UCAS Explained: Deadlines, Clearing and More

Your UCAS application is vital to getting your offer at university, so it's important that you get thing correct. In this guide, we'll go through the various deadlines, the process of receiving offers and explain what UCAS Clearing, Adjustment and Extra are.

Last Updated: 7th August 2020

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Let’s discuss the finer points of your UCAS application in simple terms.

At this stage, you should already be aware of the basics in regard to your UCAS application. You need to select your five university choices, write your official Personal Statement and gather your Reference and Letter of recommendation. If you’re unsure of any of these steps, why not check out our dedicated guides:

Beyond this, there is a lot to be prepared for when it comes to the administration behind your UCAS application. With so many due dates and various additional steps in some cases, you may be hoping for all this information to be compiled in one place. Luckily, this guide does just that, so let’s take a look at what you need to know for your UCAS application!

UCAS and its steps

Firstly, let’s just quickly recap the process of applying through UCAS:

1. Searching for courses and providersUsing UCAS Progress, you can look through the available courses and opportunities available. This should be alongside campus/university visits!
2. Saving courses to your favourites pageWith your favourite courses, it is possible to save them to make coming back to them an easy process in the future. There is no limit to the number of saved courses.
3. Completing your profileThis step can be completed at any time. This is very important and needs to be completed before any application. This will include personal info, qualifications, work history, the infamous Personal Statement as well as your contact details.
4. Submit UCAS applicationWhen you are ready to apply to your saved courses, head over to the applications tab on UCAS. This will place your application into the ‘Not sent’ category until you click ‘Submit application’.
5. Course preferencingThis must be completed before submitting your application. After clicking ‘Start a new application’ and having chosen your courses, you are now asked to change the order of the chosen courses and ‘Confirm course preference order’.
6. Application in progressApplication has been submitted!
7. Offer preferencingThis allows you to order your applications in order of preference (1st to 5th choice).
8. Receiving offers & making choicesInstitutions will now confirm whether they will give you a conditional or unconditional offer. Alternatively, they may mark your application as unsuccessful, or ask you to submit changes to your application or specific course choices before extending an offer.

UCAS Key Dates 2024 Entry

There are a lot of deadlines to meet when applying to university through UCAS, including multiple final due dates, and missing just one will put your application at risk. This section highlights those key dates, making sure you are clear on what is coming up for the 2023 admissions cycle.

Year 1 (2023)

UCAS Entry Registration

2024 entry applicants can register and begin their applications.

Although 2024 applicants can register, they cannot pay and submit their applications until the 5th of September 2023.

UCAS Conservatoire Registration

If you’re applying to study at a Conservatoire in 2024, your application opens today.

UCAS Application Submission

UCAS applications for 2024 entry can be submitted.

Universities can also begin to make decisions on the applications they have received.

Closing Date For Music Applications

Closing date for music applications.

Applications received after this date at 18:00 UK time will be classed as ‘late’ and are not guaranteed to be considered by the conservatoires.

UCAS Deadline for Oxbridge & Medicine

Applications for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine/ Sciences and Dentistry for 2023 entry. All must be submitted by 18:00 GMT to be considered equally against other candidates.

The reference needs to be completed before the application can be sent.

Year 2 (2024)

UCAS Application Deadline

This is the 2024 UCAS entry deadline for the majority of undergraduate courses without the October 15th deadline.

Applications must be submitted by 18:00 GMT to be considered equally against other candidates. Universities can, but do not have to, consider applications received after this deadline if they still have spaces they would like to fill.

UCAS Extra Opens

UCAS Extra is available for candidates who are not holding any offers and have used all five of their choices. 

If eligible for UCAS Extra, you can apply to more universities one at a time. Extra closes on the 4th of July 2024

University Decisions Are Made

Most universities will have made decisions about your application if sent before the January 31st 2024 deadline. There may still be some outstanding applications that haven’t heard back yet.

Universities To Respond Deadline

All universities and colleges must respond to applications made on or before the 31st of January 2024. If they do not respond, UCAS will mark the application as unsuccessful on their behalf.

University Clearing Opens

You can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places, or you’ve declined your firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in your application.

