Applying to HE

If your child is interested in studying at a degree level, but you’re unsure about what’s involved and how best to support them, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll walk you through the Higher Education (HE) application process step-by-step, break down the education jargon and explain how studying at university could improve your child’s career prospects and earning potential. 

What is Higher Education (HE)?

Once your child has completed Level 3 qualifications, for example, A levels, T Levels, a BTEC Extended Diploma or an Access to HE course at college or sixth form, they may want to progress to formal qualifications at Level 4 or above – this is known as Higher Education (also referred to as HE).

You can study a Higher Education course at a university, further education college or as part of a higher or degree-level apprenticeship. There are thousands of Higher Education (HE) courses available at universities and colleges all over the country, as well as overseas. 

Applications to Higher Education courses in the UK are managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

You can find out more about the different types of courses on offer by visiting the UCAS website,

Why go to University?

University is about much more than the end qualification; it allows students to explore the subject they love in an exciting environment while learning from experts.

At university, your child can develop confidence and independence, make lifelong friends, find new hobbies and interests, and benefit from amazing opportunities like paid internships or the chance to study abroad, which can open doors to a skilled and rewarding career.

Around half of graduate-level jobs do not ask for specific subjects to have been taken, meaning that your child will have a much wider range of career opportunities available to them, whichever subject they choose.

Meanwhile, entry qualifications for certain professions have changed. For example, if your child wants to become a nurse, lawyer, or teacher, they now must hold a degree-level qualification. Students also gain transferable skills in time management, organisation, independence, budgeting, confidence, and problem-solving which can make them more employable.

What’s more, by gaining a degree your child can enhance their career prospects and increase their potential earnings considerably. Going to university can give your child advantages and opportunities that will be useful throughout their lifetime

The university application process is relatively straightforward, but there are some key stages to be aware of.

The University Application Process

Step 1

Choose a subject: First, your child needs to decide what it is they want to study at university. This might be a subject they already enjoy at school, a subject with a specific career in mind or something completely new. Don’t forget joint Honour’s degrees, which combine two subjects together in one course, are also an option.


Step 2

Use to search courses: Make sure they check entry requirements and are choosing courses that are achievable and in line with their predicted grades.


Step 3

Attend open days: University open days will give your child a chance to get a feel for the university and department they’ll be studying in, as well as speak to lecturers and tutors to ask any specific questions they might have.

Most universities now also have online open days and virtual tours.


Step 4

Choose courses: Your child will be able to apply for up to five different courses via the UCAS website’s online application procedure. Courses with the same title (e.g. Psychology) may not have the same content or structure. Encourage your young person to explore how and what they will be taught.


Step 5

Complete UCAS application: With help from their school or college, your child will apply for their chosen courses online using the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). This will include writing a personal statement, which is your child’s opportunity to talk about why they are suitable for the course.


Step 6

Apply for student finance:  You will need to complete a separate online form supplying details about your household income, to make sure your child gets any financial support they may be entitled to. Applications for student finance can be completed at

See our Student Finance page for more information.

Step 7

Receiving offers: After they have submitted their application, your child will be able to use the UCAS Track service to see whether a university or college has offered them a place or if they need to supply more information.

If your child doesn’t receive any offers they can make alternative choices using the UCAS Extra service. 

Step 8

Apply for accommodation: If your child is moving away from home, they will usually be housed in university accommodation known as Halls of Residence during their first year. Universities have various accommodation options available at different costs.

Encourage your child to research further into these and to apply for accommodation as early as possible because spaces are quickly filled. More information can be found on university websites or by contacting the university’s Accommodation Office directly.

Step 9

Wait for results: Depending on the subject, your child might have to attend interviews or take exams before any offers are made. They will then choose a firm and insurance choice from the offers they receive, and if they get the results they need, they’ll be off to one of their chosen unis!

If your child doesn’t get the required grades they can apply for alternative choices using the UCAS Clearing service.

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