Why students should apply by the Equal Consideration Deadline (ECD)

What is the equal consideration deadline (ECD)?

All UCAS applications submitted before this date must be considered equally by universities.

The ECD deadline is 31 January at 18:00 UK time.

Top three reasons to submit applications before the ECD

Courses cannot close before this date

Once the ECD has passed, universities can close a course if they think it is fully subscribed. 

Any students who wait until after the deadline might miss their chance to apply, especially if it’s a popular subject or one with limited spaces.

It makes organising applications easier for advisers

Encouraging your applicants to submit by the ECD will help align all the students you’re working with, making it much easier to manage your caseload and track where in the cycle you’re at.

58% of non-UK applications submitted by the ECD were from applicants aged 18 or under.

International students get more time to plan their studies

Studying in the UK from overseas involves a significant amount of admin and organisation. Applicants who submit before the January ECD, instead of in June, will have an earlier idea of where they might be studying. This means more time to plan their move, talk to their families/guardians, and sort finances.

20,500 applications were received from EU (excluding UK) applicants before last year’s ECD, with a further 94,410 from non-EU international applicants.

Tips for helping undecided students meet the ECD

Do your students need help making a decision in time for the deadline?

You could:

  • Look carefully at entry requirements and steer students towards realistic choices based on their academic profile
  • Have them take UCAS career quiz for inspiration
  • Get social! Unibuddy is a great tool to talk to students currently studying in the UK, including loads of international students. Many of these international students will do ‘takeovers’ on social media as well, so applicants should follow any institutions they’re considering. 
  • Encourage them to look up virtual tours of campuses they might be interested in
  • If they have an idea of course, but are struggling to decide between cities, the UCAS location guides can help.

Getting the best chance of success before hitting send

Run through this checklist before submitting to get the best results for your applicants:

  1. Make sure that everyone is aware of the deadline – 31 January at 18:00 UK time. Take extra care if you’re in a time zone west of the UK, as this may be quite early in the day.
  2. If you’re a registered centre remember, you’ll be the one to send applications to UCAS by the deadline – make sure to leave yourself enough time.
  3. Make sure each section is accurate – date of birth errors are common.
  4. Make sure there is enough information provided on qualifications in the ‘Education’ section – this will help universities and prevent delays due to info requests from them.
  5. Check that the personal statement sounds like it was written by your applicant – if they have used a template, AI, or copied from another student, they might get flagged by the UCAS similarity checker and we will let their choices know. 
  6. Check that the choices your applicant has made are realistic for the type of grades you expect them to achieve, and that they have applied to institutions with a range of entry requirement profiles. If their international qualifications aren’t listed in a university’s listed entry requirements, you can always discuss this directly with the institution. 
  7. Put aside time to get predicted grades (wherever possible depending on the qualification) and a coherent reference – our guide to the new reference process can help.
  8. Make sure the ‘criminal conviction’ box is not ticked in error, as this can cause issues later in the application process. This'll only show for some courses those that require an enhanced criminal record check to study, or where completion of the course includes rights of entry to a profession that involves such a check (e.g medicine and health courses).
  9. For the criminal convictions section:
    • ‘Declared’ means they’ve said they have convictions and ticked the box 
    • ‘Undeclared’ means they don’t have any, and haven’t ticked the box 
  10. It’s good to remind students to list their IELTS/TOEFL numbers in the English Language section, and as a qualification in the ‘Education’ section.
  11. Make sure applicants have checked their payment card will work for overseas payments (if they are paying themselves), or the payment card of whoever is paying the fees.
  12. You can change some parts of an application after submitting, if needed. Check our guide to application changes in advance to understand what can be altered later. 
  13. If an applicant misses the January ECD, they can still apply. However, it’s best to make sure they can still be considered for their choices – check with the relevant universities before submitting again.

Next steps after the ECD date passes

Here’s what you and your students can expect after the deadline:

  1. Decisions will start to come in – these are the five possible responses:

    Unconditional offer
    This means the university wants to offer them a place and has all the documents they need to do so. This is unlikely if your applicant is still studying.

