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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Applying to a UK university as an American student

Practical advice for American students applying to study in the United Kingdom

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The UK is home to some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world and is an ever-popular destination for international students. Because of this, UK universities offer a diverse student body and culturally enriching experience. Our breakdown of what is required should help you to further understand the process as an American student applying to the UK higher education system.

For most undergraduate courses, you must apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You will need to register an account with UCAS and complete your application online.

For postgraduate courses, many universities and institutions handle their own application processes, and you can often apply directly via their websites.

Some institutions use the UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service (UKPASS) scheme. You can see which institutions are included in the scheme and find out more at the UKPASS website. You can apply using the UKPASS service at any time as there are no deadlines. However, your preferred universities and colleges may have their own closing dates, so you should check with them before applying.


Entry requirements

All universities have their own entry requirements for international students, which can be found on their respective websites. Many universities detail specific requirements for Iranian students.


Generally speaking, applicants with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or A-Levels will be considered for admission to UK bachelor degree courses. If you do not meet these qualifications, many universities require you complete an approved foundation programme before you can be accepted.


To be considered for entry to a postgraduate course, you will normally need a bachelor’s degree that is recognised as equivalent to a UK bachelor’s (honours) degree.


In addition, UK universities will require that you have a certain level of proficiency in the English language, which is determined from the results of your SELT test. The minimum levels required differ depending on the university. Most universities require a higher SELT score for postgraduate students than for undergraduates.


Application deadlines

For undergraduate courses starting in September or October, the main application deadline is in the preceding January – so if you’re planning to start university next year, make sure you fill in and submit your application in good time.


There are some exceptions:

  • If you’re applying to the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, applications need to be received by October of the preceding year
  • Most professional courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science require applications by October of the preceding year
  • For some art and design courses, the deadline is in March


For each of these deadlines, your application must be received by UCAS by 18:00 UK time.

You can start filling in your application early to give yourself plenty of time. Don’t forget that a written reference needs to be added to your application form, so to avoid any stress or missed deadlines, ensure that the person writing your reference has enough time to write their part of your application.


Postgraduate deadlines differ depending on which university you’re applying to. Check the appropriate university’s website for their deadline.


Applying after the deadline

Although the main undergraduate deadline is in January, many universities and colleges continue to accept applications from international students after that date. Check the individual course details on the UCAS search tool and contact the institution directly to ask if they will consider your application.


The UCAS system also allows you to add choices or reapply if you do not receive an offer the first time around. After 30 June, applications are automatically entered into Clearing – this allows you to apply for courses that still have places.

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