How to Apply to Universities in the United Kingdom (for International Students)

Having just gone through the long process myself, I would be more than happy to share the experience. It does take a little while to gather the resources together, so be prepared. I’m coming at this from an American’s perspective. The application procedure might vary depending on where you’re applying from (those from Canada, Australia and New Zealand might find the process a little easier, for example).

Here’s what you need to know and do:

Application Dates

First thing to keep in mind is that application due dates are going to be a fair amount of time earlier than the University application deadlines in your own country. I’m applying to get into programs that start in the Fall of 2016, and my deadline is October of 2015. To be on the safe side, I set my own deadline of September 30th, and was able to finish a little early.

There’s another thing to consider along these lines as well. If you are applying to schools both in your own country as well as in the UK (or anywhere else other than your own country), you need to keep in mind that you might get accepted at different times. This might seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes down to having deadlines regarding when you need to accept your acceptance, they might conflict.

For example: I don’t need to apply to my US schools until January. While I’m anticipating going to school in the UK, if a particular school in the US accepts me, I’d be an idiot to turn it down (long story, one you can piece together by reviewing past blog entries). However, because I’m applying to my UK schools earlier, I’ll hear back from them earlier, and might have a deadline to accept them which is before I hear back from US schools. This means I have to gamble and make a choice early. If you find yourself in this situation, I don’t have an answer for you – yet. It may come with time.

Where to Apply

Do your homework. Make sure you find the programs that are best suited to you and at which schools. It’s easier if you do this before hand, but you can do this while you’re filling out your application (I’ll get to that next).

The way the application process works in the UK, is fairly brilliant (at least, in comparison to the way US university applications work). You need only go to one website ( )  and apply to the programs you’re interested in. there are some stipulations, however.

You can only apply to five programs

Chose your programs wisely. You can apply to one or two universities if you want, or five different ones. However, it counts the programs you apply to. For example, two programs I was interested in were the English Literature program and the Literature and Philosophy program at Durham University. While they’re both at one school, they count as two programs.

You don’t need your letters of recommendation.

As I scrambled to harass my teachers to gather my letters of recommendation to upload to the server, I realized that they didn’t want any files or PDF’s at all. Instead, they want you to chose a person they will interview. For this they require that you firstly get permission from your reference to give out their contact information, as well as ask them when they are not available to take calls of this nature. Then the site asks that you pass along your reference’s email address, phone number, and address. After this is done, you are able to send out an invitation to your reference, to which they agree to, and then “they” (the website? The administrations department of the Universities? I don’t know) contact your reference and get their glowing review.

The Cost of Applying

It is normal for there to be a processing fee for any university you apply to. I happen to know that the university in my hometown of Bellingham – Western Washington University – charges $55, while other schools like Cornell and Columbia Universities, can charge an upwards of $75 processing fee.

With UCAS, there too is a fee. However, unlike applying for schools in the US, you won’t be paying per university. You’ll pay a one time fee of £22 for your application, which translates to (approximately, with the exchange rates current to the date of this post) $33.54 (USD), $44.79 (CAD), $47.92 (AUD), and €29.84 (EUR).

How Long To Expect to Wait

I won’t lie, I don’t have an exact time frame on this. However, many of the answers I have found have estimated between 10-14 working days. And I assure you, they will be the longest 14 business days you’ve ever encountered. But once you know, one way or the other, it’ll be worth it.

Good luck applying!


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