Missed the January UCAS deadline?

Although from September onwards both schools and universities emphasise the importance of making a timely application through UCAS in order to guarantee that you will be considered for all of your course choices, in practice thousands of people who want to go to university miss the 15th January deadline day every year.

There are all sorts of reasons for this, ranging from the highly understandable–inability to apply before then due to work commitments, genuinely not knowing what course to apply for until after that time–to the slightly less defensible–personal statement writer’s block–and even simple, old-fashioned laziness.

But in the end it doesn’t really matter why you’ve missed the deadline–it’s now firmly in the past and can’t be somehow magically unmissed. The key thing now is to work out the best course of action to take. Misunderstanding the nature of the 15th January deadline, many people unfortunately think it means the gates have slammed shut for them for that particular year.

Its not the end of the world.

The 15th January deadline simply means that the university doesn’t have to consider your application if it receives it after this time. Now, for some courses that essentially means that they won’t simply won’t consider any post-deadline applicants: they’ve already had a pool of thousands to choose from and are having to turn away straight-A students.

This, however, is certainly not the case with all courses. Especially in this era of £9,000-per-year tuition fees, which has caused a year-on-year drop in the number of university applications, there are many courses that continue to want to assess applications that come in after 15th January as a result of the fact that they are still looking for the right people to fill the places on them.

Many people often think that this can only apply to courses that are supposedly of a lower quality. People reason that if a course was any good it would surely be oversubscribed already. But this certainly doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, what it means is that the admissions tutors for that course are still looking for applicants who meet or surpass their quality expectations. So a course that has very high entry requirements at an outstanding university may still be looking for new students as the ones who applied before 15th January didn’t match their criteria.

All this means that if you did miss the deadline, there’s still a good chance that your application will be considered, except for the cases with their own special deadlines such as Oxbridge and Medicine. And even if you think you’ve not got much chance of your application being looked at by your chosen universities, think of it this way: in making the application all you’ve got to lose is £23, and even then you’ll at least have an application that is completely ready to go the moment that the UCAS process begins again for the next year, meaning next time your application will be at the very top of the pile.

Act now.

So, the key thing to do now is simply to get your application ready. And in doing so you need to strike the right balance between getting it done quickly–because the longer you leave it the more likely it is your courses will become full–and not rushing the application and therefore not producing a good personal statement.

So the key is to go about the task efficiently but without cutting corners. You can only be said to have missed the deadline if you had been thinking about applying to university before it passed, so it’s likely that you already have a fair idea of the course you want to apply to.

So, have one more look at your shortlisted courses on the universities’ websites, then make your final selection of five. Then enter them, along with all the other key information such as employment history and qualifications, into the online UCAS application system.

After this, your next step is to get your personal statement written. If you’re reading this after the deadline has only just passed then you can give yourself a couple of days to write a draft, get feedback on it from a teacher or someone else you trust, and then rework it for final submission. But if you’re reading this in, say, April or June, then time may be a little bit more of the essence.


If your application goes in after 30th June, it will only be considered as part of the Clearing process, the somewhat frenzied rush for places that become available once A Level results are finalized. The downside of this is that you’ll need to be on hand in August to enter into some quick negotiations with universities that you’re interested in going to, rather than selecting your top five and letting them assess your application and make you a firm or conditional offer. So it’s certainly worth getting your application in before the 30th June deadline, though not the end of the world if you don’t.

Assuming you do meet this 30th June deadline, then you’re largely in the same boat as all the other UCAS applicants, minus the fact that your course choices don’t have to consider your application if they don’t want to. If you do get rejections, whether as a result of the course being full or through not meeting their entry criteria, you are eligible to enter into the UCAS Extra process once you’ve either had five rejections or have declined all offers made to you.

This means that even if you have made applications to full courses you will still have a chance to make further applications to other universities, which is just one more reason why missing the 15th January certainly doesn’t mean your university career is over before it even began.