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UK Undergraduate Landscape

What are the best ranked universities?

Admissions Requirements

What are top universities looking for?

Universities in the US will consider both academic and non-academic factors in making their admissions decisions. You are required to demonstrate competency and skill in both of these regards.

 

Academic requirements

Final Year Grades

IB; or A-Levels; or APs; or GPA

Standardized Testing

Either the SAT or the ACT.

Recommendations

You need two teacher recommendations and one non-academic recommendation.

Academic Honors

Applications require at least a few accomplishments that are academic in nature (eg: Honor Roll / Olympiads / Research).

 

Non-academic requirements

Extra-Curricular Activities

You should have at least ten meaningful extra curricular activities from Grade 9 onwards. These should demonstrate your interests and accomplishments outside the classroom.

Leadership

Universities look for mature, driven students who will go on to become leaders in their fields. You should try to showcase instances of you taking initiative and showing leadership in and outside of school.

Community Engagement

Universities want to know that you have made an impact in your community. You should demonstrate how your community (school or otherwise) have benefited from your actions.

Essays

Your college essays should give admissions counsellors insight into who you are, what experiences have shaped you, and why you are the best fit for the university you are applying to.

Academic requirements

Final Year Grades

IB; or A-Levels; or APs / SATs; or GPA

Reference Letter

You will need one teacher recommendation that speaks to your academic abilities. This would ideally be someone who has taught you recently (JC1 / JC2 or Grade 11 / 12).

Academic Honors

Applications require accomplishments that are academic in nature (eg: Honor Roll / Olympiads / Research Experiences).

Testing

Some courses (Law / Medicine / Oxbridge applicants) will require special admissions tests such as the LNAT or BMAT / UCAT.

Non-academic requirements

Super-curricular Accomplishments

These activities demonstrate to universities that you are exploring your chosen subject outside of the classroom with genuine passion and curiosity.

UCAS Personal Statement

This is a short essay of roughly 500 words. This essay will require you to state your intended course of study at university, why you wish to pursue this interest, and how you have already meaningfully engaged with this subject previously.

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Admissions Process

How do I apply to UK universities?

Most applications to universities to the UK are submitted through the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS), which is a UK-based organisation responsible for operating and managing the application process for higher education courses in the UK. Most university courses utilize the UCAS portal, but there are a select few courses within each university which require direct applications to the university itself.

Here is the complete list of colleges that use the UCAS portal.

You can create a UCAS account here.

Which courses should I apply to?

FIVE UCAS COURSES

You can apply to a maximum of five courses on your UCAS application. This means that you can apply to five different courses at only one university or college, or a different course at five different universities.

Exceptions

Oxford University and Cambridge University will only accept one application to either university. You cannot apply to both.

Courses in the veterinary science, medicine or dentistry fields which limit you to four courses on the UCAS, instead of the usual five.

Deciding on a course of study

There are over 50,000 undergraduate courses at more than 395 providers in the UK, so it’s important you do your research. What would you like to study? What would you like to achieve after university? Is being located in central London important to you? These are some important questions to ask as you decide which courses to apply to. To learn more:

Look at the UCAS subject guides to understand what the different subject areas have to offer — including graduate destinations, entry requirements, and personal statement tips.

Browse the UCAS search tool for inspiration on the types of courses you can study — you can use the subject filters to narrow your search.

Personal Statement

Write an engaging personal statement

Your UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) personal statement is an important part of your university application to differentiate yourself from other applicants. You will need to demonstrate that you are a suitable candidate who will thrive at the university with your drive, skills, and enthusiasm for the subject. We have compiled a few tips that will help you write an engaging personal statement. 

Be Specific

Your UCAS Personal Statement needs to be highly personalized to you in order to show your unique motivations and academic interests. As you will be sending one personal statement to all of your chosen schools and subjects, it is important to tailor your personal statement to emphasize your commitment to the subject as much as possible.

Supporting your application with specific examples will demonstrate that the course aligns with your academic pursuits and goals, persuading admissions tutors that you are suitable for the course and will contribute to the learning environment at the university.

