A quick guide to the university application process, from finance and UCAS to deadlines.

You've got them through their GCSEs and they're well on the way to finishing school, but the biggest challenge is yet to come… applying for university. Here are some tips that will see you sail through the process.  

What is UCAS?   

You'll become very well acquainted with the University and College Application System (UCAS) in the next few months. UCAS is an online system that processes all UK applications for university. It also shows all offers and confirms final acceptance. In short, it's a way to keep track of an application.   

When are the deadlines?

Deadlines can vary depending on the courses and the course provider.

Normally, the deadline is 15 January every year. However, deadlines can vary depending on the courses and the course provider. The best thing to do is to check the official UCAS website.

How long is the application?

The application is made up of seven sections. There are some handy videos alongside each section that explain how to fill it out, and answer common questions. It can be fairly lengthy process, so it's worth starting the process as soon as possible.

Do we send the application off?

No – the school or college are heavily involved at this stage so you don't need to worry. Once all parts of the form have been filled out, the school will send it off to UCAS to process.

How many universities can we choose?

Get ready to do lots of research, as you can choose up to five institutions.

What are tariff points?

UCAS turn grades into points. Each university then has a set tariff per course which your child must achieve in order to qualify for the course. Have a look at the table on the UCAS website and see how the grades transfer.

How useful are Open Days?

With five potential university options, it's important to visit some universities and make a shortlist. It's a great chance to look at everything on offer, including the teaching facilities, accommodation and just the general surroundings. It's an opportunity for your child to get a feel for life at the university, but also a chance for you to ask current students, advisors, and lecturers any important questions.

How much does it cost to apply? 

It's £12 for one choice, or £23 for two to five choices.

How do we finance uni?  

You can either pay the fees and the cost of university up front, or take out loans to cover the cost. The two most common types of loans taken out are tuition fee and maintenance loans. This'll cover the cost of the course fees (up to £9,000 a year) – and is usually paid straight to the university.

Maintenance loans can be more complex. It depends on the amount of household income, whether the student is living at home and where in the UK they will be studying. Once your child starts working and earning over a certain amount of money, they'll begin to pay back the loan in instalments.

There are other types of bursaries available, too. For more information, visit the UK Government student finance webpages.

What sort of documents do I need to dig out?

If your child is applying for a maintenance loan you'll probably need to support their application. This will mean providing evidence of earned and unearned income and proof of divorce or separation if relevant. Remember to only send photocopies – original copies won't be sent back.