Applications for most full-time places at university or college are handled by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). For other courses, including part-time, you apply direct to your place of study.
How you apply for a higher education course will depend on whether your course is full time or part time.
For the vast majority of full-time courses, you can apply online through the UCAS website. However, for some types of full-time course, you apply direct to the university or college you are interested in attending.
For part-time courses, apply direct to the university or college. You can search for part-time courses online on Directgov.
There are six steps to follow when applying for a course online through UCAS. If you don't have access to the internet, contact UCAS for further information on how to apply.
Apply in the academic year before you plan to go to college. You can send in your application at any time, but UCAS will not process it until towards the end of September.
The deadline for submitting your application is usually mid-January, but some courses and colleges are earlier or later than this. Check what the deadline is for the courses you are interested in.
Your application gets passed to the institutions you've chosen.
Each university or college has its own application procedure. Some may ask you to come for interview and you may also be asked to take a test.
Others offer you a place based on the information on your application.
Once you've made your UCAS application, you can apply for financial help. You don't need to wait for an offer.
To find out how much you could get - and how to apply online - see the 'student finance' section.
If you submit your UCAS application form by the mid-January deadline, you will usually receive offers from your universities by the end of March, although for popular courses, you may not hear until May.
If you get an offer from a place you've not visited, an open day could help you decide whether you want to study there.
If you don't get an offer
If you don’t get an offer from the universities or colleges on your list, or you turn down or cancel your choices, UCAS runs a service called Extra which gives some applicants a second chance to secure a place. Extra operates from mid-March until the end of June, and UCAS lets you know if you’re eligible for it.
If you don’t get an offer through Extra, you can go through the Clearing system, where universities and colleges advertise course vacancies.
Offers will either be conditional (dependent on getting certain grades on your current course) or unconditional (you automatically get a place). You can make one firm choice and one insurance choice, as back-up.
If you get the grades you need for a conditional offer, your university or college will confirm your place. UCAS will send you a formal letter of confirmation.
If you don't get the grades you need for a conditional offer, your university or college may not be able to confirm your offer. If this happens, you have another chance to get a place through the Clearing system.
Clearing takes place after the A level and Scottish Higher results come out in August and goes on until mid-September. Its the time when universities and colleges advertise outstanding course vacancies in the national press and on the UCAS website.
UCAS will automatically let you know if you are eligible for Clearing. Tens of thousands of students find places this way.