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How long does it take for universities to reply to your application?

When can you expect a university to reply (with an offer, hopefully!)? As our guide explains, response times on decisions can vary...

It could be a matter of days, or months before you hear back from a university about your application, whether that's an offer, invitation to an interview or rejection (hopefully not). It all depends on when you applied and how that university course chooses to make offers.

So stop refreshing Ucas Track every hour, and read on for the insider view on when you can expect university offers to come out...


Ucas deadline 2018: last-minute advice, plus what's around the corner...
 

When's the latest a university will reply to me by?

Well, that depends sorry to be vague again.

Based on information that's been released for 2019 applications – and how things worked last year  below is a rough guide to the latest you can expect to receive a response or offer from a university, so you can plan out the next few months:

  • Early May if you send your application by the 15 January deadline.
  • Mid July if you send your application by 30 June.
  • 22 October 2019 if you've applied through Clearing  this is the final date for unis to make decisions on 2019 applications through Clearing.


Full key dates and deadlines  set a reminder for these!

That said, you’ll probably find that you (and your friends) receive responses back at different times, with different universities and courses acting sooner than others. It might be within a few days, but equally it might be a few weeks or even months.

Most of the time you’ll hear back before the end of March, but some courses stay open until right through until the end of June, or may continue to make rolling offers until the July deadline.

If you're applying to Oxbridge, things are slightly different. As you'll see below, how a university handles applications will affect when you can expect a reply or offer to be made.
 

How universities handle decisions and what it means for you

It all depends on how the university or department you're applying to deals with applications. To find out more, we spoke to several different universities about their approach, which typically fell into one of three categories:

1. Post-deadline, post-interview

In some cases, decision-making only starts after the deadline has passed and all applications are in.
 
Oxford and Cambridge 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 November or December with candidates usually being notified by the end of January.

The Oxford website actually states that shortlisted applicants will know if they've been accepted on 9 January.

Cambridge have a 'winter pool' for strong applicants who've applied to a college that is over-subscribed (ie there are more applicants than places available) for their particular course. Applicants who are pooled are then considered by all colleges over a few days at the start of January. Applicants may be required to attend an interview by a college considering them, offered a place immediately, or even taken back by their original college choice.
 
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.



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    2. Rolling decisions

    Other universities, meanwhile, start to make offers and respond to applicants as soon as applications trickle in. You can send your application into Ucas from 6 September onwards. So 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; meanwhile 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 maybe they’ve heard from four of their choices but not the fifth. Don't fret, 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 tongue-in-cheek medical school admissions tutor put it: '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.

     

    Keep an eye on your emails

    You can check the status of your application through the Ucas Track system. You should be alerted when the status of your application changes.

    Check out our guide to the different university offers you may receive, plus dig deeper into what an unconditional offer really means – they're not quite as straightforward as they sound.

     

    'I've got all my offers, what now?'

    Once you have all your offers back, the ball is back in your court: decision time. You’ll need to make your firm and insurance choices based on the offers you've received. 

    If your number one university didn't make you an offer, pick yourself back up and see what to do next, whether that's accepting another offer, or going through Ucas Extra or Clearing schemes instead.

     

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