    Conditional offer

    This means the university wants the applicant to attend but is waiting for the outcome of something (usually academic results or a language test). 
    In the offer letter, they will describe exactly what they need the applicant to provide to confirm their place. You should contact the university to clarify if this is not specified.


    Unfortunately, the university is not able to offer your applicant a place – they may explain the reason for this, but it’s not required .

    Interview or audition needed

    Your applicant has been invited to an interview/audition. The application outcome will be decided based on this.

    More information needed

    The university may get in touch to ask for more information, or to see a transcript of grades achieved so far, to help them make a decision. There's normally a deadline attached to this, so make sure your student meets this to avoid being rejected.

    This request could be due to:

    • Your applicant is taking a qualification the university is not familiar with
    • They did not fill out the qualifications section fully
    • You were unable to provide predicted grades at the time of submission
  2. Don’t worry if you don’t get a response to the submission for a few weeks! Universities will be working through a high volume of applications. If applicants submitted by 31 January (18:00 UK time), universities have until 16 May to make a decision.
  3. Once your applicant has responses from all their choices, it’s time to decide. Their application (and your Advisor Portal, if you’re a UCAS Registered Centre) will show the 2024 deadlines for choosing firm and insurance choices. Failing to reply will cause all offers to be automatically declined on their behalf.
  4. If they receive at least two offers they will need to pick a ‘firm’ and an ‘insurance’ choice and reject the other offers:

    Firm choice
    This means that if your applicant meets the conditions of their offer, they will be able to study at this institution. If your applicant receives an unconditional offer and makes this their ‘firm choice’, they cannot pick an insurance choice.

    Insurance choice
    This is the place they will go if their grades aren’t high enough for their firm choice. It’s important that the insurance choice has lower grade requirements than the firm, but the student should still be happy to study there.
  5. If your applicant didn’t receive any offers, they can still look for other opportunities through UCAS Extra when it opens. They can only apply to one new course at a time, so it’s important the applicant understands why they weren’t successful before. It’s important to help the student research their choices, so they can still find a great study option.
    • Do they need to apply to lower tariff providers?
    • Did they miss out or put incorrect information into their application?
    • Did they not take the right subjects for their previous choices?

What to do if your applicant didn’t meet the deadline?

Here's what you can do to support your applicant if they missed the deadline. 

  1. Reassure them: Plenty of applicants submit after the deadline each year and are still able to get places. Most courses will still have places available after this date.   
  2. Use this extra time: A common reason for applying after the deadline is students being unsure of their choices, whether that was of course or institution. There can be a temptation to rush an application but use this as an opportunity to help applicants firm up their research. However, we recommend that once your student has made that decision you get the application in as soon as possible.
  3. Be realistic and honest: The courses that are likely to close after the ECD are the most popular ones. For example, last year the top three most popular were subjects allied to medicine, business and management, and social sciences. If your student is set on a particular course, they may need to get creative with the institutions they are looking at. Likewise, if they’re set on a certain location, they may need to be flexible with the courses they’re looking at. For example, most institutions have a variety of business school courses which cover similar foundational modules then filter off into different specialisms. 
  4. Do your research and know your dates: After the ECD, UCAS works closely with providers to make sure our website is up-to-date, and you'll no longer be able to apply to any full courses, so be ready to substitute with other options. Your students can apply as part of the main cycle up until 30 June, although we recommend getting applications before this where possible to clarify things like visas and accommodation. We also have the option to apply through Clearing from 5 July. As the timelines are shorter, this isn’t ideal for students who need a visa but, it's a great option for those students who don't. 
  5. Consider a ‘gap year’: For some students going straight to university out of school is not the best option and they’re much better off taking that short break to really think about what they’d like to study and where. They can use this time to get some work experience or use Springpod on the UCAS Hub to take a huge variety of taster classes to impress in their application next year. It's also worth remembering that, as an adviser, your students from this year can still link their application to you for a reference in future years, and applying with their grades already confirmed means they can pick the institutions where they know they meet the requirements.  

Whatever reason your students have for not meeting the deadline, as their adviser, you know them best and with the information above can turn the situation into an opportunity to get them placed in the best institution for them.