A-Level Results Day & Adjustment

If you’ve done better than you expected with your A-levels, you can use Adjustment to consider an alternative course. You can use adjustment if you’ve had a conditional choice accepted into an unconditional firm choice. As some students may have missed their conditions, there are sometimes open spaces on previously full courses.

Final UCAS Deadline For Course Entry

Final UCAS deadline for 2024 course entry.

This is the final deadline for students wanting to start university in the 2024 entry cycle. The hard deadline is 18:00 GMT.

Final UCAS Clearing Deadline Date

Final UCAS Clearing deadline date and university decision deadline.

This is the final date you can apply for Clearing through UCAS Track and the final date universities can accept applicants in Clearing.

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Your Application In Progress

After you’ve toiled away for an extended period of time going to university open days and perfecting your Personal Statement, you’ve filled in the forms and have finally done all you can do to submit the UCAS application.

After this, it is a bit of a waiting game. Some universities wait until after the application deadline to review candidates, but many others instead review on a rolling basis. This means that applications will be viewed as they come in with decisions concerning places being made throughout the year.

If you have applied early (as part of a Medicine and/or Oxbridge application) this means it is more likely that you’ll be hearing back from universities sooner rather than later. Some institutions even hand out offers as early as a month after!

Some will inevitably be tardier and may reply many months after this date. Many courses for Oxford and Cambridge will also require candidates to go to Interviews, and you’ll normally hear whether you have been invited in the first week of December.

Waiting for your Offers

At this stage, it is important to keep an eye on your e-mails once you submit a UCAS application. UCAS will inform you if your application status has been updated at which point you must check the website to see for further details. Many universities also feature their own UCAS application portal, which you may need to register for. This will also send you updates on your application status.

Prior to giving offers out, many of the UK’s top courses and universities will require an interview or visit day. Depending on what the course is, this will vary in selectivity. Whilst Cambridge commits to interviewing 90% of all candidates, Oxford, instead interviews only three times as many candidates as they have places. This means that your chances if accepted to interview at Oxford, are probably higher than at Cambridge.

When Do you Get your offers?

Many universities don’t formally reveal the date in which they send out offers, so you’ll need to be ready for them at any point during the early months of the year. However, UCAS does specify a deadline in May for universities to send out offers. You will also have a deadline for responding to these offers (June 8th for 2023 Entry). 

In terms of Oxbridge offers, Cambridge does not specify a set date but states that offers are typically sent out in mid to late January. Oxford, however, sends their decision letters on January 10th 2023, so keep this date in your calendar if you are applying there. 

Bear in mind that if you are applying to Cambridge and have not received your offer straight away, you will still have a chance of being accepted through the Winter Pool, a system exclusive to Cambridge. Check out our guide to learn more about how this works. 

Replying to UCAS Offers

Once you have received an offer or offers; you will need to respond formally on the UCAS system. This will confirm your place with the universities or colleges.

When replying to UCAS offers your main concern is most likely, of course, how to accept and reject courses. There is a different system depending on whether you are responding to conditional or unconditional offers.

Conditional Offers

If you receive multiple offers; you can select one firm choice and one insurance choice. Your firm choice should be the university you want to attend if you receive the required grades. Your insurance choice is essentially a backup; the place you commit to attending if you don’t attend your firm choice. Your insurance choice shouldn’t be an afterthought as you may well need to attend the uni you choose. You aren’t actually obliged to make an insurance choice when replying to UCAS offers, but this can increase your chances of having a secure place. When you accept an offer, all your other offers must be rejected (except your insurance).

Unconditional Offers

If you receive and accept an unconditional UCAS offer; you have committed to attending that course. If an unconditional offer is your firm choice, you will not have the option to select an insurance choice. You may choose an unconditional offer as your insurance choice; but only if the offer does not specify it must be your firm choice. Accepting an unconditional offer as your firm choice only may be a ‘condition’ of your unconditional offer.

Sometimes known as Offer Preferencing, this is a small but essential part of the process; this is a non-binding pre-emptive stage to help you choose which are your preferred institutions. This choice will be fully confirmed and become binding at a later stage. 

When choosing an insurance choice, it’s important to pick a university with lower entry requirements than your firm choice (if it is a conditional choice). Once you’ve received the offer, the only thing that could prevent your admission to the course is failing to meet the required grades. Therefore, your insurance choice should have lower requirements or else you won’t be admitted to either.

