Applications and decision-making

Help your child plan and manage their preparations for university, look into their options and apply.

Many students look to parents and family members for guidance – as well as teachers and peers – when they're thinking about their future and making their university choices.

Visitors walking through the Portland Building courtyard at an open day, including a father and daughter

The application process

 Our top tips for parents and guardians of undergradute applicants are:

  • Start the conversation early – You and your child should be thinking and talking about university well in advance to allow as much time as possible for researching their options, making decisions and applying.
  • Understand the process – Make sure you both know how the UCAS application process works, including any relevant deadlines, what to expect in a conditional offer, and choosing firm and insurance choices. There is plenty of information on the UCAS website and we also have application guidance for University of Nottingham applicants.
  • Come to university open days – They're a great opportunity to look around campuses and facilities in person, learn about their courses and meet staff and students. Find out more below.
  • Learn about student finance – Understand the student loans process, if your child will be eligible, and look into other possible funding options. Find out more in our finance and funding guide.
  • Guide their application – Make sure your child takes plenty of time to prepare a strong application, check they haven't missed anything, and provide suggestions and constructive feedback for their personal statement.
  • Understand privacy and data restrictions – It should always be the student communicating with their chosen universities, not yourself as their parent, other than in some exceptional cases. See our guidance on this.
  • Read up on any other policies you should be aware of – Depending on your circumstances this could include contextual admissions, parental consent for students under 18, or guidance for international students.
  • Plan for results day – Make sure you know when to expect results, and read up on the Clearing process, even if you don't expect to need it. It's also a good idea for your child to look at some possible Clearing options in advance. See our guide to helping a student apply through Clearing for more Clearing guidance for parents.
  • Remember this is their decision to make – Be supportive, raise questions and prompt your child to think through their choices, but respect their autonomy to plan for their own future.See our decision-making suggestions below.


Choosing a university and course is a big commitment, and we know you'll want to be sure your child makes the decision that's right for them. They may already have a clear idea of what they want to study and why, or they may be uncertain about their plans.

Here are some issues you may want to discuss to help them in their decision-making journey.

Career plans

  • Do they have a specific job or career in mind? Will this require a specific qualification – such as a law degree or an engineering specialism – and does it need to be accredited by an organisation in that job sector? Or is it a career open to people from a variety of academic backgrounds?
  • Is university the right path for them? A degree can unlock a huge variety of career paths, but it isn't right for everybody and there are many jobs where a vocational qualification or training would be more appropriate.

Strengths and interests

  • What subjects are they studying now? What are their strengths and interests within them? They may want to continue one of these subjects, take a joint degree in two subjects, or study something more specialised.
  • What kind of study pattern will they work best with? Some university courses include a high proportion of teaching time, or practical study such as labwork, while others have a lighter schedule of lectures and seminars with more time spent on self-managed reading and research.

Entry requirements

  • What are their predicted grades? University entry requirements vary, and it's a good idea to choose a back-up option with lower entry requirements as their UCAS insurance choice as well as their preferred university as firm choice.
  • If you live in an area where people rarely go to university or your child meets certain other criteria, they may be eligible for a contextual offer with a slightly lower grade requirement than other students. See Nottingham's contextual admissions policy for example.
  • For students from other countries, find out what qualifications and grades are accepted by the universities you look at. You can find our typical entry requirements in our information for your country.


  • Is the location important to them? Do they want to study close to home so they can visit often – or even carry on living in their family home – or would they rather live further away?
  • Do they want to study in a big city or a smaller town? In an urban environment or on a self-contained campus? Are there any specific facilities or communities they will want to be close to?

Researching the options

  • What are the reputations of the universities and courses they're looking at? Check league tables and rankings, any awards and accolades, but also look at student reviews and forum discussions (such as The Student Room).
  • Come to open days for the chance to look around universities in person, learn about their courses and meet staff and students.
  • When your child narrows it down to a few universities, you should both try to find out as much as you can – about the universities, the courses, the towns or cities, the student experience and other advantages or disadvantages –  to get a feel for which universities have the most to offer them and where they will be most happy.

Open days

University open days are a great way to learn more about the university or universities your child is applying to or considering and their chosen degree course. You can talk to academics and current students, ask questions, and explore the campuses, facilities and the city where they will make themself at home.

University of Nottingham open days

Our 2023 open days will take place on:

  • Friday 30 June 2023
  • Saturday 1 July 2023
  • Saturday 9 September 2023
  • Saturday 14 October 2023

They will include a talk for parents and carers, as well as a range of other talks, campus tours and more.


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