Got your university application in? Now the waiting game starts. But how long will you have to sit tight before you hear back from your chosen courses? Well, it depends…
If you make your application by the 15 January deadline you’ll normally receive a reply by 31 March at the latest – but you’ll probably find that you (and your friends) receive responses back at different times. It might be within a few days, but equally it might be a few weeks or even months.
University waiting times
It all depends on how the university or department deals with its applications. To find out more, we spoke to several different universities about their approach, which typically fell into one of three categories:
1. The 'gathered field'
In this case, decision-making only starts after the 15 October or 15 January deadline has passed and all applications are in.
Oxford and Cambridge Universities
, for instance, have a clearly-defined procedure in which all applications submitted by their 15 October deadline are treated equally. All decisions are made after interviews
are held in December (or slightly later for those in Cambridge’s winter pool), with candidates usually being notified by the end of January.
Other universities can take a similar approach - one school of dentistry also told us they only make their decisions after all interviews have taken place.
2. Ongoing decisions
Others, meanwhile, start to make offers and respond to applicants as soon as applications trickle in from September onwards – meaning it could be a good idea to get your application in early, if you’re ready. Here’s what a few different unis told us:
‘all applicants should hear back within two to three weeks of applying’
‘all applicants should receive an offer or an invitation to interview within ten working days’
‘we try to respond to all applications within a matter of weeks, but this does vary between departments and depends on the number of applications received at that time.’
3. Best of both
Some universities deliberately use a mixture of approaches. Admissions tutors for really competitive courses may wait until all applications are in, to ensure everyone receives equal consideration while tutors at the same university looking after a course with typically fewer applicants might make decisions on a rolling basis.
'I've still not heard back!'
Year in, year out, applicants become frustrated when they find all their friends have heard back and they haven’t, or they’ve heard from four of their choices but not the fifth. This isn’t unusual.
For most admissions tutors, it’s just one of their jobs alongside teaching or other roles – and as you can see from the above, response times and policies differ.
Medical school applicants in particular might even find they’re waiting for four or five months, but this is usually down to the sheer volume of applications or a system of responding to applications in batches. As one medical school admissions tutor put it, tongue-in-cheek: ‘We’re busy, get over it!’
Finally, while many popular or competitive courses will be closed to applicants after 15 January, many other courses will remain open, in some cases right through until the end of June, and will continue to make rolling offers until July.