Age 16+ - Aimhigher West Midlands

Deciding on a university

The very first step in applying to university is choosing what course you’d like to study and which university you’d like to go to. Some students find this easy, they may know exactly what future career they’d like to do or what subject they’re interested in, and that’s great if that person is you!

But others may find this part of the process difficult, it can be really tricky to know exactly what you’d like to do in the future and it’s totally fine if you’re unsure!

If you’d like some advice on deciding what subject to study, check out this really useful video from Chloe above.

The Uni Guide

The Uni Guide website has information and guidance which could help you to choose a course and institution. They offer helpful advice and even has an A-level Explorer which shows you where your Level 3 subjects could lead!

When should I apply?

Typically, you can begin to submit applications to UCAS at the beginning of September, with the deadline for most undergraduate courses in mid-January. Some courses and universities have different deadlines, for example applying for music at a conservatoire, medicine, dentistry or veterinary courses tend to have an earlier deadline in October. This also includes applying to Oxford or Cambridge, which also has an October deadline.

To find out specific dates, check the UCAS website or speak to a teacher at your school.

Open Days

Going to a University Open Day is a great place to start when you’re thinking about where you’d like to study. An Open Day gives you the chance to see all the facilities and learn more about the course you’re interested in. Open Days are also a great opportunity to chat to current students!

If you’re interested in studying at a particular university, check out their university website to find out when their next Open Day will be. They might also have Virtual Open Days ready to watch from the comfort of your own home, so it’s worth taking a look to find out!

For details of upcoming open events, use the Open Days website and enter the name of the university that you’re interested in to view any upcoming dates.

Supported Access Schemes

A number of organisations offer support to students from particular schools, postcode areas or backgrounds to help them to prosper in higher education. Find out more and check if you’re eligible to apply by clicking the links below.


To apply to study at a University of your choice, you need to make an application through UCAS.

We’ve included an Application Guide below to help you understand the UCAS application process.


Register with UCAS online


Fill in details, personal statement and university


Your college/sixth form will add their reference


Universities consider application


You will receive a conditional, unconditional or declined offer


All offers declined?
Use UCAS Extra to add other choices


Make firm or insurance choice


Exam results!


Confirmation or Clearing

Top Tips:

  • You have the option to include up to 5 course choices in the APPLY section.
  • There is an application fee: for 2021 entry it is £20 for 1 choice and £26 for any more up to 5.
  • The TRACK section allows you to check the progress.
  • Your personal statement may be the most important part; don’t leave it until the last minute! Your personal statement is a bit like a great Tweet, you have so much to say but you’re limited to a certain number of characters.
  • Thankfully UCAS are slightly more generous than Twitter and they’ll allow you to use 4,000 characters to sell yourself as the perfect candidate to 5 universities and colleges. This may be the only opportunity that you’ll have to interact directly with each department that you’re applying to so it’s really important to get it right.
  • Our partners and a number of third party websites provide support and advice for writing your personal statement and getting it absolutely spot on. Click on the links below to get started.

Student Finance

One of the biggest worries students have when applying to university is how much it’s going to cost. Although there is cost to your higher education, there is financial help available (probably more than you think!) from your chosen university, the government and from other sources such as part-time work.

Student Finance

What support can I get at university?

More independence is a huge part of the university experience and for some students this will involve leaving home and learning to look after themselves. This can be daunting and there may be challenges but you’ll never have to face them alone!

Care Experienced Young People

If you’re a looked after child or care leaver, you will be entitled to extra support from your Local Authority and the University. It’s really important that when you apply to university you tick the box on your UCAS application, so the university knows. This is confidential and will only be shared with those who need to know in order to offer additional support. For example, some universities offer year-round accommodation and reduced tuition fees. has a wealth of information on supporting care leavers to access HE.

Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Over 45,000 disabled students enter higher education each year, meaning there’s already lots of on-campus support available. If you have a disability or support needs, it’s a good idea to contact a university directly to talk about support available – even before submitting a UCAS application. You may even be entitled to Disabled Students Allowance, a financial grant. provides accessibility information on 1000s of locations including many universities.

Additional support is also often also available to carers, parents, low income families, asylum seekers and military families. It is the student’s responsibility to seek out most of these services so if you think you’ll need to access any of the support above it’s a good idea to contact the University in advance to introduce yourself.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia while at university, which was great because it finally gave me an explanation as to why I found spelling and grammar difficult! I had so much support from Newman, my grades got better and I learned so much about myself and managing my dyslexia. When I struggled with my mental health in my third year, the academic support advisers were understanding and helped me get an extension on my dissertation.”  Mickie, Aimhigher Progression Ambassador

Young People Struggling with Mental Health Issues

If you suffer with mental health issues, it would really benefit you to make your university support services aware of this in advance. It won’t affect your application, but it will mean you get the support you need as soon as you start university.

If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing this information before you arrive, then don’t worry. You can speak to a member of staff once you start university or once you have got to know the tutors better who will be able to help you access the resources and services that you need. Universities can offer a range of events and services to support their students such as coffee mornings, yoga sessions or one-to-one counselling.

Watch Remy’s video to find out more about the support that universities offer for those struggling with their mental health.

Alternative Options to University

There’s a lot to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of traditional degree and apprenticeship pathways. There is no right or wrong answer and both options improve career prospects and earnings.



  • Wide choice of unis and courses with plenty of places available
  • Single point of application with a range of entry requirements
  • Student life / experience
  • Access to bursaries for some
  • Can keep many career options open


  • Tuition fees and living costs are high
  • Most students need to work part time to earn extra money during their studies

Find out more about University




  • No fees
  • A salary and holiday pay – earn and learn at the same time
  • Highly vocational gaining lots of job-specific skills from working professionals
  • Built-in employer involvement
  • Good employment prospects


  • Limited availability (especially Level 4 and above)
  • Complex application and highly competitive
  • Need a clear career in mind
  • Demanding job / study commitment

Find out more about Apprenticeships