Thinking about university

What is undergraduate study/ a Bachelor's degree?

Undergraduate study is the next step after secondary school, taking your child from secondary education to higher education.

Study at undergraduate level normally takes three or four years, and will give your child a Bachelor degree or a Master's degree if they complete their course successfully. Students are usually assessed through assignments, project work and written exams.

To get a sense of what studying an undergraduate course is like at Imperial, you can hear what current students have to say.

What is undergraduate study?

A bachelor’s degree is the most common type of undergraduate degree and can be studied straight after finishing higher education (secondary school or sixth form college). They usually take three or four years to complete.

There are different types of bachelor's degree, such as the BA (Bachelor of Arts) and BS (Bachelor of Science). The type you are awarded depends on the subject area you study.

A Master’s degree is a postgraduate degree and typically the next step after successfully completing a bachelor's degree. They take a year or more to complete. Some universities offer combined courses that allow you to study one after the other and these usually take four or more years to complete.

The main differences between a bachelor's and a Master's degree is their depth of focus. During a bachelor's degree program, the study is more general, giving you a solid introduction and broad understanding of the subject area. The focus of a Master's degree is on gaining a deep understanding of one specific area of study.

Will studying at university help my child build a career?

There is no simple answer to this question. Although there are different routes that your child can take that do not involve going to university, there are many careers that a degree is essential for, such as becoming a doctor or researcher. Have a chat with your child about their future career goals and work backwards from there.

To see what careers each of our courses could lead to, please read the relevant course information.

Choosing the right course

How can I help my child choose the right course?

With so many courses to choose from, it is a good idea to start talking to your child early about what course is best for them.

You could start by asking you child to make a list of courses that might interest them and help them with their career path. Following that with research into the benefits of the courses and differences between them would be a helpful next step. 

If your child is thinking of applying to Imperial, you can find more information about the process in our Applying to Imperial guide. You can also download a prospectus. 

Browse our undergraduate courses on the Imperial website or on UCAS.

How can I prepare my child for living away from home?

Living away from home for the first time is a big step. It is a good idea to talk openly to your child about the realities and practicalities of living independently. This will help make the experience less overwhelming for them.

Learning to be independent is a big part of university life, and it's not just about getting to lectures on time. Being able to cook a simple meal, do the laundry and manage finances are all important life skills necessary for success. To prepare them, start giving your child more responsibility while they are at home.

To get more insight into student life, read what current students have to say or chat directly to current students.

How can I prepare my child for studying at university?

Studying at university is different to studying at school or sixth form. The workload is heavier and your child will be expected to manage their own time.

There are also specific study skills needed to succeed on a degree course. These include note taking, presenting an argument, and understanding how to structure an essay. Your child will have learned some of these skills during their school or sixth form studies but will need to develop these further at university.

You can help prepare you child for university by encouraging your child to research tips and techniques to improve their study skills. To find out more about the difference between sixth form and university, read what a current Imperial student has to say.

Applying to university

What does the application process look like?

The application process is the first step towards higher education and securing a place at university.

Once your child has chosen what course to study and which universities to apply to, they will make their application either through UCAS (the University and Colleges Admissions Service) or by applying independently. This depends on whether your child is a home or international student, and whether your child's school or college is registered with UCAS.

Find out more about the application process on our undergraduate pages. Don’t worry if this process seems complicated – there is plenty of useful information that can help you understand the application process better.

You can also sign up to UCAS monthly parent newsletter to get regular updates.

How do I support my child with their application?

It can be daunting doing something for the first time and your child may be nervous about the idea of going to university. Your reassurance and support is vital in making the process feel like a natural step. Your child’s school may provide their own advice and support for you and your child as well, so do ask what they can do to help. 

Talk about the application process together before applying and make a list of any information you need to gather and items your child will need to prepare, such as a personal statement. Start early and give your child plenty of time to get everything done before the deadline.

Bear in mind that schools and colleges tend to have earlier deadlines for their students to submit personal statements to their teachers for review.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement supports your child's application for university. It's a chance for your child to say why they'd like to study a particular course and what skills and experience they have that shows how passionate they are for the subject.