If you have received an unconditional offer that isn’t your first choice, this would be ideal as your insurance pick as it will guarantee you a place to study no matter your grades.

The process of Exam results day

Firstly, the key thing to know about results day is that, although it can be intimidating, there is absolutely no need to panic. If things don’t go the way you expected, there is an amazing support network at UCAS, and universities are hoping to match up students with courses that work for them.

This is how results day typically plays out in the UK: 

Bear in mind that results day for international students may have a different process than this. If you’re unsure of how you receive your results, consult with the exams officer or mentors at your place of education. 

However, there are some other elements to this results day; Clearing, Adjustment and Extra are the ones which most people ask about, so let’s look at them in more detail.

Where Does Clearing, Adjustment and Extra Fit In?

Below is a quick guide to how the services fit in with your results.

Did Not Meet GradesMet GradesExceeded GradesNo Offers Or You've Declined All Offers:
UCAS ClearingMatch your Desired OfferUCAS AdjustmentUCAS Extra

As you can see, the services you need depend on your grades and whether you have missed or exceeded them.

How does UCAS Clearing work?

Clearing is there as a safety net to give students another chance at a dream university place.

The first thing to remember about Clearing is that there are lots of great options out there; there are many reasons why a university course might not be full. In 2019, 70,000 students found a course for them through Clearing.

It’s important to note that as many as 48% of students feel applying through Clearing comes across as “desperate”. This is certainly not the case, and as mentioned, there are many reasons why certain courses may be full, or you weren’t able to reach the grades you wanted.

If you do not have any offers and want to go to university, don’t be put off applying through Clearing. 

It’s an opportunity to find a course that works for you when the universities have all the information they need. If you have missed your results, the steps are as follows:

To make things easier, UCAS has introduced “Clearing Plus” in 2020 which matches you to courses you could be suited for based on your grades and course choices so far.

You can then choose “Interested” for the course on the UCAS website, and the university may contact you regarding a place on that course. 

There is a lot to do on results day, especially if you don’t reach your expected entry requirements, and Clearing can be fast-paced.

Keep notes of who you speak to, their job title, and exactly which course they are offering you. It’s easy to get confused if you speak to several people, so you should have all the information to hand.

By asking their name and job title, you’ll also create a feeling of accountability for whomever you’re speaking with – it’s a small way to ensure the information you’re getting is accurate.

How does UCAS Adjustment work?

If you have exceeded the grades required for your conditional firm offer, you may wish to see if there is an alternative course that you would prefer. The key here is that you won’t “lose” the original offer if you don’t find anything, and this is purely optional.

Adjustment is available from A-Level results day until 1st September, however:

There is no list of courses, so the official advice is to use the search tool to browse courses and then contact the admissions tutors. Remember not to verbally agree to a course unless you are absolutely sure, as you only have one Adjustment slot. If you do not find anything suitable, you may leave it blank and your original firm choice will be selected. As with Clearing, make sure to take your time to consider your options and seek advice if you need it. Make a list of possible courses you would be interested in and keep a record of who you speak to.

How does UCAS Extra work?

UCAS Extra, as with Clearing, is there as a safety net. You are eligible for UCAS Extra if you have registered through UCAS and have not received an offer from your five choices or have rejected your choices.

Importantly, you have to have heard from all of your choices.

If you are eligible then UCAS will register you for Extra and you will be able to see the list of Universities taking applications through Extra, which you can apply to one at a time. UCAS Extra runs from February to July, after which Clearing becomes the “safety net” service.


It is important to remember that this has been a difficult and disrupted year and you should be proud of your achievements regardless of what happens. Remember to take a fully charged phone, notepad and your application details (including Personal Statement and GCSE grades) in case you need them for the Clearing process, but most importantly take the time to enjoy the day with your friends and family.

It’s the end of a long road and the beginning of a brand new one that will most certainly be one of the most exciting times of your life!

Didn’t get a place at the university you wanted, or have you decided to defer until next year?

UniAdmissions specialise in helping you get your dream offer. Whether you are taking a gap year or decided to re-sit your A-levels in the Autumn, we can help create a bespoke plan that will get you your first choice offer.

Simply book a consultation and speak with our expert Admissions Consultants to discuss your options.

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