Structure it clearly

With the 4,000 character limit, concision is key. A clear, logical structure will be easier for the admissions tutor to follow cohesively. The “ABC” structure is an effective method to write about how your experiences have shown evidence of your enthusiasm for the subject.

Action

What have you done that demonstrates your passion for the subject?

Benefit

What skills have you gained? How did your experiences influence your academic and professional goals?

Course

How do these actions demonstrate suitability for the course?

Some achievements that you could talk about to show the best side of yourself are:

Outside coursework or readings. Any books or courses that have corroborated your interest in the subject. 

Work or research experience. Any work/internship experiences or research you participated in that advanced your interest in the subject or determined your career goals.

Extracurricular activities. Ways that you have extended your learning beyond the classroom.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do

Do ask for more feedback from others such as a trusted teacher, friends, or family members to ensure you submit the best work possible. 

Do be authentic and stay true to yourself! Give the admission tutor an insight into your personality and strengths. 

Do write clearly with a formal, academic tone that shows depth in your writing. 

Don’t

Don’t wait until the last minute to write your personal statement! Give yourself time for reviewing and revisions. 

Don’t copy someone else's personal statement — UCAS has software that checks for plagiarism!

Don’t use examples or experiences irrelevant to your course. Every sentence should help explain why you would contribute to the university. 

Important Dates for 2023 entry applications

University of Cambridge

  • 15 September
  • LNAT registration deadline.
  • 15 October
  • UCAS application deadline.
  • First 3 weeks of December
  • Majority of interviews for shortlisted candidates (some may be a little earlier).

University of Oxford

  • 15 September
  • LNAT registration deadline.
  • 15 October
  • UCAS application deadline.
    Deadline to register for any pre-interview assessments.
  • 1-20 December
  • Interviews for shortlisted candidates.

Medical Application

  • July – November
  • UCAT/BMAT testing.
  • 15 October
  • Deadline for most medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry courses to submit application on UCAS.
  • November – March
  • Interviews for shortlisted candidates.

Other Universities / Courses

  • August – November
  • Any necessary pre-interview assessments, for example LNAT (Law National Aptitude Test).
  • 25 January 2023
  • Deadline for applicants to submit UCAS for majority of courses.

Admissions timeline for 2023 Entry applications

Now that you have decided to apply to university in the UK, it is important to familiarize yourself with the deadlines. Some schools and courses have different deadlines that may impact your application — find out which deadline applies to you!

Universities in the US will consider both academic and non-academic factors in making their admissions decisions. You are required to demonstrate competency and skill in both of these regards.

 

Academic requirements

Final Year Grades

IB; or A-Levels; or APs; or GPA

Standardized Testing

Either the SAT or the ACT.

Recommendations

You need two teacher recommendations and one non-academic recommendation.

Academic Honors

Applications require at least a few accomplishments that are academic in nature (eg: Honor Roll / Olympiads / Research).

 

Non-academic requirements

Extra-Curricular Activities

You should have at least ten meaningful extra curricular activities from Grade 9 onwards. These should demonstrate your interests and accomplishments outside the classroom.

Leadership

Universities look for mature, driven students who will go on to become leaders in their fields. You should try to showcase instances of you taking initiative and showing leadership in and outside of school.

Community Engagement

Universities want to know that you have made an impact in your community. You should demonstrate how your community (school or otherwise) have benefited from your actions.

Essays

Your college essays should give admissions counsellors insight into who you are, what experiences have shaped you, and why you are the best fit for the university you are applying to.

Differences

Oxford vs Cambridge

Each year, competition for key spots at Oxford and Cambridge is notoriously fierce. Every application season, we hear of stories about fortunate students who are admitted to Oxbridge, and those who fail to make the cut.

While Oxford and Cambridge are both considered world-class academic institutions in the UK, there are differences between the two. 

Oxford is known for their Humanities and the Social Sciences programs (especially their renowned PPE programme, while Cambridge is lauded for its Science programs. 

