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How long does it take for universities to reply to your application?

It might feel like it's taking forever for your uni offers to come through. Find out what's going on, and when you should hear back

Once you've submitted your university application, the waiting game begins.

It might be that within days you hear back with either an offer, an invitation to an interview or (hopefully not) a rejection. On the other hand, they could leave you hanging for months.

It all depends on when you applied and how that university course chooses to make offers.

So take a break from checking Ucas Hub every hour, and allow us to help shed some light on when you can expect universities to reply to your application...

I've been waiting ages...when's the latest a university will reply?

Although they don't have to reply straight away, universities do have some deadlines (set by Ucas) by which time they should respond to applications. The exact deadline will depend on when you submitted your application. 

These are the deadlines Ucas has given universities for making offers for 2024 entry, but you could also hear back before these dates:

  • Thursday 16 May 2024 if you send your application by the 31 January 2024 deadline
  • Wednesday 17 July 2024 if you send your application by 30 June 2024
Here's the full list of key Ucas dates and deadlines.

How universities handle decisions and what it means for you

You’ll probably find that you and your friends receive responses back at different times, with different universities and courses acting sooner than others. Some responses might come through after a few days, but it might end up being a few weeks or even months.

Most of the time you’ll hear back before the end of March, but some courses stay open until the end of June, or may continue to make rolling offers until the July deadline.

It all depends on how the university or department you're applying to deals with applications. To find out more, we spoke to several different universities about their approach.

1. Post-deadline, post-interview decisions

In some cases, decision-making only starts after the deadline has passed and all applications are in.
Oxford and Cambridge for instance, have a clearly-defined procedure for deciding upon all applications submitted by their 16 October deadline. All decisions are made after interviews are held in November or December with candidates usually being notified by the end of January.

Cambridge has a 'winter pool' for strong applicants who applied to a college that is over-subscribed (meaning there are more applicants than places available) for their particular course. These 'pooled' applicants are considered by other colleges at the university; some will ultimately be offered a place to study their chosen course at one of these other colleges.
The process of deciding on places after a deadline has passed is followed by other universities too. One school of dentistry told us they only make their decisions after all interviews have taken place.

2. Rolling decisions

Another approach taken by universities is to start making offers and replying to applicants as soon as the applications trickle in. You don't have to wait until the January deadline to send in your application – you can make your Ucas application from the beginning of September onwards.

Here’s what a few different unis told us: 
  • ‘All applicants should hear back [from us] within two to three weeks of applying.’
  • ‘All applicants should receive an offer or an invitation to interview [from us] within 10 working days.’
  • ‘We try to respond to all applications within a matter of weeks, but this does vary between departments and depends on the number of applications received at that time.’

Many universities will use a mix of the two approaches above, depending on the course. 

Everyone else has got their replies...but not me

One of the most frustrating parts of a university application is when your friends have heard back from all their choices and you haven't heard from any. Or maybe you've heard from four of your choices but not the fifth (which is invariably your favourite). It can be hard to be patient in this scenario, but it's pretty common. 
For most admissions tutors, responding to applications is just one of their jobs – alongside teaching or other roles. As you can see from the above, response times and policies differ.
Medical school are particularly renowned for keeping people waiting, but this is usually down to the sheer volume of applications or a system of responding to applications in batches.

As one medical school admissions tutor bluntly explains: "We’re busy, get over it!"
Finally, while many popular or competitive courses will be closed to applicants after the January deadline, lots of other courses will remain open, in some cases right through until the end of June, and will continue to make rolling offers until July.

Keep an eye on Ucas Hub

You can check the status of your application through the Ucas Hub system. You should be alerted when the status of your application changes, and you'll be given clear instructions for any actions you need to take.

We have a guide to the different university offers you may receive. You can also dig deeper into what an unconditional offer really means – they're not quite as straightforward as they might sound.

I've got all my offers, what now?

Once you have all your offers, the ball is back in your court: it's decision time. You’ll need to make your firm and insurance choices based on the offers you've received. You've got some new deadlines to consider now.

  • If you heard back from all your choices by Thursday 16 May 2024, you need to reply with your firm and insurance options by Thursday 6 June 2024 (unless you're using Ucas Extra to find a place)
  • If you heard back from all your choices by Wednesday 17 July 2024, you need to reply with your firm and insurance options by Wednesday 24 July 2024 (this includes those using Ucas Extra)

And if your number one university doesn't make you an offer, pick yourself back up and decide what to do next – whether that's accepting another offer, or going through the Ucas Extra or Clearing schemes instead.

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