I am a personal injury solicitor employed by Personal Injury Pal, the Personal Injury Department of Coley & Tilley Solicitors, Birmingham.Helen Powell, Personal Injury Pal, Personal Injury Solicitors Birmingham

I am also the proud mother of two adult children who have both graduated from university.

I am, therefore, well versed on the current process of how to apply to university, student accommodation, student loans and when these steps have to be done by.

I discovered something was missing from the application process; a “Guide for Worried Parents!”

Here is my Guide for the Parents of “would be” students!


Applying for university is done through UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service) where students state their options of what course they would like to do and at which university.  They have to place their choices in order, their first choice being their option they want the most.  Generally, when applying for university, the first choice course/university requires more UCAS points and the second fewer.  The reason for doing so is the idea of a ‘Plan B’.  If they don’t reach their required grades they will always have another option which they will have the required UCAS points for.

Once you have applied to UCAS you will receive either an unconditional offer, a conditional offer or a decline.  If the student accepts the unconditional offer they will be accepted on the course at that university regardless of the grades they achieve.  If the student accepts the conditional offer they will be accepted on the course at that university provided they have met the conditions (usually the required amount of UCAS points). If the student does not achieve enough UCAS points for any of their choices they will get the option to go into the ‘Clearing’ process which commences on ‘A’ level results’ day.  This is where students can reapply for courses at universities which still have empty places.


(Assuming your child is planning on commencing university in the autumn of 2015)

Step 1 – Open Days

In autumn 2014 students and parents will have the option to visit the Open Days of different universities.  There will be guidance and information about the different courses, tours around the buildings and student accommodation.  Most Open Days are usually held on Saturdays of which dates can be found on the university’s website.

Step 2 – UCAS Application

The whole UCAS application is completed online which can be revisited at any time.  In order to make the application students will need to submit a personal statement.  College tutors usually check the forms before they are submitted.  This application process is normally done after the Open Days.  The deadline is usually the last day in January 2015.

Step 3 – Offers/Decline

Sometimes a student is asked to attend for an interview or a test (Law National Admissions Test) at the university before an offer is made. If the student is successful they should receive a notification online from UCAS around March 2015 with the offer of a course from the university(s).  As explained above the offer may be unconditional or conditional.  The student will receive offers and sometimes rejections for every choice they give.

Step 4 – Accepting Offers

The offer will come with a timescale when it has to be accepted or not.  If the student accepts the unconditional offer, their place will be secured.  If the student accepts the conditional offer, their place will be on hold until the conditions have been met, i.e. will they achieve the required UCAS points?  Usually the outcome will be known on ‘A’ level results’ day.

Step 5 – Applying for Accommodation

Once the offer is accepted, whether unconditional or conditional, the student should start to apply for student accommodation at their preferred university (soon after March 2015).  A deposit or rent paid upfront will usually have to be paid and may be in the region of £500 which is usually refundable if the student does not take up the offer of the course (but do check the small-print).  The student can, of course, apply for accommodation further along the line but the student may not get their choice (this did happen to my son).

Step 6 – Applying for Student Finance

Once the offer is accepted, whether unconditional or conditional, the student will need to apply online for Student Finance.  The form they will need to complete is called PN1.  Your child has to complete the form and parents have their own individual forms to complete.  The PN1 form is a thick form.  Evidence of earnings/income etc. has to be produced by parents and entered on the parent’s form.  There is a deadline for this to be submitted to guarantee the money before the start of the university year.  The deadline is usually in July 2015.

Step 7 – ‘A’ Level Results Day and ‘Clearing’

This is relevant if the offer is conditional on obtaining the required amount of UCAS points.  My son was able to check whether he had his place at university in the early hours by logging on to the university website to see if he was offered a place.  Usually students will attend college or 6th form for their results, then they check out with UCAS whether they have succeeded in getting their 1st choice, 2nd choice etc.  Students who do not get their grades MUST NOT PANIC.  They can go through the ‘Clearing’ process.  This is a hectic time for those desperate to secure a place at university.

Step 8 – Shopping for Household Goods

Spend, spend, spend as you buy your child’s household goods which will include laptops, tablets etc. in readiness for their move.

Step 9 – Food Shopping

More digging deep as you buy their food etc.

Step 10 – The Move

September 2015.  Complete chaos as you fight to park at the ‘Halls’ and unload and carry the stuff to their room which is usually on the top floor!

The relief that your child has gone safely to university soon turns into worry as to how they will cope on their own and you do get ‘empty nest syndrome’.

Not for long though as they turn up with their clutter at Christmas, Easter and they are back home again in the summer.  Usually they move to different accommodation in the second year so all their stuff comes home with them!

Things were different for me.  I studied part-time for my law degree whilst working and whilst bringing up my two young children.  It was all worth it though as I turn to consider my next client’s file who is claiming for personal injury following their accident in Birmingham!

Disclaimer:- This is a guide on how to apply to university from a parent’s perspective.  Please ensure you get expert advice from UCAS, the individual university or from the Student Loan Company.