Changes to UCAS 2024: Everything You Should Know

As a student, it can be hard to stay on top of everything you should know because the academic landscape is always evolving. That’s why we’ve made this quick and easy article to shed light on the recent UCAS changes that impact prospective students in 2024.

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), the platform that most students use to apply to UK universities, plays a pivotal role in shaping your academic future. So, it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest developments to ensure a smooth and successful application process. 

Stay tuned, as this article will walk you through the key modifications implemented by UCAS for 2024. 

Oh, and remember, we are here to guide you every step of the way through your academic journey. No goal is too big, just ask our expert team who have a wealth of success stories as a testament to that. 


How to apply to UCAS 2024

UCAS is the online application form that you must fill out in order to apply to 5 UK universities, including Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. 

The process for applying through UCAS in 2024 is the same as in previous years, the only differences are some of the dates, application questions, references and fees. 

So, to begin your UCAS application, start by registering on the UCAS website and familiarise yourself with the application process and requirements. Research and shortlist the universities and courses you are interested in, considering factors such as entry requirements, location, and curriculum. 

Craft a compelling personal statement that highlights your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and future aspirations. Request academic references from your teachers or mentors and ensure they have ample time to complete them. 

Complete the UCAS application form, providing accurate and detailed information about your qualifications, employment history, and personal details. Pay attention to application deadlines and submit your application before the specified date. 

Feeling overwhelmed? We have an expert admissions team who can walk you through the process. We also have a detailed article on how to apply to UCAS, check it out!

What are the changes to the UCAS process for 2024?

The changes to the UCAS application form for 2024 are minor, however, they are not to be discounted. Let’s run through them now:

You can also check UCAS for further information on the 2024 changes. 

UCAS 2024 key dates

Check out the important dates for UCAS 2024 below:

When does the UCAS application open for 2024?

Normal undergraduate applications open on the 16th of May, 2023. Whilst conservatoire applications open on the 12th of July, 2023.

Deadline for UCAS 2024

Applications for most undergraduate courses should be submitted to UCAS by 6 pm (UK time) on the 31st of January, 2024. However, Oxford, Cambridge and most courses in Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine/Science should be submitted earlier, on the 16th of October (2023). Conservatoires have an even earlier deadline on the 2nd of October, 2023.

UCAS deadline 2024 Medicine 

Applications for Medicine programmes should be submitted to UCAS by 6 pm on the 16th of October, 2023.

UCAS 2024 timeline

2023May 2ndThe UCAS search tool displays 2024 courses.
2023May9thThe adviser portal opens for 2024 entry.
2023May16thUndergraduate applications open for 2024 entry.
2023July12thConservatoires applications open for 2024 entry.
2023September5thCompleted undergraduate applications can be submitted to UCAS.
2023October2ndYou should have submitted your conservatoire music applications.
2023October16thYou should have submitted your applications for Oxford, Cambridge and most courses in Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine/Science (6 pm).
2024January31stYou should have submitted your applications for undergraduate courses (6 pm). This is also the deadline for most conservatoires’ dance/drama/musical theatre applications.

Need an expert to guide you through the process? Just reach out.

Changes to references

For the 2024 undergraduate entry, UCAS has introduced changes to the academic reference process to provide greater clarity and support for both applicants and advisers.

In response to feedback from universities and colleges, UCAS has recognised the need for a more standardised approach to academic references. The content of references has varied significantly from referee to referee, making it difficult for institutions to make meaningful comparisons. Additionally, advisers have faced increasing pressure to invest more time in compiling references, with the expectation of enhancing applicants’ chances of success.

To address these challenges and ensure a fair and efficient process, UCAS is implementing a structured approach to references starting from the 2024 entry cycle, opening in May for all undergraduate applications. 

Instead of the previous free-text format, the new reference consists of three sections designed to highlight the areas universities and colleges want to know more about. The three sections are:

  1. Enter a general statement about your school/college/centre.
  2. If applicable, detail any extenuating circumstances that have impacted the applicants’ education and achievement.
  3. Outline any other corresponding information specific to the applicant and relevant to the course/s applied for that you think universities/colleges should be aware of.

These changes bring several key benefits:

  • Advisers now have built-in clarity and confidence, knowing they are providing information that is truly valuable. 
  • With more streamlined reference requirements, advisers have additional time and resources to dedicate to guiding students through the discovery phase of their application journey. 
  • Universities and colleges are able to easily access the necessary information to make informed selection decisions and provide targeted support.

It’s important to note that, like personal statements and entry requirements, specific courses or institutions may have unique information requirements. By transitioning to a structured format for references, it is easier to identify the information institutions are seeking, resulting in a more straightforward process.

