Thinking about university?
Don’t worry if you feel unprepared for higher education – if you don’t have any particular qualifications, you may find your life experience has already given you everything you’ll need.
You’ll have to meet entry requirements
Don’t worry if you don’t have the right qualifications.
You can discuss alternatives with course providers, such as taking an Access course, or getting accreditation for prior learning, life experience or work experience.
Alternative ways to meet entry requirements
Don’t worry if you don’t have the right qualifications – just ask universities and colleges whether you can meet the entry requirements in a different way.You could get accreditation for life and work experience.
You could take an Access course – each year, over 20,000 students achieve their access qualification and progress to university courses across the UK.
- Accreditation of prior learning (APL) is essentially credit awarded for wider learning evidenced from self-directed study, work or training.
- Accreditation prior experiential learning (APEL) is an extension of APL that includes assessed learning gained from life and work experience.
- They’re widely recognised as ideal preparation for higher education for students who have been outside of formal education for some time, or have few qualifications from school.
- When you search for courses, you may see Access courses listed on the entry requirements, but if not, the university or college might still accept one for a mature student.
Can’t find your school exam certificates?
If you can't find your school exam certificates, contact the school or local authority, but if you have no luck, contact the course providers you're applying to and discuss your options.
How to add an Access course to your application
If you're adding an Access course to your application, there are four different kinds of Access course to choose from, so it's important to enter the correct one.
- Access to HE Certificate
- Access (other)
- Access to HE Diploma (ungraded – last award 2011)
- Access to HE Diploma (2009 onwards)
If you're unsure it's best to speak to your Access course provider to check. Then fill in the details as follows:
Select from the drop-down list, or if it's not there, use the 'Other' box to type it.
Enter either the date your qualification was awarded, or the date you expect to receive your results.
Access Validating Agency
Enter the name of the board that awards your qualification.
Enter either 'Pending' or 'Completed'.
How many you need to enter depends on the type of Access course.
If your qualification is the Access to HE Diploma (2009 onwards), it's compulsory to add at least one of the modules, and if possible please add all of them. There's space for 20 modules, so if you have more, please contact your chosen universities and colleges for guidance on how to send additional details to them directly
If you're adding one of the other Access courses, your chosen universities and colleges may still need details of your modules – either all of them or particular ones – so it's always best to check.
Please also enter the amount of credits allocated to each module under the heading 'Credit value'.
You’ll have to write a personal statement
Here’s where you can mention any alternative entry requirements you’ve used – like an Access course or APL – demonstrating the skills and knowledge you’ve gained through your previous experiences.
How to prepare for your course
If you have any worries about starting your university course, just make sure you’re prepared.
- Make a schedule and arrange any childcare you need.
- Ask for help if there are any skills you need to update.
- Take time to settle in and talk to other students and support staff.
How to get financial help
There are no age limits to student finance, so you can apply at any time of life – as long as it’s the first time you’ll be studying for a degree.
Financial help for students with children or adult dependants
Depending on where you live, you may be able to apply for financial support.
From the Student Awards Agency for Scotland:
- a Childcare Grant could cover up to 85% of course childcare costs, depending on household income
- the Parents’ Learning Allowance can help with course related costs if you have dependent children
- an Adult Dependant’s Grant could help if you have an adult over 18 in your household depending on you financially
- a Dependant’s Grant could cover your husband, wife, civil partner or partner (but not another student)
- a Lone Parent’s Grant could help if you’re bring up children on your own and you are single, widowed, divorced, separated or your civil partnership has dissolved
You can use this page to find mature student tips for UCAS Undergraduate applications.