Do You Apply For Uni in Year 12 or 13?

Thinking of applying for university? This quick and easy guide will tell you when you will typically apply and when to start preparing your application. For more tips on applying for university, read our blog on how to complete a UCAS application.

Do you apply for university in year 12 or 13?

You will typically submit your university application in the first term of year 13. If you are applying for Oxford or Cambridge or a Medicine course, you will need to submit your application in the first 6 weeks of year 13 in order to meet the 15th October deadline. If you are applying to any other universities or courses, you can submit your application later in the first term or at the very start of term 2, but must still meet the general UCAS deadline of the 25th January.

When is the deadline for applying to university?

There are two main deadlines for applying to university that you need to be aware of:

  • Oxbridge and Medicine application deadline: 15th October
  • General UCAS application deadline: 25th January.

Most applications will need to be submitted by the general UCAS deadline on 25th January. However, if you are applying for Oxford or Cambridge or one or more Medicine courses, you will need to submit your UCAS application by 15th October.

When should you start preparing your university application?

When you should start preparing your university application depends on the deadline you are working towards and the stages of your specific application process.

Oxbridge and medical applications

Based on our experience working with students who successfully got into Oxbridge and Medicine courses, we recommend that you start preparing applications for the 15th October deadline in the first two terms of year 12 (or the equivalent school year when you are 16-17 years old). This should give you plenty of time to really understand the admissions process, formulate an effective preparation plan, and factor in revision for any upcoming school exams as well as your admissions test and interview.

That’s not to say that it is too late to start preparing if you are already in your final term or summer holiday of year 12 and haven’t yet begun. There will still be many useful things you can do to prepare and more intensive support available. However, if it is an option, thinking and planning ahead is always recommended to give yourself the best chance of success.

All other applications

If you are submitting an application due by the 25th January deadline, you can afford to start preparing slightly later, however we still recommend starting your preparation no later than in the summer break between year 12 and 13.

Important: If you are applying for Oxford or Cambridge as well as up to four other universities, you will need to submit your whole UCAS application by the 15th October deadline. You will not be able to come back to your application for other universities and submit those later. That is why it is so important to ensure that you do your research and consider which universities to apply to early to give yourself the best chance of an offer from your first and/or second choices.

9 tips for applying for university in year 12/13

1. Choose your course carefully

University courses vary greatly, even if they are the same subject, so it’s important to do your research and choose your courses carefully. There are many factors to consider when choosing a course, including the specific modules covered, the entry requirements, the acceptance rate, the societies and extracurricular activities, and more. We suggest attending as many university open days as you can to give yourself the chance to learn more about the courses in person and meet academic staff and current students. You can also explore courses on university websites and on the UCAS website.

Exploring what’s available to you and thinking about all of your options early on will help you to make sure that the course you choose is the best fit for you overall. This will make you all the more passionate about the course and determined to get in, which will shine through in your personal statement.

Note that you can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge (not both) and there are lots of subjects to choose from, so bear this in mind if you are considering applying for Oxbridge.

Top tip: Remember that your personal statement will be sent to all of your university choices (up to 5), so you won’t be able to name a specific university, course or module. However, it is important that you show your passion for the subject area more generally through wider reading, work experience, extracurricular activities, and any other relevant experiences. Learn more about how to write an excellent statement in our helpful UCAS personal statement guide*.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

2. Spend time developing your academic profile

Whatever universities you choose to apply for, you will usually be required to meet certain grades in order to guarantee an offer. Achieving the best possible grades is therefore important, especially if you are applying for top universities like Oxbridge, and there are plenty of revision hacks you can use to achieve the best grades possible.

However, it is not just the grades that count. Universities will also assess your overall academic profile to determine whether or not they are the best fit for their chosen course. Developing a strong academic profile includes not only consistently good grades throughout your A levels and sometimes GCSEs (or equivalent), but also efforts to pursue your chosen subject outside of the school curriculum. For example, many successful Maths and Science applicants to top universities take part in challenges and competitions (like the UK Maths Challenge) to showcase their strong mathematical skills and passion for the subject. Wider reading is also a great way to develop your interest in your subject and demonstrate your passion beyond the confines of the curriculum.

It’s also important to perform well in coursework assignments, which are often spaced throughout the year, and science practicals. Top university courses sometimes specify that students need to have passed all practical elements of any Science A levels (or equivalent) in order to qualify for entry, so it’s important to know this in advance.

3. Familiarise yourself with the admissions process

The admissions process for top universities like Oxford and Cambridge and for Medicine can be very different from the general university application process. Not only do you need to submit your application sooner, but you will also usually need to sit an admissions test and attend an interview. Unless you know someone who has personally gone through the Oxbridge admissions process before, you probably aren’t all too familiar with how to prepare, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the process as early as you can.

It is firstly important that you know which admissions test you are required to take for the course you are applying for. Almost every course will require you to take at least one test, and this test can be administered internally (by the university themselves) or externally (by a separate testing organisation).

It is also important to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines or dates associated with your application or admissions test. As mentioned before, the deadline for Oxbridge applications is 3 months earlier than the general UCAS deadline, but there will likely be other important dates you need to know about too. For example, STEP (the admissions test used by Cambridge for Mathematics) is taken at the end of year 13, during your final exam period, so it is not considered when making initial offers. You will therefore need to work extremely hard to show your strong mathematical ability in other areas of your application in order to stand out to Cambridge, as well as revise for your final exams and the STEP later in the year.