The personal statement is probably the most important part of your child’s application. Admission tutors will use the information to assess whether your child would be a good fit for the course and information from the personal statement will also be discussed at the interview.

Read our selection process guide, which includes tips on how you can support your child and a video that shows how to write a successful statement.

When does my child need to complete their UCAS application by?

This depends on the course your child is applying for. For most courses, the deadline for applying through UCAS is usually a date in mid-January of the year your child wants to start university. 

If your child is applying to study any course at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry, the deadline for UCAS applications is usually mid-October of the previous year (a year before the course starts).

You can find more information on the UCAS website.

What happens after my child has submitted their application?

After your child submits their application, there is a period of waiting as university admission teams go through all the applications and personal statements. This is known as the selection process.

This can be a tense time for your child but it’s also a chance for them to refocus on their A Levels (or equivalent qualifications, such as International Baccalaureate of Scottish Highers) and work hard to achieve the grades they need for the course they want to study.

It’s also a good time to prepare for potential interviews (see ‘Does my child need to attend an interview?’).

Does my child need to attend an interview?

This depends on the course your child is applying for, but for most courses an interview is required.

Interviews may take place online or in person. Applicants will be told in advance what format their interview will be and all necessary arrangements for accessing it will be explained. If your child is unsure about anything, they should contact the admissions team in the departments they are applying to for help.

Interviews at Imperial generally take place from November to February. To make sure your child is prepared for their interview, have a look at this example for guidance on what to expect:

What is an admissions test?

An admissions test is similar to a controlled exam and normally takes place in a test centre. It assesses whether your child has the ability and skills to study their chosen subject.

It’s important that your child is aware of any tests they may have to complete as part of the application process. They should check their course's information and make a note of any test deadlines. 

Some universities such as Oxford and Cambridge require an admissions test for most of their courses, but not all universities do.  At Imperial, admissions tests are required by some departments.


What is my child's 'fee status'?

Most UK universities harge two levels of tuition fee for their courses — a lower fee for home students and a higher fee for international/overseas students. 

Whether your child has to pay the higher or lower fee depends on whether they meet certain criteria that are set by the UK government. You can find out which fees apply to your child on the UK Council for International Student Affairs website. 

You can also read about tuition fees for EU/EEA/Swiss students on our undergraduate study pages.

Does my child need a visa?

Your child will need to apply through the Student Visa Route unless they hold a full British passport, or hold settled or pre-settled status, or if they already have a different type of visa that allows them to study for the full length of their course.

Visit our International students pages for full guidance on how to apply for a visa.

Exploring Imperial online and in person

What does Imperial have to offer?

Imperial is the only university in the UK that focuses exclusively on science, engineering and medicine. We are a Russell Group university, ranked in the top 10 universities in the world.

Take a look at what your child’s academic experience could be like studying at Imperial. 

How can we visit the campus?

You and your child are welcomed to sign up for an Open Day and come in person to visit us. You can also enjoy a virtual tour of our campus, facilities and departments, book onto a talk and ask our current students what their experience of Imperial has been so far. 

How can I find out about Open Days?

You can find out about upcoming Open Days or our Virtual Open Days. If you have missed any, you can watch our on demand talks and taster lectures.

You can also explore other events for prospective students and sign up to receive regular email updates on events and useful information to help your child decide where to study. 

Paying for your child's studies

Will I need to pay anything towards my child’s university education?

There are two kinds of finances to consider – the cost of going to university (tuition fees) and the cost of living (accommodation, food, travel and so on) for your child while at university.

Home students

If your child is a Home student, you are not required to pay for your child’s university education, unless you have the financial means to do so. If you or your child cannot pay these costs personally, tuition fees can be covered by a loan from the Student Loans Company, while the cost of living can be covered by a maintenance loan.

If your child takes out loans to cover the cost of university, they will begin to pay back the loan - plus any interest that builds up - through monthly payments when they begin earning over a certain threshold.

If your child experiences unexpected financial difficulties while they are studying, they can apply to the Student Support Fund for help covering their living costs.

International students

International students are not eligible for UK loans but your child should check with your own local government if funding is available (e.g. US and Canada loans). 

Please visit our International students pages for guidance specific to your region.

