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What to do if you miss the Ucas deadline

The Ucas deadline has passed; and for whatever reason, you haven't got your university application in. What are your options?

Of course, it’s best to sort out your Ucas application well before any deadlines loom. But if you do miss the starting gun for whatever reason, all hope is not lost.

First of all, the Ucas ‘deadline’ you need to get your application in by depends on what subject you're applying to (or even who):

Ucas deadline countdown: last minute tips plus what happens next

The main Ucas deadline: 29 January 

This is the cut-off date for most degree courses. It's usually the same date every year (15 January) to make it easy to remember, but this year Ucas has extended it by two weeks to 29 January 2021 because of the school closures caused by the latest lockdown. You can read more about the deadline extension on our sister site The Student Room here

Between then and the end of June, although your Ucas form will be forwarded to the unis you've applied to, admissions tutors are not obliged to consider you. Whether they do depends on how many candidates are ahead of you in the queue, or have already been given places.

Check with universities directly to see if they accept late applications for the course you want to study. You might get lucky...

University Campus Suffolk (UCS) considers late applications for the majority of our courses. Normally, only midwifery will close on 15 January.  Karen Hinton | Acting Head Of Student Recruitment - University Campus Suffolk (ucs)

We invariably consider all applications after 15 January deadline. Emma Brier | Assistant Academic Registrar - Leeds Trinity University

Miss the January Ucas deadline?

If you've missed the Ucas deadline, don't despair. Your hopes of going to university this year aren't over...

Late Ucas applications

It's worth getting in touch with a university you wish to apply to, to find out whether they accept late applications. While very popular courses or universities may be strict about deadlines (eg Russell Group universities), others may be more flexible and still accept your application.

Note, a university may ask you why you didn't get your application in before the deadline; so if you have a good excuse, explain why. 

If you search for a course on The Uni Guide, you can see the percentage of applicants who receive an offer; this can give you an indication of how popular a particular course is.

Ucas Extra and Clearing

There are two official Ucas processes in place if you don't get your application in before 29 January or if other hiccups occur:

Ucas Extra: Ucas Extra runs from 25 February to 4 July for applicants who have made five initial choices, but either have been unsuccessful in all cases or have declined any offers they received.

Ucas Clearing: the Clearing cycle kicks in from July, finishing in September. This is the time when any empty places are up for grabs following results day. 

  • For Scottish unis, peak time is early August when Higher results are published.
  • In the rest of the UK, it maxes out a couple of weeks later when A-level results are issued and thousands of spaces are freed up by applicants not making the grade, or turning down insurance offers in favour of their first choices.

Generally, Clearing operates on a first come, first served basis, but most unis still want the best applicants and won’t compromise on grade requirements. 

For Extra or Clearing, you may increase your options by considering joint or combined degrees covering two or more subjects.

If you decide to go for Clearing and you aren’t already in the Ucas system, don’t wait until it’s at its height to opt in. There’ll be an inevitable delay while you write and submit an application when people already in the system can sneak in and snap up places before you are even on board.  

It's also worth keeping in mind that degree apprenticeships don't follow the same application cycle. You can apply to a degree apprenticeship at the same time as you apply to university, although the exact process will vary from provider to provider.

More missed deadlines

Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry, veterinary courses: 15 October

If you're applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or a medicine, dentistry or veterinary course, your deadline is a couple of months before the main Ucas deadline. You need to get your application in the October before you intend to study.

So if you're applying to a course beginning in September 2021, you need to apply before 15 October 2020. Got it?

Miss this and your chances of being considered are slim to non-existent. If, come the summer, your grades are out of this world, then it could be worth contacting these unis and courses directly: they won’t feature in Clearing. Don’t hold your breath, because they are likely to have their own waiting list of candidates who did hit the deadline.

  • What to do: re-apply (in plenty of time) next autumn. Use the extra time productively: extra study, relevant work experience and varied volunteering will boost your chances in a very competitive field.

The conservatoires: 1 October

Like the Oxbridge deadline, this refers to the October before you plan to study ie for a course beginning in 2021, your deadline is 1 October 2020 (for music courses for dance, drama and theatrical courses, it's the main Ucas deadline ie 15 January).

This is the closing date for applications to most UK conservatoire courses via Cukas (note, dance, drama or screen production courses may have a different deadlines check directly). Again, it’s unlikely you’ll be considered after this point, as the auditions and interviews cycle gives little leeway for latecomers.

  • What to do: you can always apply to an academic degree in the same subject at a mainstream university which has a deadline of 15 January. If you decide instead to reapply to the conservatoires next year, there will be an expectation that your experience, performance and techniques will have risen several notches.

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