When Should You Apply For College in the UK?

In A-Level, GCSE by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Applying to Sixth Form College can feel like you’re going back to school for the first day again-it’s confusing and you don’t know how it’s going to go. That said, at the very least, you should know when the application deadlines are for Sixth Form College and when you need to get yourself on the books for.

This article is going to help you with just that – answering all the questions you might have about Sixth Form College application deadlines. Below, I have provided you with an exact answer to the question of when you need to apply for college, however, throughout the article I will be going into significantly more detail.

The short answer here is that most colleges will accept applications from October to the new year. Almost all colleges will start the application process at the same time, usually in the autumn term of Year 11. This will be the very end of October through to November. Some colleges accept applications throughout the spring time too but it is more likely that applications will close in the new year, rather than extending all the way to April.

If you would like any further information on this topic, keep reading and hopefully this article will be able to answer the questions you may have surrounding college applications.

When Should You Apply For Sixth Form College?

The specific date by which you need to apply to sixth form college will vary depending on your college but in general should be from October to April at the latest.

I would advise that you check information that your college sends out, or any dates that they have posted on their website to make sure you apply within the deadline.

The reason that the general time frame is so long is because it can take a lot of time for the colleges themselves to organise applicants and assign places.

You should try and apply as soon as you make your decision because some colleges may offer interviews where you can discuss your predicted grades and whether they will allow you to do the courses you have chosen. It is important you leave yourself enough time to choose your subjects carefully and pick others if you need to so that they better suit your grades.

Some students who may be unsure of what their next step after secondary school will be, may leave their applications until after they receive their GCSE results. This may be to make an informed decision on whether college is the right choice for them and if so, what subjects will suit them best.

If you are feeling this way, I would advise that (even if you are unsure) you should apply to a college you may potentially want to attend. It is easier to change your mind and deny a place after receiving your results than trying to get accepted just weeks before college starts.

As most students usually go from year 11 straight to sixth form or an apprenticeship/training programme, schools can help with applications- whether that’s through providing resources so you can apply independently or guiding you through the process by setting time aside within the school day. Check if your school offers this help and if not, find out what system your preferred college uses and apply through this.

How Late Can You Leave Applying For Sixth Form College?

The very latest you can leave your application for some colleges is March or April, however I would recommend that you aim to submit it by January.

Many colleges however may expect students to submit their applications earlier so you must make sure that you continue checking when the deadline is.

If you are a student going from Year 11 straight into sixth form college, it is likely you will be preparing for upcoming exams in the spring time, so having to go through the college application process at that point in time could take away from important (and much-needed) revision time.

It is better to sort it out as quickly as you can so that you will not have to worry about it in the lead up to exams.

Leaving your application until the last minute will cause a lot of unnecessary stress if the deadline is coming up and you are unprepared.

Although colleges can accept later applications in some circumstances, if you know where you would like to study, it is easier to apply and confirm your place as soon as you can.

The latest date for applications will most likely be the end of April so if you cannot get it done any earlier, be certain that you have submitted it by this point.

However, this is a rough guide, and it is important to understand that colleges may have deadlines that are earlier in the year than this. Please be aware, and act accordingly when it comes to applying for your college.

When is the Earliest You Can Apply For College in the UK?

The earliest you can apply is in October or November.

Colleges may have taster days and open evenings for prospective students to give them an idea of what it would be like to study there. These start in the first term of the academic year to give students plenty of time to make their choices. Students are given the opportunity to tour the campus and speak with teachers from a variety of subjects.

They should open applications after these events have gone ahead so this would be the best time to apply.

If you would like to know what factors to consider when choosing your college, click here to read this useful article.

Some colleges require longer applications, including personal statements whereas others may only need shorter bits of information about you like your predicted GCSE grades.

Just by starting your application earlier, you are leaving yourself enough time to complete each stage of the application, which will be very beneficial if it requires any extended writing.

Applying early may not necessarily mean you get accepted earlier but if it gives you peace of mind about your next step after school, it’s worth doing it as soon as you can.

Does Each College Have a Different Date at Which the Student Needs to Apply?

In short, yes. Although many colleges will use the same time frame, each one will have a specific application deadline that students must follow.

