You can write the most impressive university application. But if you send your application later than the deadline, it may go straight into the no pile: no one reads it, no one is impressed, no one sends you an offer.

Don’t take any chances.   Know the UCAS deadline for your course and get organised.

15 October 2016, by 6pm (UK time)

Who it is for:

Anyone applying for a course in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science or veterinary medicine.

Anyone applying for a course (in any subject) at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

What you can do if you miss the 15 October deadline:

Apply for a course with a later deadline.

Why:

These subjects/universities don’t consider late applicants. They receive many more applications, on-time and from students with the required qualifications and profiles, than they have places for.

Tip

If you are studying outside of the European Union and are applying to the University of Cambridge, your UCAS application deadline will be 20 September—but only if you are requesting an overseas interview in China, Malaysia or Singapore. You will also need to complete the COPA form by the same date and attach a school transcript, and in addition send the SAQ form a few days after applying (look out for an email about this from the university).

15 January 2017, by 6pm (UK time)

Who it is for: 

Applicants to all other universities and subjects. Except for the courses/universities closing on 15 October and some art & design courses that have a later deadline (see below), the main UCAS deadline for all applicants is 15 January.

What you can do if you miss the 15 January deadline:

It may not be too late, you could still apply.

Why:

Under the UCAS rules, courses can’t close before 15 January (except those closing on 15 October).  But if a university wants to continue taking applications after 15 January, there is nothing to stop it.

Generally-speaking, the most selective courses, and courses that receive a very high volume of applications, will not consider new applications after 15 January. However, that leaves a large number of courses that will, including at high-ranking universities. In addition, universities may choose to use a later deadline for overseas applicants (international applicants from outside of the European Union):  30 June 2017.

Tip

Check whether the application deadline for your course is 15 January or whether the university uses the 30 June deadline for overseas applicants.  If you’re not sure, call the university.  Don’t assume it’s too late until they tell you it’s too late.

24 March 2017, by 6pm (UK time)

UCAS Deadline Art & Design

Who it is for:

Applicants for some art & design courses.

I can’t stress this enough: Some art & design courses close on 24 March, but many will close on 15 January.

What you can do if you miss the 24 March deadline:

Call the university or college to ask if you can still apply.

Why:

They may use the 30 June deadline for overseas applicants, or they may be able to recommend some of their other courses that are still taking applications.

30 June 2017, by 6pm (UK time)

Final UCAS deadline 30 June

Who it is for:

Overseas applicants for courses that don’t have an earlier deadline.

What you can do if you miss the 30 June deadline:

If you send your application to UCAS after 30 June (and you’re not applying in UCAS Extra), UCAS won’t send your application to any university.  Instead, it will automatically enter you into something called Clearing.  Your challenge then is to call universities to see if they have any Clearing vacancies (places on courses) that they would be willing to consider you for.  You can find out more in my post here about how Clearing works.

Why:

After 30 June the regular UCAS application cycle comes to an end.  This doesn’t mean you can’t apply, but you will need to follow a process that’s different from the six steps we looked at earlier.

Final thoughts

Why do people recommend that you apply early?

Some people do believe that applying early can give applicants an advantage.  However, UCAS has an equal consideration rule that says all applicants who send their application within the deadline are on time and have to be treated fairly.

So what should you do: Apply early or wait?

If you can apply earlier than the deadline, it’s a good idea to do so.  If anything, you give yourself more time to plan your next steps after receiving your university decisions. And you can focus on your studies and exams in the last year at school, without having your UCAS application deadline constantly on your mind.

However, don’t rush your application just to get it in early.  

Remember, sending your application before the deadline won’t guarantee you an offer.  Writing an excellent application almost definitely will.

This article has been adapted from the chapter “Avoid Mistake #1: Don’t Miss Your Application Deadline” in 7 UCAS Application Mistakes to Avoid: A Guide for International Students.

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