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

Still waiting to hear back from unis? Don’t stress! When you'll hear back from your chosen universities with a decision on your application really depends.

It could be a matter of days, or months before you hear back from a university about your application. It all depends on when you applied and how that university course chooses to make offers.

So stop refreshing Ucas Track and read on for the insider view from universities on when you can expect to hear back...

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

How long does it take to hear back from a university? 

Well, that depends. But, these are the very latest you can expect to receive a response from a university about your application:

  • 3 May 2018: if you send your application by 15 January 2018.
  • 12 July 2018: if you send your application by 30 June 2018.
  • 23 October 2018: the final date for unis to make decisions on 2018 applications through Clearing.

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.

So, when will I get an offer from a university?

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 (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.

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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 out

    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 your offers.

    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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