Additionally, applicants to Oxford and some courses at Cambridge are not automatically registered for the necessary admissions test – they are expected to register themselves. You will therefore need to make a note of the deadlines for registration to ensure that you can sit the test and are eligible to apply.

Find out more about other important stages of the process in our helpful guide to the Oxbridge admissions process.

4. Gain some work experience if possible

Although not always specified in the entry requirements, it is highly recommended that you gain some work experience ahead of your university application. This can help you to stand out from other applicants, especially if you’re applying for particularly competitive courses. It also gives you more to write about in your personal statement and demonstrates how passionate and committed you are to pursuing your chosen subject at degree level.

Sometimes, work experience is an essential entry requirement for applying to a course. The most notable example is Medicine, for which you will not be considered unless you have a good amount of medical work experience. Ideally, this experience should be in a range of healthcare settings (such as GP surgeries, hospitals, hospices, care homes, and more). Watch our video on how to get medical work experience for helpful information and tips.

5. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is one of the most valuable stages of preparing for a university application, as it allows you to focus your future time on areas you particularly need to work on. Essentially, the sooner you identify your weaknesses, the more time you will have to address them.

For example, if you identify that you struggle to perform well under time pressure (i.e. exam conditions), you can schedule in time to work on timed past papers to ensure that you feel more confident under these conditions by the time it comes to sitting your admissions test. It will also help you to focus on highlighting your strengths in interesting ways in your personal statement.

Top tip: Sometimes it can be hard to identify our own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, some students tend to spend a large portion of their revision time on the areas they already know and find easy – while this can be morale-boosting, it can also defeat the purpose of revision! To combat this problem, you can try speaking to a teacher who knows you well, or better yet, working with a professional tutor who can help you to identify areas to work on and formulate a plan to improve these areas specifically.

6. Leave plenty of time to practise

If you are required to take an admissions test or attend an interview, these will almost certainly be new experiences for you, so practice is absolutely key to your success. The more time you give yourself to prepare, the more practice you will be able to get and the stronger your performance will be.

Some admissions tests may require more preparation than others, and there are often other factors to consider as well. For instance, Cambridge’s STEP admissions test is taken at the same time as your final A level exams, so you will need to ensure that you are balancing your time on revising for each of these exams carefully. Also, some admissions tests (particularly Cambridge’s internal tests that do not require pre-registration) have little information about them online, so you may need to work with a teacher or specialist tutor in order to access resources and get inside knowledge into how to prepare.

It’s also important to note that you do not need to wait to receive an interview offer before beginning your interview preparation. In fact, preparing early gives you an advantage, as you’ll have a better understanding of what the interview process will entail, months of extra practice, and tried and tested strategies for success behind you.

7. Develop a genuine passion for your subject

A genuine passion for your chosen subject, no matter how much you have studied it at school, is hard to develop overnight. This is especially true if you’re applying for a course you’ve never studied before and that may not be offered at school level, such as Archaeology, Engineering, Medicine, Oriental Studies, and others.

Whatever course you’re applying for, you will need to dedicate a considerable amount of time to developing your knowledge and passion for it. You can do this through wider reading, watching YouTube videos and documentaries, work experience, and many other means. Your genuine passion will shine through in your personal statement and your interview, giving you an advantage over other applicants.

8. Maintain good mental health and build your confidence

It’s important to do everything you can to maintain good mental health throughout year 12, as you will still need to perform well in school alongside submitting your application (and enjoying your social life too!). We find that students who begin preparing for university, especially Oxbridge, earlier on tend to feel less anxious and more confident when the time comes to submit their application, take their admissions test and attend their interview.

Confidence is especially important for any interviews you may need to attend, as this will likely be the only time you meet your future lecturers and tutors during the admissions process, and you’ll want to make a good impression. Unsurprisingly, the interview is also the stage that students often feel most daunted by. However, this needn’t be the case! Despite what you may think, confidence is in fact a skill and can be developed just as any other skill can be. Building up your confidence early through effective preparation can alleviate any worries you may have and ensure that you are able to perform as well as possible on the day.

9. Find the best tutors to help you

While you may be able to find a great tutor at the last minute, the best way to ensure you are as well-prepared for applying to university as possible is to work with a top tutor over a longer period of time. The best university admissions tutors (i.e. those with the most experience, highest qualifications, and highest student success rates) will begin to take on eager, prospective applicants in the first half of year 12. They’ll then formulate revision and preparation plans based on their students’ individual course choice and existing strengths and weaknesses, and work with them consistently up until they submit their application and attend any admissions tests and/or interviews in the following year.

The Profs’ university admissions tutors have several years of experience successfully supporting students with their applications. Our Oxbridge acceptance rate is 55% – more than triple the national average of 15% – and more than 95% of our students get into their first or second choice universities. To get started with finding an experienced admissions tutor, reach out to our team today.

Further resources

Our experts have been compiling their knowledge and expertise on the university admissions process into free, helpful guides to help you get into your dream university. If you want to find out more about applying for university, check out these guides below, or head to the University Applications section of our student resources to explore more useful content.