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Parents and supporters guide to the UCAS process

Learn how to support your child with their application

From career planning and applications, to offers and next steps, applying to university is a big step for your child – and as a parent or supporter, we know you’ll want to help them navigate this important step towards their future. Below, you’ll find the tools needed to support your child throughout their UCAS journey.

UCAS application process explained

To apply to Portsmouth, or other UK universities, your child will need to use a platform called UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) – who manage all UK undergraduate applications. To submit their application, your child will need the following:

  • Personal information: Your child will provide essential details such as their name, contact and demographic information.
  • Qualifications: Here, your child will list their academic qualifications, including A-levels, BTECs, T-Levels and any other relevant qualifications.
  • Personal statement: This is an opportunity for your child to showcase their passion for their chosen course, their academic interests, and their extracurricular achievements.
  • Teacher reference: A reference from a teacher or tutor helps universities understand your child's academic abilities and potential.

Your child can apply to up to five courses through UCAS. However, they can only submit one personal statement. So it needs to cover all their course choices.

Once your child has submitted their application, the admissions team who processes their application will write to your child and let them know when they have made their decision.

While you’re waiting for a decision

There are lots of useful things you and your child can do to prepare for their next steps. Attend an applicant experience day, tour a university's campus, and get some interview preparation done. 

Visit Applicant Experience Days

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Book your place

Go on a campus tour

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Book your place

Prepare for your university interview

Get started

Research clubs and societies

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Find out more

Key UCAS information

As parents and supporters, there are a few details you’ll want to keep in mind during your child’s UCAS journey – including when to apply and how much it’ll cost to submit an application.


Application timeline

  • The UCAS application cycle opens in early September

Encourage your child to start their application early to ensure they have enough time to gather materials, write their personal statement, and request references.

Before applying, you’ll want to consider some important details, including entry requirements and career ideas.

  • The UCAS application cycle usually closes in late January, in the year your child wants to start their course

  • UCAS Extra is usually open from between February and July and all applications usually need to be made by June

  • Your child will usually need to accept their offers and choose their firm and insurance choice

Cost of an Application

For 2024 entry, the UCAS application fee is £27.50.

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UCAS advice for parents and supporters

Supporting your child through the UCAS process can be both exciting and rewarding, but we understand this isn’t always easy. Discover what to consider throughout the process and how to overcome any unexpected challenges.

Before applying

When submitting applications, you’ll want to help your child consider some important details.

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Career planning

Career planning can be a challenging experience, but by working together, you can help support your child as they explore their options. This could include:

  • Discussing their current career ideas – encourage them to consider their interests, strengths, and long-term goals
  • Researching careers that your child might be interested in
  • Talking to teachers, career advisers or people who work in the industry they’re interested in
  • Attending Open Days
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Entry requirements

It's important to research and understand the entry requirements for the courses your child is interested in. Some courses may have specific subject or grade requirements, so be sure to guide your child in selecting appropriate options. 

All of our courses list the entry requirements your child needs to apply and each course includes a link to further entry requirement details.

Browse our courses

After applying

Once applications are submitted, your child’s UCAS portal will then turn into UCAS Track. This is where your child will be notified when a university has made a decision about their application.

Universities will respond with one of the following:

  • Conditional Offer: Your child is accepted if they meet specific conditions, usually related to their exam results.
  • Unconditional Offer: Your child is accepted without any further conditions.
  • Rejection: Your child is not offered a place on the course.

Receiving and accepting offers

When your child has heard back from their universities, they’ll need to choose a firm and insurance choice.

1) Firm choice

The first offer will be their firm choice. This is where your child will go should they get the grades they need.

2) Insurance choice

Their second choice will be their insurance choice. Your child’s insurance choice should usually have a lower entry requirement than their firm choice.

Your child can hold a maximum of two offers. 

Results day

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Whatever the result, we know you’ll want to be there for your child and support them through their next steps. Find out what your child needs to do when they get their results.

If they didn't get the grades they expected or changed their mind

1) UCAS Extra

UCAS Extra is useful if your child has changed their mind since they submitted their UCAS application, didn’t use all their five choices, didn't get the offers they want, or they want to add another application.

Explore UCAS Extra

2) Clearing

Not getting the exam results your child expected can be stressful, but don't worry, if your child doesn't receive any offers or meet the conditions of their offers, they can still apply through Clearing.

Clearing is how universities fill any places they have left on courses, and thousands of students apply on results day. It's important to be prepared because the most popular courses fill-up quickly.

Discover Clearing

Deferring entry

If your child wants to take a gap year before starting university, they can apply for deferred entry. This means they would start their course a year later.

UCAS terms explained

Throughout the UCAS journey, you might encounter unfamiliar terms such as "track," "firm choice" or "insurance choice". We recommend you bookmark, favourite or save a link to the UCAS glossary so you can understand these terms, as and when they appear throughout the UCAS process.

Find out more

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