At The Profs, we are committed to supporting you throughout your university applications. Your success is our priority, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

Chat with our team about how to master each UCAS step. We also have a previous article on how to write a UCAS reference.

How many references do you need for UCAS?

You only need one reference. If you’d like your chosen universities or colleges to see more than one, contact them and request to send an additional reference directly.

Changes to gender questions

UCAS has updated the 2024 cycle to have two additional responses to the gender question (within the personal information section).

The options are as follows:

  • Man.
  • Woman.
  • I use another term.
  • I prefer not to say.

Options may change again for future cycles as UCAS aims to improve the options as much as possible.

Changes to student access

UCAS has upgraded its entry grades tool. This provides students like you with visibility over a range of grade profiles accepted for entry into various courses over a five-year period (where data is available). By accessing this tool, you have access to historical data on the grades that students held when entering higher education.

Having access to this information can greatly assist you in making informed decisions about your future academic path. It can help you discover options that you may not have considered before, as the reports from the entry grades tool can encourage you to explore courses that you previously thought were unavailable to you.

At The Profs, our mission is to support students at all levels and in all subjects. We want to empower you to make the best choices for your academic journey. Our team of professional tutors can provide personalised support and mentoring to help you excel academically. Whether you need help with specific subjects, university admissions, or even online tutoring, we’ve got you covered.

Can UCAS-predicted grades be changed?

You cannot amend your UCAS predicted grades or references once you have submitted these to UCAS. If you want to do this, you must discuss this with the universities you’ve applied to themselves.

How much is the UCAS fee for 2024?

To support student choice and provide greater access to additional services like UCAS Extra, Clearing, and Clearing Plus, UCAS has decided to simplify the application fee structure. Starting from the 2024 cycle, there is now a one-time application fee of £27.50 for all UCAS Undergraduate applicants.

This change is aimed at empowering you, by allowing you to expand your options and make informed decisions amidst competitive admissions. With this new fee structure, you have the opportunity to add up to five choices to your application, providing you with more flexibility and freedom to explore different pathways.

By embracing this simplified application fee, you also gain access to the additional services offered by UCAS. These services, such as UCAS Extra, Clearing, and Clearing Plus, can prove invaluable in helping you navigate the application process and secure a place in your desired course.

Remember, we’re here to help you unlock your full potential and achieve your academic aspirations! Just reach out.

Is the personal statement for UCAS 2024 changing?

All students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still need to write a UCAS personal statement as normal, following the current setup

However, there are changes incoming for the personal statement. A new procedure will come into force from January 2025 (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants). 

We have expert personal statement tutors who can guide you through the current personal statement, as well as the new format. Access their dedicated support here.

Is the UCAS personal statement being scrapped?

From January 2025 (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants) onwards, 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. These tips should still be relevant for the new system.

Can my personal statement be 700 words?

No. Your personal statement has a word limit of around 550–1000 words with spaces. This is roughly one side of A4 paper.

All questions about the current UCAS personal statement are answered in this article which walks you through the process.

Does your personal statement have to be 47 lines?

No, lines are irrelevant. Your personal statement must not exceed 4,000 characters long. This is a word limit of around 550–1000 words with spaces.

Does your personal statement have to be 4,000 words?

No. Your personal statement must be 4,000 characters long maximum hence it can be less. Moreover, words are not to be confused with characters. 

Characters regard each letter, punctuation mark, space and so on. This means your word limit is much lower than your 4,000-character limit. Always check that you meet the guidelines or you may be disqualified.

Can my personal statement be 3 pages long?

It is unlikely that you can abide by the character limit (4,000) and write a 3-page personal statement. 4,000 characters usually cover one side of A4.

Can you use the same personal statement as you did 3 years ago?

Your personal statement should never be recycled from previous purposes and it goes without saying that it should be up-to-date and accurately reflect your current self. You are doing a disservice to yourself and your likelihood of receiving an offer by handing in something generic, old and/or multipurpose. Be as specific as you can by tailoring your application to your chosen programme at your favoured universities.

In terms of structure, then yes, currently you can submit a personal statement following the same structure as 3 years ago.

Should I put a date on my personal statement? 

No, you shouldn’t date your personal statement as it is assumedly written near the submission date. However, it’s a good idea to include dates next to the awards and/or achievements that you list. UCAS have personal statement guidelines here.

Don’t forget that we have expert personal statement tutors who can guide you through the current personal statement, as well as the new format.

What are the extenuating circumstances for UCAS 2024?

UCAS does not have its own definition for extenuating circumstances as it is not an institution that students apply to. UCAS does not assess your application, but it is a medium for you to submit your application to external universities that do. 

