UCAS Application terms explained…

UCAS tips

Clearing? Conditional offer? If all that jargon is making your head spin, forget headache pills and reach for our dictionary of UCAS application terms instead.

Admissions cycle

The ‘admissions cycle’ is what people say when they mean the whole process of applying to university, from application to acceptance. The admissions cycle starts in September every year, this year’s main application deadline is Monday 15th January,  check all the details here.


‘Clearing’ is a UCAS process. It offers courses that still have vacancies to students, straight after they’ve received their A-level results. You may want to use Clearing if you didn’t meet the entry conditions for your chosen university or course. Clearing can also be used to apply for courses at the last minute.

Conditional offer

When a university gives you a ‘conditional offer’, they will accept you onto your chosen course but only if you meet the minimum grade and UCAS point requirements

Conversion course

You could apply for a ‘conversion course’ if you wanted a major change to the career you’d been studying for. You could do a conversion course to top up your skills and knowledge for a dream job. For example, if you had a degree in history but were looking to switch to a law career, you could take a graduate diploma in law. You wouldn’t have to take a whole new law degree. Conversion courses are usually available for students and graduates who want to move into law, medicine, IT, psychology, property, business and management.


You can choose to delay your application by applying at the start of an admissions cycle for the following cycle. For example, if you were offered a place on your chosen course but wanted to start the following year – perhaps because you wanted to do a gap year – you could choose a deferral.

Firm acceptance

A ‘firm acceptance’ is what you do to confirm the university course you want to attend once you’ve received an offer. You’re accepting the offer of a place, and you’re being firm about it.

Foundation degree

Some employers offer a flexible qualification called a foundation degree. It lets you study full-time or part-time, so you can fit it into your life. You can apply to study a foundation degree through distance learning (e.g. online) or work-based learning with an employer.

Gap year

You may want a year’s break between leaving school and your next chunk of studying towards a qualification. This is known as taking a ‘gap year’. You could choose to do a gap year because you want to travel, save money, or build up the work experience on your CV. There are lots of reasons for doing a gap year, if you want one.

Industrial placement

Many employers might offer you an industrial placement as part of your degree. It’s an extended period of work experience. It will be relevant to your degree course in terms of the skills and knowledge you’ll pick up. Industry placements are usually paid.

Insurance acceptance

More than one university may decide to offer you a place, but which course will you choose? It’s a nice problem to have! If you want to keep your options open and cover your bases, you can make an ‘insurance acceptance’ along with your first-choice firm offer. The university with the lower entry requirements will have to pass your insurance offer!

Sandwich course

Some universities offer a ‘sandwich course’. It’s one where you combine academic study with working for a year in a relevant industry. Sometimes your year of industry will take place abroad. See also: industrial placement

UCAS application form

You’ll need to fill in a UCAS application form when you register with UCAS to apply for courses. To complete the form, you’ll need to include:

  • Your chosen courses and universities
  • Your education and work history
  • A personal statement showing why you should be given a place on the course.

UCAS Extra

What happens if you applied to UCAS for a place in Higher Education but didn’t get an offer? Never fear – UCAS Extra is here. It’s open from March to June, and lets you have an extra choice. It’s a way for you to apply for another course without having to wait until Clearing.

UCAS personal statement

You’ll need to write a (great) UCAS personal statement as part of your application. It’s all written in your own words, and it’s a way for course tutors to get to know applicants a little better before they make their final choices. The UCAS personal statement is a chance to express your interests, experience and skills in a way the tutors can’t ignore!

We’ve got some strong tips for writing a great UCAS personal statement right here on Youth Employment UK.

One of our hottest tips of all? Become a Young Professional. It’s free training to boost your life skills if you’re aged 14-24. It only takes a few minutes to get started, and suddenly you’ve got achievements to talk about in your UCAS personal statement!

Unconditional offer

‘Unconditional offer’ are the two words everybody wants to hear! When a university gives you an unconditional offer, that means it’s going to give you a place on your chosen course EVEN if you didn’t get your expected results. They essentially think you’re too awesome to lose.

Vocational course

If you’re choosing a course that relates to a special job or career, it’s known as a vocational course. It will train you up in the skills and knowledge needed for that job – and you’ll get real experience in a relevant working environment, too.


You can withdraw your UCAS application at any time you choose once you’ve applied. The catch? Once you withdraw, you can’t apply again until the next admissions cycle.

If you don’t want the full commitment of withdrawal but you’re having second thoughts, you may choose to defer your application instead. You can do that for two admission cycles before you need to either get on that course horse or get off it.

Tagged in:

Are You Aged 14-24?
Get FREE Young Professional Training
Are You An Employer?
Get youth employment expert help

For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

Looking for Youth Friendly Employers?

Find out more about some of the organisations offering high quality training and work opportunities to young people. Your next dream role could be just a click away…

Latest Articles

See more

Youth Friendly Employer Masterclass: Supporting young staff on furlough or at risk of redundancy

The Youth Friendly Employer Masterclasses is a weekly webinar series, a collection of live webinars with our CEO Laura -Jane […]

Fresh ways for parents to start a conversation with their child about careers

How do you approach talking about careers with your child? Careers expert Julie Poppleton shares top tips to help you […]

Coronavirus Advice on using Jobcentre Plus

You do not need to be looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic and you can still receive benefits without […]

Jobcentre Plus can help you find Apprenticeships or training

JobcentrePlus can help you find Apprenticeships or further training, not just full or part-time jobs in your local area! Here’s […]