Behind the scenes: how your uni application is processed
After all that time spent researching courses and redrafting your personal statement, you've sent your university application off - and it's all gone very quiet. Should you be worried?
How is my uni application processed?You may be wondering how long it will take for Ucas to process your application. As soon as you hit submit on your application, Ucas will fire this off to the universities you've indicated on your application. Now it's down to those universities whether to make you an offer or not.
The journey your application makes once it's received by an institution varies slightly depending on both the uni and the course, but typically it'll be seen by more than one pair of eyes – often by both general admissions staff and academic tutors.
"Typically, there are two ways in which applications are processed – either a centralised process or a collegiate/decentralsied process," explains Kevin Betts, head of undergraduate student recruitment at the University of Sussex.
"A centralised process involves all applications being submitted to one admissions team that will generally be within the university’s professional services team. They’re professional non-academic staff whose job is to specifically review all applications," Kevin continues.
"If somebody meets what we call an academic template (they meet all of our criteria and are deemed as suitable for offer), those staff can make an offer without an admissions tutor seeing it. If, however, the applicant is ‘non-standard’ or is a borderline case, they will refer that application to the admissions tutor, who will make the final decision." Kevin adds.
"The devolved or collegiate system means that applications are delivered to teams in each school or college of study. Effectively, a similar method to the centralised system is undertaken but perhaps with a little more academic input," Kevin finishes.
Watch now: This video guides you through what happens after your application is submitted.
First up, tutors will check that you meet their entry criteria:
What are university tutors looking for?
They're looking for evidence that you're really enthusiastic about the course:
They've also got to weigh up your application against the competition:
And they want to make sure that you'll be a good fit for the university:
Universities are just like people – they have personalities and they have foibles, so they want to make sure people fit nicely into that institution.
How long does it take for unis to make offers?
There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to hearing back from a university – check out our article on how different universities or departments approach this.
Applications for certain courses can take longer than others. For competitive courses like medicine and dentistry, or those requiring an interview or audition, it's likely it'll take universities longer to respond.
"A majority of universities will start making offers on a daily basis once applications open. They will process them anywhere between a few days to a few weeks after submission, depending on how busy they are," comments Kevin Betts from the University of Sussex.
"Other universities will do what is called ‘gathering the field’ where they will not make any offers at all until the Ucas deadline. Of course, all applicants are given equal consideration up to and including the Ucas final submission date.
"If a student wants to know how their application will be treated and processed, they should contact the university directly," Kevin says.
Here's what a few other universities told us:
- University of Leicester: 'Our aim is to process undergraduate applications within 20 days.'
- Anglia Ruskin University: 'Within five days for non-interview courses.'
- University of East Anglia (UEA): 'If we have a course that has a very specific number of spaces, we look at all the applications (as a 'gathered field') before determining with the admissions director who receives an offer.'
- Leeds Trinity University: 'Decisions take longer for programmes where an interview is mandatory – primary education, journalism and some sports courses, for instance.
However, all the universities we spoke to said that there are certain times in the year when they may take longer to respond, due to the volume of applications.
You could receive an offer for a different courseSometimes applicants don't meet the criteria for the course they've applied for, but might be suitable for another course.
Waiting for offers: tips from tutors and Ucas
Once you've hit send and you're waiting to hear back, "Ucas will process your application and then share it with your chosen unis," explains Courteney Sheppard, senior customer experience manager at Ucas.
There are still things you can do while you wait though, Courteney suggests – "make sure all of your personal details are up to date and check your emails regularly as you’ll have correspondence from either Ucas or the unis when you need to take any action or see updates."
It's also a good use of time to "do further research about accommodation, student life and maybe even managing money whilst you wait for your offers to come through," Courteney adds.
"Prepare and practice for interviews in case you get invited for one too!" Courteney finishes.
And a few final words from universities...
- 'October to January is the peak application processing period for most admissions teams, so try not to panic if you're waiting for more than four weeks.'
- 'Make sure you let universities know if you change your email address, phone number or move.'
- 'Respond to requests for additional information immediately.'