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Ucas deadline countdown: five application delays you should avoid

Getting your Ucas application in on time isn't just a case of hitting submit on 31 January. These five deadline delays have foiled students before – here's how to avoid them...

Even when you've given yourself enough time to do everything, delays happen. This is often the case if your college or school are submitting your application for you, along with everyone else's.

So why do students usually miss the deadline? And what can you do if the same happens to you?

1. You don't give your tutor enough time to review your application

The Ucas deadline is 31 January 2024 (for most courses), but if you're applying through your school or college you'll need to give your tutor adequate time before this to complete the reference section and approve your application before they send it off to Ucas. Sending your application to your tutor on deadline day won't count as meeting the deadline – it has to reach Ucas itself no later than 6pm!

What to do: your school or college has probably set its own deadlines for you to get your application to them. If not, set your own, allowing your tutor plenty of time to be able to complete their section, review your completed application and return to you if necessary to correct any errors.

You should also factor in any time you need to discuss your options with your tutor during their office hours, should you need some guidance before settling on your top five courses to apply to.

2. You don't resend your returned application to school or college

If, for whatever reason, your school or college returns your application to you, you’ll get an email from Ucas telling you to log on to the Hub. Once you log on, you will have a message from your school explaining what needs to be amended.

What to do: once you’ve made the corrections, you must send your application back to your school or college – it won't get resubmitted until you've done this.

3. You assume your school or college has sent your application off...

With references to write, personal statements to check and final sends to do for lots of students, there's a chance – albeit a small one – that your application could be missed by your tutor or adviser and not sent in on time, even if you actually submitted your application a while ago.

What to do: check that your Hub homepage confirms that your application has been sent off – it should say 'sent'. If it doesn't, contact your tutor and ask them when they plan to send it, or if there's anything else you need to do.

4. Your reference hasn't been completed

For whatever reason, your reference hasn't been finished and – despite your best efforts – you're not able to get in touch with the referee.

What to do: you may need to ask somebody else to write the reference for you. Read our guide to Ucas references to find out who can do this.

If you have to send your application without a reference (which should only be done as a last resort), then you must contact your university choices and ask if they’ll still consider your application if you were to arrange for the reference to be sent direct to them soon after deadline day.

5. You suffer a technology trip-up

It happens. It might not necessarily mean the end of the world though. Here are some tips if technology fails you at the final hurdle:
  • Have your Ucas log-in details ready.
  • Have a debit or credit card ready to pay the application fee. For applications for 2024 entry, this is £27.50 for up to five choices. Ucas no longer offers a reduced fee for applying to a single choice.
  • If you’re sending your application on 31 January, it must be submitted by 6pm.
  • The Ucas phone number is 0371 468 0 468. For international callers, the number is +44 330 3330 230. Advisers also answer questions via Twitter and Facebook.

Ucas application sent off, now what?

Now you have to wait! University response times vary depending on the uni or department, but if you apply by 31 January you should receive your decisions by 16 May at the latest. 

The offers waiting game can be an anxious time; some people get offers within 48 hours, while others wait for weeks or even a month without hearing anything. It really does depend on the course you've applied to, as well as a number of other factors.

There are a few things you can start working on while you wait for universities to respond, to get ahead.

Once you've got your university decisions, make sure you check out our advice on how to make your firm and insurance choices

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