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Applying to university in 2021 - where to start?

Tips on getting started when choosing your next steps from the Success at School Team.

17 September 2020

It's time to make some really big decisions about your future. Whether you're dead set on university or having a wobble, need some tips on choosing the best course or uni, looking for advice on open days or thinking about applying to Oxbridge - our guide has all the links you need to get started.

1. Have you considered all the options?



University is a great choice for many students but if you're not sure it's for you, there are other options. You've probably heard about higher and degree apprenticeships, which give you higher-education qualifications all the way up to a master's degree, while providing pay and training in the workplace. You should also check out our article Is uni for me? and our pros and cons guide.

2. Choosing a subject 

Some people have their heart set on a particular subject or discipline but for many people this can be a tricky choice. Our guide to choosing a uni subject helps you match your skills, interests and career aspirations to a particular academic discipline.

3. Choosing a university

So you know what subject you want to do - but where do you want to study? Not only are there different institutions to choose from, you can also choose from different kinds of university experience - whether that's a traditional institution, a redbrick university, a modern campus or a former polytechnic. Check out our guide.

4. Open Days 

Covid means that open days are happening online this year. Although virtual open days have limitations, this does give you the opportunity to see many more universities than usual. Seeing the accommodation and facilities, talking to current students and hearing from staff is a really important part of making your choice, so take advantage of the flexibility on offer this year by booking onto as many open days as you can. Check out our guide to uni open days.

5. Applying to uni

Once you have narrowed down your choices, it's time to submit your application via the UCAS system. Know how to write a compelling personal statement and make sure you get a friend or family-member to check and proofread what you've written. Finally, plan ahead to make sure you are not rushing at the last minute.

6. What about Oxbridge?

If you're thinking about applying to Oxbridge, there are some extra things to think about. You need to get your Oxbridge UCAS application in by 15th October and you'll need to attend an interview in December (interviews will be online this year). Open days are important for Oxbridge too as there are many different colleges to choose from. If you think Oxbridge isn't for you, make sure you read this interview with a former student. Early deadlines also apply for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry.

7. Key dates

  • 15th Oct (6pm): Oxbridge UCAS application deadline
  • Early December: Oxbridge interviews
  • 15th Jan (6pm): Main UCAS application deadline
  • 5th May: If you receive all your uni/college decisions by 31 March, you must reply to any offers by this date
  • 1st July: Clearing opens

Success at School is a national careers website for students aged 13-19.

Their aim is to help young people make informed decisions about their future and since their launch they've reached around 70% of schools and colleges across the country.