Both Universities are world-renowned in their calibre of teaching, research and student life. 

The primary difference between the two Universities will ultimately boil down to what you want to study at university.

You can only apply to either Cambridge or Oxford University in an application year.

Key differences in course offerings for both Universities are below for your reference:

Universities in the US will consider both academic and non-academic factors in making their admissions decisions. You are required to demonstrate competency and skill in both of these regards.

 

Academic requirements

Final Year Grades

IB; or A-Levels; or APs; or GPA

Standardized Testing

Either the SAT or the ACT.

Recommendations

You need two teacher recommendations and one non-academic recommendation.

Academic Honors

Applications require at least a few accomplishments that are academic in nature (eg: Honor Roll / Olympiads / Research).

 

Non-academic requirements

Extra-Curricular Activities

You should have at least ten meaningful extra curricular activities from Grade 9 onwards. These should demonstrate your interests and accomplishments outside the classroom.

Leadership

Universities look for mature, driven students who will go on to become leaders in their fields. You should try to showcase instances of you taking initiative and showing leadership in and outside of school.

Community Engagement

Universities want to know that you have made an impact in your community. You should demonstrate how your community (school or otherwise) have benefited from your actions.

Essays

Your college essays should give admissions counsellors insight into who you are, what experiences have shaped you, and why you are the best fit for the university you are applying to.

Cambridge University

Economics

Offers a pure Economics course and a hybrid Land Economy course.

Law

Does not require the LNAT – however, students will have to take the Cambridge Law Test.

Courses tend to be more practical in nature.

Natural Sciences

Students cannot immediately choose a specialization. Instead, they study a broad-based Natural Sciences curriculum before specializing in concentrations such as Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, and so on.

Computer Science

Offers a Computer Science course. 

Does not offer hybrid or interdisciplinary courses within Computer Science.

Oxford University

Economics

Does not offer pure Economics – students can take hybrid courses like Economics and Management, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) or History and Economics.

Law

All undergraduate students applying to read Law must take the LNAT.

Courses tend to be more theoretical in nature.

Natural Sciences

Students can choose to directly pursue a concentration within the Natural Sciences– i.e. Physics, Chemistry etc.

Computer Science

Offers a Computer Science course. 

Also offers interdisciplinary courses like Computer Science and Philosophy, and Computer Science and Mathematics.

Differences

Admissions tests and interviews

Both Cambridge and Oxford University require students to undertake admissions tests and interviews prior to making a decision on their applications.

The interviews are typically content-based and test a student’s ability to critically engage with key debates and questions in their field of study.

The Admissions Tests vary between the two Universities. Each course will have a different Admissions Test requirement that you will need to prepare for. Admissions Test requirements for common courses are here:

Universities in the US will consider both academic and non-academic factors in making their admissions decisions. You are required to demonstrate competency and skill in both of these regards.

 

Academic requirements

Final Year Grades

IB; or A-Levels; or APs; or GPA

Standardized Testing

Either the SAT or the ACT.

Recommendations

You need two teacher recommendations and one non-academic recommendation.

Academic Honors

Applications require at least a few accomplishments that are academic in nature (eg: Honor Roll / Olympiads / Research).

 

Non-academic requirements

Extra-Curricular Activities

You should have at least ten meaningful extra curricular activities from Grade 9 onwards. These should demonstrate your interests and accomplishments outside the classroom.

Leadership

Universities look for mature, driven students who will go on to become leaders in their fields. You should try to showcase instances of you taking initiative and showing leadership in and outside of school.

Community Engagement

Universities want to know that you have made an impact in your community. You should demonstrate how your community (school or otherwise) have benefited from your actions.

Essays

Your college essays should give admissions counsellors insight into who you are, what experiences have shaped you, and why you are the best fit for the university you are applying to.

Cambridge University

Law

Cambridge Law Test

Mathematics

Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP)

Medicine

BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

Oxford University

Law

LNAT

Mathematics

Mathematics Assessment Test (MAT)

Medicine

BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

Oxbridge Interview prep