t know right until the last second. It’s a difficult decision to make, especially since that’s where you’ll be spending the next few years of your life. Research always helps in this case. I’d say a normal time to start researching is when you’re in 6th form or college, around a year before the September you would start university. This gives you plenty of time to do research and go to some open days! Don’t stress if you haven’t made your mind up yet, since loads of people are unsure as well. You can apply to up to 5 different universities, which is always worth doing if you’re really unsure about where you want to go!

When to start writing your personal statement

Even if you haven’t picked your top choice university yet, you should still start writing your personal statement. This will be the same letter you send to all universities, so make sure to not include any university names! Most students start writing their personal statement in September, as this gives them plenty of time to perfect it before submitting. The earlier you begin writing, the less stressed you will be when the deadline approaches. Beginning your personal statement will also depend on when your deadline is, which we’ll go into now! Here are our best tips for writing a great personal statement when applying to universities.

When should you normally apply to university – Average course deadlines

when to apply to university?

Your average course deadline is usually in January, and for 2024 it’s the 31st of January at 18:00. If you’re planning on applying for university in 2024, then you should have begun your personal statement by now. Knowing what universities you want to apply to is useful at this stage, if you want less work over Christmas.

Writing a personal statement and applying for university isn’t easy, as it is a big decision to make, but meeting the deadline in advance will make your life so much easier! If you’re unsure, there are loads of people out there to ask for advice, such as teachers, career advisors, and even stories on the internet! If you’re not applying for university for 2024 but want to for 2025, keep an eye on the UCAS website. They have loads of useful information, and I’m sure they can answer any question you may have. Here’s more details on when UCAS applications close.

Oxford and Cambridge deadlines

When do you apply for university?
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If you’re aiming for Oxford or Cambridge, then your deadline will be earlier in the year. It’s also worth noting that you can only apply to Oxford or Cambridge in the same year, so you won’t be able to apply to both! The deadline to apply is the 15th of October, except for years where this falls on a weekend. The UCAS website always has this information available, so check closer to the time for 2025.

So, if you’re planning on applying to Oxford or Cambridge in later years, the deadline will be sometime in October. This is for any course at either Oxford or Cambridge, so you might want to start writing your personal statement a bit earlier than September, just to make sure it’s done on time! If you’re applying to other universities, then you can apply to Oxford or Cambridge in October, and then the other universities for their deadline later in the year.

Medicine, veterinary, medicine/science, dentistry deadlines

The medicine, veterinary, and dentistry-related courses had the same deadline as Oxford and Cambridge courses; the 16th of October. If you’re unsure whether the course you’re applying for falls under this category, you should be able to find out that information on your university website. If you can’t find it there, it’s always worth ringing the university or UCAS, as they will be able to help you. This deadline is also in October every year, so again, it is worth starting your personal statement earlier than September.

What happens if you miss the deadline?

what happens if you miss university application deadline?

So, the worst has happened and you’ve missed your deadline, what can you do now? If you’ve missed the October deadline, it’s very unlikely that they will allow late applications. But, it is always worth contacting them, as they might have spaces available if you are lucky. If you have missed the deadline for January, then you should always try and contact the university. Some universities may accept your application, but others may not, so it’s down to the individual university and their intake numbers.

If none of your universities accept your late application but you still really want to go, then you will have to wait until clearing opens, on results day. Clearing allows you to get into university if you haven’t been accepted into any of the universities you applied for. However, it is always worth meeting the deadline, as this saves you so much stress come results day. Here’s more info on what to do if you miss your UCAS deadline.

When should you apply to university if you’re an international student?

when to apply to university as an international student?

If you’re an international student applying to a university in the UK, there are several unique aspects to consider. The application process is centralised through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), so it’s crucial to be aware of the UCAS deadlines, which are typically earlier for international students. This is especially true for competitive courses like Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Science.

Language proficiency is a key requirement for non-native English speakers. Tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE Academic are commonly accepted, but it’s important to check each university’s specific requirements. Ensure you book and prepare for these tests well in advance of your application.

Once you receive an offer from a university, the next step is the visa application process. You will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa, starting this process as soon as you get your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the university.

Academic documentation is another critical area. Your qualifications must be recognised in the UK, and you might need to provide translated and verified copies of your academic records. Additionally, some courses may require specific entrance tests, such as the UKCAT or BMAT for medical courses.

For more helpful advice, read our content specifically for international students studying in the UK.

What if you want to take a gap year?

applying for university when taking a gap year

Taking a gap year before starting university can be a great decision, especially if you’re not sure what you want to study or just craving some adventure or life experience.  If you decide to take a gap year after submitting your UCAS application, it’s important to inform the universities where you have applied. You can request a deferred entry, which means you are applying for a place but intending to start a year later.

If you’re applying during your gap year, it’s beneficial to outline your gap year plans in your personal statement. Universities value understanding how the gap year will contribute to your personal and academic development. During the gap year, staying academically engaged is crucial, such as engaging in activities that enhance your skills and knowledge relevant to your chosen field of study, like online courses, volunteer work, internships, or work experiences.

For those reapplying during a gap year, it’s essential to stay on top of UCAS deadlines and other important dates. Keeping track of any changes in course content or university policies that might occur during your gap year is also important.


So, when do you apply for university? Well, for most people, it will be in January (31st 2024), but if you’re applying to Oxford, Cambridge, or doing a medicine course, then the deadline will be October. If you’re ready to move to university and want to start packing, then here’s a checklist of what to pack for university!