This is very much dependent on how much time they leave themselves for processing applications and could change regarding whether they use an external website/programme, or are asking students to complete forms sent out by the college itself.

They may tell you this through an outside application system or they may have details advertised on their websites for example.

Although the general time frame is from October to March/April, some colleges will need to sort out their admissions before the spring, so you need to check for your college specifically.

If you can’t find a particular date by which the application needs to be submitted, you could email the college and ask them to ensure you don’t miss the deadline.

Again, it’s very important that you check what date applications close as you don’t want to miss this cut off.

If you are staying at your school and progressing to the sixth form, you shouldn’t need to follow the normal application process that you would with other colleges. It is worth checking with your teachers to make sure you can be enrolled without taking any further steps.

What Happens If You Apply For College Too Late?

The consequence of going past the dates mentioned in the paragraphs above are potentially not being accepted into Sixth Form College (or at least your preferred one).

When colleges close their applications, they begin assigning places to students and will aim to have the most people enrolled as they can within their capacity.

This means that they may not be able to accept you if they have filled their places as they don’t want to risk becoming oversubscribes for the next year. Because of this, you should really try to apply within the time frame so you don’t risk not getting a place.

Some colleges are more lenient with the deadlines and will accept late applicants but I would strongly advise that you aim to complete your application by the date they give you.

The college application window is so large that in most cases you will have a decent length of time to complete them. Leaving it until it’s too late won’t look good to the college you’re applying to and also won’t guarantee you a place.

Even if you do get into your preferred college after applying late, you may not be accepted onto the courses you want to do as they will prioritise the students who applied on time.

If you go to college in September but decide that you want to change schools, you can sometimes apply to another college. They are unlikely to have applications advertised at this point so you may need to contact them directly to sort this out.

Some can also grant late application to students with extenuating circumstances but if this doesn’t apply to you, please make sure you complete your application on time to ensure you can get the most out of your sixth form experience.

If Learning Disabilities Are Needing to Be Discussed With a College, Should You Apply Earlier?

Having a learning disability should not affect when you apply to college in the UK.

A lot of colleges will ask on the application whether the student has a learning disability or difficulty and it is up to you whether you want to disclose that information then or at a later point in time.

I would recommend that if it is an option on the application form, you inform your college then so they have more time to organise support for you.

If you feel as though you would like to discuss it with staff, you should enquire either by email or a phone call so you can discuss what support will work best for you when you join in September.

Many colleges will allow you to set up a meeting to talk about this with members of the faculty who can assist your individual needs and make sure that you are feeling fully supported for when you join in September.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to apply earlier or not but it is not a requirement and shouldn’t have an impact on your application.

When Should You Apply For College If You Have a Training Course Planned After GCSEs?

Training courses such as apprenticeships or traineeships can be very valuable for a student wanting to learn new skills or gain real work experience in different types of settings.

Colleges generally have students from the ages of 16-19 which means you don’t have to attend immediately after finishing your GCSE’s and can instead start the following year.

If you are planning on going to college to study A-Levels or other qualifications after you have completed a training course, then the best option would be to apply in the academic year before you want to start.

So, instead of applying during your final year at school, wait until the next application cycle and apply then. This will start in the autumn after your GCSE exams.

In this case, you will need to make sure that you have a confirmed trainee/apprenticeship or other type of training course, as some form of post-16 education is compulsory by law for all students under the age of 18.

If you are considering a training programme after completing your GCSE’s, this link may provide you with some useful information.

Is It the Student’s Responsibility to Apply For College or the Parent/Guardian’s?

Ultimately, it should be the student’s responsibility to apply to their college.

College helps students to gain more independence and the application should be the start of this increasing responsibility students will have over their education in the following years.

There are no specific rules to say that students must be the ones to apply, but it is important that they are able to act independently, especially when progressing to further education. Applying to college by themselves will help prepare them for the step up.

Filling in the necessary forms and writing personal statements are skills that are vital for university or job applications. Practising this early will make sure that students feel confident about doing this in the future for more important and competitive opportunities.

Of course this doesn’t mean that parents/carers can’t help- if the student needs assistance it can be really useful getting advice from someone who has experience with application processes.

The best help a parent/guardian could provide concerning the application process, would be attending open events and touring colleges with their child, and supporting them with the decision they need to make.

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