How late is too late? If you're applying to uni, 6pm on 15 January marks the point after which you"re considered late to the party for that particular academic year.
So with that milestone having passed, does that mean you're locked out of starting uni until next year? Definitely not! You can still apply; there's just one key difference. Your application will no longer be guaranteed equal consideration.
Other UCAS deadlines
The 15 January deadline is relevant to the majority of uni applicants, but your deadline might be different depending on what you're applying for.
15 October: Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses
24 March: some art and design courses
That means, if you're applying after that date, you might find some courses have started to fill up - or perhaps closed completely. Sound scary? Don't stress: if you're looking outside the most ultra-competitive uni/course combinations, you should still find plenty of options.
"There are currently [in mid-May] a high number of course vacancies across the sector, including some very popular courses," says Linda Burgess, director of student recruitment and admissions at Staffordshire University.
Making a late uni application
So there are still places out there, but they won't hang around forever. If you're applying late, the temptation might be to rush something together as quickly as you can. However, time spent putting together a really good application will certainly be time well spent.
"There is really little difference to the application process when applying late," says Burgess. "Students would still need to prepare their application as thoroughly as they would if they were applying by 15 January deadline."
Looking for advice on building an application? Try our piece on UCAS Apply.
The new deadline you're now looking at is 30 June. Everyone – whether a home/EU or an international candidate – gets until then to submit an application for immediate consideration. The big difference is that it's now first come, first served. So you want to be swift, but don't rush it.
Timing your application
The only time where late applicants are best advised to hold back their application is in the days immediately after the January deadline. At this point, it can actually be beneficial to wait a while.
As unis will be processing the applications received before the deadline, they may not know for a few weeks afterwards whether they can consider any more. So, if you hold out until mid-to-late February, unis will be notifying UCAS whether they will be in UCAS Extra and if so for which courses. That gives you a better idea of what's still out there.
Once you're past late February, however, you're best off getting your application in as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of success.
Checking what's on offer
The course search facility on the UCAS website is a good first port of call to check on places that are still available.
Already applied? Try Extra
If you've already applied for five choices and haven't been accepted on any of them (or have declined them all) then you can apply through UCAS Extra.
"Extra is a free service available to applicants which enables them to add a course choice," says Burgess.
"If their first Extra
course choice is unsuccessful they can continue to apply for one course at a time. If an applicant is eligible to use Extra, it’ll show up as a button when they log in to track their application."
The latest deadline for current applicants to add course choices through Extra is 2 July
Anyone can use UCAS Search: you don't have to register on the site, be logged in, or eligible for Extra. When using UCAS course search, courses that are in Extra are marked with an 'x'. Those 'currently closed' to new applications are marked with a 'c'.
Don't rely solely on these listings though - course availability is changing all the time so you'll need to double-check with the unis that interest you before making an application.
That means it's time to hit the phone. This is your chance to quickly find out whether there will be availability on the courses that interest you, and also get an insight into whether that uni is actually the right one for you.
"Universities have excellent teams that are specifically there to help potential students make the right choice that will lead them to a course that suits them, and will be able to guide them through every step of the way," says Burgess.
"Universities will also offer students an opportunity to attend an open day or pop in for an individual visit to enable them to find out more about the course, see the facilities and accommodation."
During your phone call, make sure you explain your circumstances, your grades or predicted grades, and tell them a bit about yourself. They will tell you whether they would consider you, and if they say 'yes' then you can apply. If they say 'no', then don't waste your application, and find somewhere else.
Your personal statement
All other aspects of the application process remain the same. You will need a good personal statement and a reference. Our personal statement builder can help guide you through the process of writing a personal statement, and you can ask specific questions in the personal statement advice forum. The general advice in our piece on how to avoid getting five rejections applies to late applicants too.
There's no necessity to approach your personal statement any differently, but you might find the extra time has given you more to talk about. "Students may want to emphasise the fact that the later application has given then the opportunity to spend longer volunteering, or doing relevant work experience," says Burgess.
And if you miss the 30 June deadline? Well, you can still apply even then. Your application will go straight into the Clearing pool, but with more than 60,000 students finding their uni place via Clearing last year, that's not necessarily a bad place to be.
"If students have received all of their results by this point then the university may make them an offer for a course which still has places available," says Burgess.
"If students are still awaiting results, a decision on their Clearing application would not be made until the point when the university has received their results. Early results such as BTEC and Access are traditionally received by universities in early July and A and AS levels will be received by Thursday 13 August 2015."