This wait for offers can be an anxious one for many. This is heightened when you can see others getting offers when you're not. The process can sometimes be perceived to move at glacial speed and it's hard to see why it's taking so long to either say 'yes' or 'no'.
To help shed some light on how the process works once your application's with a university, why it might take some time to hear back and why others getting offers before you isn't necessarily something to be worried about, our guest blogger Richard Emborg, Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions at Durham University tells us what goes on behind the scenes:
The right decision versus the quick decision
Once you’ve submitted your UCAS application you’ll naturally be anxious about when you’ll hear a decision on your choices. For some of your choices you might hear quite soon after you apply. One university prides itself on making decisions on some applications within an hour! You might not hear from others for some weeks or possibly months, depending on the date when you applied. No university or college will intentionally make you wait for a decision longer than is necessary but all will prioritise making the right decision over a fast decision. The right decision is one where offers go to the strongest applicants who are most suitable for the programme of study from amongst those who apply by the application deadline.
Why it can take some time to hear back
There are a number of reasons that affect how quickly decisions are reached on applications. These include:
• When is the deadline for applications?
• How many applications are received?
• How competitive is entry to the course?
• Is more than the UCAS application considered when making a decision; such as interviews, admissions tests or the assessment of portfolios or written pieces of work?
• Who makes the admissions decisions: an academic member of staff or an administrator?
• Does the university or college adopt a gathered field approach? This is where all or some of the decisions on applications are delayed until all on-time applications have been received and assessed. Sometimes this might also be necessary to manage numbers of undergraduate students to student number controls set externally on universities and colleges.
Typically decisions might take longer for one or more choices if one or more the following are true:
• If some of your choices are to courses with a 15 October closing date and some are to courses with a 15 January closing date.
• If there are more suitably qualified applications than there are offers available.
• If interviews, admissions tests, or assessments of portfolios or pieces of written work are required.
• If admissions decisions are made by an academic member of staff who also has teaching and/or research duties.
• If the university or college adopts a gathered field approach to making decisions or processing them to UCAS.
|The waiting game|
No news can be good news
Some universities and colleges will contact you when they receive your application and/or during the period that they are making a decision, to inform you on the progress of the application. Others might provide a portal for you to check yourself. Whether you receive any contact or not, the main thing to remember is keep calm and bear in mind that not hearing quickly might be a good thing. It might be because the university or college is considering your application very carefully and seriously considering making you an offer. No news can be good news. Remember that offers can be issued throughout the admissions cycle up to any decision deadline. There’s little you can do while you wait except ensure you satisfy any requests from your university or college choices. Better to concentrate on studying hard on any qualifications you are currently taking.
Here at Durham we have a reputation for taking longer than many other universities in making our decisions. Our average time for informing an applicant of our decision is actually within three months from when we receive an application, but some applicants might have to wait longer. The reasons for this are primarily the competition for places on our programmes and, for applicants applying for Medicine, Primary Teaching or our Foundation Programmes, a requirement that applicants are interviewed before an offer is issued.
The journey your application makes
There are full details of our process on our website. In summary, your application is initially processed in the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office (SRAO), where we ensure that it is complete. Then it is passed to our academic departments where an academic admissions selector (and sometimes more than one) assesses your application and makes a decision. It is here that an interview might be held or admissions test results considered. If you apply for a joint honours degree both academic departments will assess your application. For international students our International Office makes the decisions, applying selection criteria defined by our academic departments. The decision on each application is passed to SRAO and we process it to UCAS. We then pass applications successful in receiving an offer to our colleges to be allocated amongst them. Once a college is allocated, that college will contact the applicant informing them of this.
Whilst this process might seem quite simple, with around 25,000 high quality undergraduate applications it involves hundreds of staff, some really detailed thought and consideration and lots of hard work from a team dedicated to giving applicants as good an experience as possible. Making the right admissions decisions really matters to us!
Will there still be places available by 15 January?
Students sometimes express concerns that if they apply nearer to the January deadline than to September that there will be no offers left. That’s not the case at Durham. We are committed to the principle of equal consideration so that we can make our offers to the very strongest applicants. We proactively spread our offers between October and March to best ensure that there are enough offers left for later applicants. Like all other universities and colleges we also recognise that not every offer will end up in a registered student and so we make more offers than we have places available.
One final thing: when you’ve received decisions from your choices do think carefully about your replies to any offers. Don’t rush the decision and make sure its right for you. Oh, and if you apply to Durham, good luck in your application; we’ll be giving it a lot of care and attention.