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Made that mistake of sending off your UCAS form and decided that you’ve applied for the wrong uni, the wrong course? Perhaps you’ve found out about a new course that you didn’t know existed that suits you down to the ground, or perhaps your uni choices are all that bit close to home.

Before you go into making any changes, make sure your new decisions are what you actually want. Is it just that the university process is coming around quicker than you thought and you’re nervous as to what is going to happen next year regardless of your course or uni? Do you really even want to go to uni? Or have your ideas and interests changed from when you were first looking into courses and unis more than six months ago? Has a letter of confirmation from your chosen uni just confirmed the fact that this is not what you want to do?

Talk to your teachers, friends and parents about your change of heart, and remember not to panic. There are a few ways out of your tricky situation, and you won’t need to take a year out from the UCAS cycle and start all over again. Furthermore, unis and admissions tutor are often quite accommodating to students which a change of heart.

How you go about making your changes will depend on when you are making them and what it is you want to change.

Changing course

What options you’ve got available to you depends on when you want to change your course. Remember that your original personal statement will have been sent to unis, so if you are thinking of applying to a course that’s completely different you may want to update your statement, or attach some supplementary information. You need good reasons for why your new course choice is the right fit for you, and even if you don’t need a new personal statement, writing down your new choice decisions can help you if you need to speak to an admissions tutor over the phone or via email.

Changing university

Again what options are available to you depend on where you are in the UCAS cycle. For a change in university you’ll not need an updated UCAS form.

It may be that you have a valid reason for wanting to change university, for example you’ve found out that a close relative is terminally ill and wants to stay closer to home. If your referee is willing to do so, you can ask him/her to approach UCAS on your behalf and make a case for you to be allowed to change your choices. If the changes are being made after 25 January (2022) unis are not obliged to consider an application from you, but if your circumstances have been deemed by UCAS to be serious enough to warrant you being allowed to change your choices it is likely that most universities would be sympathetic.

Before making your Firm and Insurance choices

After you submit your UCAS form its first port of call is with your referee who checks it and adds his or her reference. If you are this early on in the application stage you’ll be able to speak to whoever is in charge of your UCAS applications (for example, your head of year) and it may be relatively simple to make your changes and resubmit it.

Once your application has been received and is being processed, you’ve a number of options available to you:

Adding a choice

If you didn’t apply to five universities in the first place, you can easily add a choice in UCAS Track– to do this, log in to Track, select 'Choices' from the top menu and, at the bottom of the 'Choices' page is an option to 'Add Choice'.

If you are adding your extra choice or choices after 15 January, you need to check whether the university or universities you are apply to are still accepting applications for your course.

Substituting a choice

If the university has not yet replied to you and your AS2 ‘welcome’ letter is dated less than 7 days ago you can substitute an original choice for an alternative one.

To do this, log in to Track, select 'Choices' from the top menu and click on the red course code of the choice you wish to substitute. At the bottom of the 'Choice Details' page is an option to 'Substitute Choice'. You will then be guided to enter details of your new choice. You can substitute each eligible choice only once, and you can't substitute any choices added more than 7 days after you submitted your original application. Additionally, if you substitute a choice after a deadline (e.g., change medical school choices after 15 October, or another uni choice after 15 January) your application to the new uni will be counted as late and may not be considered. If you are changing your course choice (with or without changing the uni) this option is really only appropriate if you are changing to a course that is closely related to the one you originally applied for. Any drastic changes will look really odd, since you only applied less than a week ago! An updated PS is unlikely to be accepted in this situation, although you can always ask.

Switching course at your current choices If you are happy with the universities you have selected, you can contact any of them that run the course you are now interested in individually and ask to be considered for the new course – you can do this with or without having had a reply from them, and can also ask a university that has rejected you. If the uni agrees and then decides to make you an offer, they will notify UCAS of a changed decision and/or course code. If they do not agree to consider you for the alternative course, you should be able to keep any offer you already have. You will need to confirm with the uni when you contact them what happens to your original offer (if you have one) should they agree to consider you for another course but then turn your application down.

UCAS Extra

If you already have made five choices and are unable to substitute them, UCAS Extra can help. To be eligible for Extra you must have used up all five of your choices, and either your existing choices must reject you, or you must decline any offers, and cancel any choices for which you have yet to receive a decision.

Before you do decline any offers, speak to the university you want to apply to through UCAS Extra to make sure that they really are available in the Extra service and will consider your application. Remember that declining all your offers might be a gamble, as you might not necessarily receive offers from your new universities of choice.

After making your Firm and Insurance choices

Adjustment and Clearing

If you’ve already made your firm and insurance choices, waiting until results day and using Adjustment and Clearing are the best possible ways to find yourself at a different uni or on a different course.