Study in the U.K.

The United Kingdom (U.K.), which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has more than 160 universities that welcome applicants from around the world.

Most universities in the U.K. follow a two-semester system, with the first semester starting in September or October and ending in December. The second semester generally starts in January and ends in May or June. It usually takes three years to earn an undergraduate degree in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; in Scotland, it usually takes four.

Following is an overview of the university application process in the U.K. and the role College Board programs like the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP can play in the admissions process.

U.K. University Application Process

When you apply to university in the U.K., you apply to a specific program or course of study at that university. This differs from the application process in the U.S., where you decide on your course of study, or academic major, after you enroll. Make sure you choose your program carefully; if you get accepted, you may not be able to easily switch to a different program.

Each academic program at the same university often has different admissions requirements. Read the university’s website carefully or contact someone in the admissions office to make sure you understand the application requirements for the program you’re applying to.

In general, universities evaluate applicants based on the following criteria:

  • Secondary school exams/grades/GPA and scores on standardized tests like the SAT and AP
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of reference
  • Standardized English language proficiency tests, such as IELTS and TOEFL (if applicable)
  • Interviews, portfolios, auditions, supplemental testing

How to Submit Your Application

For most U.K. universities, you can apply online through the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You can select up to five courses to apply to with the same application. This means you can apply to five different programs at one university, or one program at five different universities. You can also use the Common App to apply to more than 25 universities in the U.K.

U.K. Application Deadlines

Here are general application deadlines for most university programs in the U.K., for students who plan to enroll the following fall:

  • October 1: Application or audition deadline for some music, dance, and theater programs.
  • October 15: Application deadline for some professional degree programs, such as medicine and dentistry, as well as programs at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.
  • January 15: Application deadline for most university programs in the U.K. Important: U.K. universities often accept applications from international students after the official deadline. If you anticipate needing more time, or if you’ve already missed a deadline, contact the universities you’re interested in to see if you can still apply.

How U.K. Universities Use College Board Test Scores

Most U.K. universities accept SAT, SAT Subject Test, and/or AP Exam scores as a way for applicants to meet the requirements for undergraduate programs, and some may require them.

Programs that require AP Exam scores sometimes let you submit SAT Subject Test scores instead—or in combination with your SAT score. Always check the university’s website or contact the admissions office directly to make sure you know the current policies regarding College Board test scores.

Even if a program doesn’t require them, College Board test scores can be a great addition to your application—and they can help you qualify for merit-based scholarships at some universities.

Universities recognize that SAT, SAT Subject Test, and AP Exam scores can help them evaluate a student’s academic achievement, so if you do well on the tests, we recommend including your scores as part of your application.

Note: You can apply to most programs even if you haven’t taken the SAT or AP Exams by the application deadline. Just be sure to send your SAT or AP scores when they’re ready. 

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