How to apply for university if you're not in school or college

Without the guidance of a school or college, applying for university can be a confusing and intimidating process. Maybe you’ve taken a gap year after A Levels, worked for a couple of years and now decided uni is for you, or perhaps you’re a mature student coming to further education later in life.

Our guide should help you navigate the application process.

Where to start

The usual process to apply for an undergraduate university course is through UCAS – Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It’s the centralised system that all students and universities use to make and receive applications. 

However if you want to apply for a course to start this September, you will enter Clearing. This means that you will apply to the university directly via an online form or a Clearing hotline service, and you won't need to use UCAS. Read our tips on why applying early in Clearing is a good idea.

Research time

Find out what courses are available. Not all courses will be available in Clearing, those that are oversubscribed won’t be available. UCAS will have a full list on their site or you can check with universities directly.

Do some research. Before you apply we recommend you speak to any universities you may be interested in. Each institute will have a hotline you can call to do this. Often these won’t open until A Level results day but if you already have your results so you should be able to apply online up until that point.

Figure out which course it is that you would like to study and see if the course spec interests you and will offer you the skill development you want. Now it’s time to figure out if you meet the entry requirements for that course. These can often vary from the main cycle entry requirements, so it’s important to check you are looking at the right entry dates and tariff. You will need to be able to figure out your UCAS points to see if you can apply for the course through Clearing.

Worried? Get alerts and advice.

Be prepared for Clearing with our Clearing guide and alerts about our available courses.

If you are applying after 30 June  you are entered into Clearing which makes your application process slightly different. Not sure exactly what Clearing is or what it will entail? Read our guide.

UCAS points

UCAS points can be tricky to understand, especially if you have been away from education for a few years. UCAS points help put an easy to understand figure on your exam results to help universities quickly understand what level of qualifications you have. The tariff changed in 2017, therefore it’s a good idea to double check you understand the new system and scoring. Check the table below our use our UCAS points calculator to help figure out your points.

Studied BTECS? Don’t worry you can use the UCAS points calculator to figure out what points this gives you too.

A Level Result Points
A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16

UCAS points cover all other qualifications from AS Levels to Scottish Highers and the IB qualifications. Details on these can be found on the UCAS website.

Next steps

Find your course and hit the apply online button.

If you are successful in your application, your offer email will explain how to accept your place and what to do next before term starts.

Call Clearing hotline

Clearing. Let's talk about you.

Looking for an undergraduate course to start this September? We have places available in a range of subjects.

Find your course and apply online