The universities you apply to will consider your extenuating circumstances. And remember, even if they deem your circumstances extenuating, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an offer, it just means that it will be taken into consideration when evaluating the strength of your application and your potential.

There are no 2024 nationwide changes to the understanding of extenuating circumstances as it is a relatively timeless concept. However, UCAS updated its data input; the new section is intended to minimise the need for requesting or sharing additional information outside of the UCAS application. But UCAS of course anticipates that there will still be instances where such requests occur e.g. when circumstances arise after the submission of the application or when there are complex or sensitive personal circumstances you feel should only be shared with a limited group. 

You can double-check up-to-date information on extenuating circumstances on UCAS here. It’s also a good idea to check your university’s website for their understanding of extenuating circumstances, as well as how they handle them. 

Below is a general list of what usually falls under ‘extenuating circumstances’:

  • Extraordinary – divergent from the typical challenges you encounter in your daily routine.
  • Unpredicted – something that couldn’t have been anticipated or prepared for in advance.
  • Beyond your control – there was no way for you to prevent its occurrence.
  • Temporary – you don’t anticipate the situation to persist permanently (please note this is contextual as some extenuating circumstances are long-term e.g. being a caregiver for your sick parents).

Extenuating circumstances refer to occurrences or situations that significantly affect your capacity to demonstrate your full academic aptitude.

Whatever your situation is, we can support you to get the best grades, write the strongest personal statement, and submit the best UCAS application possible! 

Can you apply for clearing for 2024?

Yes, you can. From the 5th of July (2024), you can apply for a course using Clearing as long as you’re not already holding an offer from a university or you declined your firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in your application. You must also apply to a course that still has places. UCAS has lots of information on clearing here.

How early should I apply to UCAS?

Begin your application as early as possible so that you can spend as much time as you can perfecting your application. 

However, there is no benefit to submitting your application earlier than the specified deadline as applications are equally considered and will not be looked at until after the deadline date.

Always check what your deadline is as this can depend on your chosen university and course.

Remember, we’re here to help you unlock your full potential and achieve your academic aspirations! Just reach out.

How long does UCAS take to process an application? 

It can take between 24 and 48 hours for your application to be processed. 

The term ‘processed’ refers to UCAS sending your application to your chosen universities. They will review your application after the deadline and get back to you in a matter of weeks or months, depending on their protocol.

Get guidance from admissions experts 

There is no reason why you should go through your university application alone. Curating the strongest application possible, choosing the five best universities for you, and navigating the application process can be overwhelming. Especially when you don’t want to take any risks with your future. That’s why we’re here, to help you put your best foot forward. 

Here at The Profs, we are university admissions experts! In fact, over 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities. Why not join our winning team?


Will UCAS update at midnight?

No, this is a myth! UCAS will not update at any time before A level results day itself at 8 am. Further information on this is available here.

Can UCAS offers be changed?

It is uncommon for your offers to change. Typically, your universities may give you a non-conditional offer (meaning you can attend no matter what grades you get) or a conditional offer (meaning you can attend if you achieve their specified grades). 

However, whilst it is very rare, universities can retract an offer, whether non-conditional or conditional. Similarly, a university may increase its entry requirements in general or for your course which could invalidate your entry. 

All of these scenarios are extremely unlikely, however, if you’re faced with any of them it is important that you contact the university directly. 

Also, note that you could even receive an offer for a different course than the one you applied for. More information is available regarding this here.

Can I apply for an apprenticeship through UCAS?

Yes! UCAS is not solely for undergraduate degrees, you can also apply for apprenticeships there. Check out this page for further information.

Is it too late to apply through UCAS?

It is only too late to apply through UCAS if you’ve missed the application deadline; in 2024, this is the 31st of January for most universities/programmes. However, always ensure you check the deadline for your chosen universities and programmes as these can vary!

When should I apply for the January 2024 intake in the UK?

The application process for January intake usually ranges from September to November. However, you should check the deadlines for your specific university and programme as dates can vary.

Is UCAS first-come first-serve? 

No, UCAS does not work on a first-come first-serve basis. All applications are considered at the same time from the same deadline date.

Do you apply for university in year 12 or 13?

Typically, students submit their UCAS application to their 5 universities at the beginning of year 13. More information on this is available here.

When should you start looking at universities?

Try looking as soon as possible to give yourself maximum time to research and make your decision. Generally, many students start looking and attending open days in year 12.

When should I start applying for fall 2024 UK?

Applications usually open between December and July but you should always check the deadlines for your chosen university and programmes as they can vary.