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How will coronavirus affect my university application?

Making a Ucas application is tough at the best of times. But what if it's happening as the country is locked down as a result of coronavirus?

Making a Ucas application, receiving offers, doing exams, waiting for results. The process of university application is always an anxious time and the extra uncertainty caused by the closure of schools and colleges and the cancellation of exams makes it even more difficult.

But there are some positives and reassuring developments.

Perhaps the best news is that it’s expected that the normal admissions process will take place. As the universities minister Michelle Donelan states: "There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted”. 

Receiving offers 

Universities will continue to send offers and all existing offers will stand. But they have been stopped from making unconditional offers or changing offers to unconditional until the full guidelines for awarding grades in 2020 are published.

That’s because the government do not want students to feel pressured into accepting an offer because of worries about the process for deciding grades.

The education secretary Gavin Williamson stated: “My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives – whether that’s further or higher education, an apprenticeship or a job”.

One change that benefits applicants is the decision to extend the deadline for deciding on offers by two weeks. Ucas will be emailing applicants to confirm the new deadline. Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant says that this is to give “students more time to make decisions about their future”.

Getting results

Despite the cancellation of exams, students will receive grades for all their A-level, GCSE, SQA, BTEC and other courses due to end in summer 2020. Grades will be calculated using carefully monitored teacher judgements alongside a range of statistical data so the grading is as fair and robust as it can be. The whole process will be carried out by the exam boards and monitored and controlled by Ofqual, the government body that regulates the exam system.

A-level results will be available on Thursday 13th August and GCSE results a week later on Thursday 20th August.

After results

For those students disappointed with their grade or who have missed the requirements for their preferred course, there are a range of options.
1. There will be a process whereby students can appeal against the grade they have been awarded. It’s not yet known exactly how this will work.

2. An extra set of exams will take place as early as possible in the autumn term. Most universities are willing to adjust their start dates to allow for students to receive the results from these exams. There is also the option to defer a year and take exams in 2021.

3. Clearing will operate as usual, matching students to places available at different universities. It is also open to those who have accepted unconditional offers. In the words of Alan Jarvis, chief executive officer for Universities UK: “Students who accept an unconditional offer will be able to release themselves as part of the Ucas self-release process to explore other options during Clearing”.

University start dates

It is anticipated that university terms should start at the usual time although there are likely to be special later start dates for those students sitting the extra set of exams in the autumn.

These dates will, of course, depend on progress in combatting coronavirus.

Researching universities

For students wishing to find out more, it looks like the lockdown will mean that visits and open days will not be possible for the moment.

But there are alternatives. 

Virtual open days

Universities are beginning to adjust to lockdown by moving open days online. Keep an eye open for these through social media or by visiting university websites. These virtual open days may include video tours, livestreamed presentations and Q/A sessions.

Virtual tours

These are often available on university websites alongside opportunities to ask questions and talk to current students.

University forums on The Student Room

You can chat with other students applying to particular universities and with students already there to find out what it’s really like.

Alternatively, you can research courses and universities using the tools here on The Uni Guide.

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