How does my child apply for a student loan?

Home students can apply for both a tuition fee and maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company.

Your child will need to create an account and complete an online application. It can take up to six weeks to process an application, so they should apply as soon as applications open. The amount your child will be able to borrow will depends on your household’s income - this is known as means testing.

See UCAS's Student Finance Guide for Parents and Partners for more information.

What is a bursary or scholarship?

Bursaries and scholarships are other sources of funding that your child might be able to apply for to support them at university. If your child is awarded a bursary or scholarship, the money is free and does not need to be paid back.

Find out more about Imperial’s bursaries and scholarships and if your child is eligible to apply in our Funding from Imperial guide.

Does Imperial offer financial support to students?

Imperial offers financial support to UK undergraduate students with a household income of less than £70,000.

Your child is eligible to apply for an Imperial Bursary if they have applied for a student loan. The amount awarded would depend on the household income.

If you or your child experience unexpected financial difficulties while your child is studying, they can apply to the Student Support Fund for help covering their living costs.

When does my child have to start paying back their student loan?

Your child will start paying back their student loan once they start earning a certain amount, known as the threshold amount.

See the government's guide to repaying a student loan to find out more. 

Securing accommodation

How much will accommodation and living expenses cost?

The cost will vary from one university to the next and will also depend on the type of accommodation, whether it is a room in a hall of residence (rented from the university directly) or privately rented accommodation.

If your child is planning to go to Imperial, our guide to accommodation and living costs will give you an idea of how much your child will need.  

How do I help my child choose where to live?

If your child is planning to move away to go to university, then they will need to decide whether they should live on campus in halls of residence or whether to rent privately.

There are benefits to both, so it is worth doing research on the cost of both types of accommodations and then deciding which best suits their circumstances. If your child is a home student, they can apply for a maintenance loan to help cover the cost of accommodation and living costs.

If your child is thinking of taking a room in halls of residence, see our Living in accommodation guidance. If they are thinking of renting privately, please see our information about renting private accommodation to help them navigate the private sector safely.

What kind of facilities will my child have access to in accommodation?

All undergraduate students who take up a place at Imperial are guaranteed accommodation in halls of residence in their first year if they are eligible. Facilities in halls of residence include a laundry room, TV/games room and a shared kitchen space. Accessible rooms and facilities are available if requested.

You can take a virtual tour of our halls of residence to see what they look like for yourself, and compare what types of rooms and accommodation are available as well.

What support will my child have while living in student accommodation?

The safety and wellbeing of your child is very important to us.

Please explore our Support in halls and Covid-19 procedures to learn how Imperial will support your child while they are living in halls of residence.

Can my child commute if they do not want to live in halls of residence?

The decision of whether or not to live in halls of residence is up to your child, but commuting to campus can be a practical option for many students. Factors to consider are the cost of commuting and the length of time it would take your child to travel to and from the campus. 

Ensuring safety and wellbeing

How do I know that my child will be safe on campus?

You can find out how Imperial keep students safe in our Security on campus and Security in halls of residence pages.

We take the safety of our students very seriously and hope this information will give you peace of mind.

What support is there for my child if they are struggling with being away from home?

It’s never easy being away from home to begin with, but there is always support on hand to help your child adjust and get through this difficult but natural stage. You know your child better than anyone, so check in with them regularly and keep reassuring them that they will get used to their new environment. 

Please read our homesickness guide for advice on how to support your child.

What if my child struggles to manage their time while studying?

It is not uncommon for students to need some time to adjust to the differences between studying at school or college and at university. The biggest challenge your child will face is managing their own timetable and independent learning.

If your child is struggling to manage their workload, they should have a chat with their personal tutor, who is available to provide academic and personal support. Here are some tips to share with your child on time management.

What types of food will be available on campus?

Imperial has a wide variety of cafés, restaurants and convenience stores on campus and we cater for most dietary requirements. Please see our information on our catering outlets, which includes locations, menus and opening times.   

Can my child change their course if they don’t like their first choice?

This will depend on a number of factors and your child will have to contact the admissions team of their department to request a course change. The admissions team will consider all requests but in some cases changing course will not be possible.

Please make sure your child reads through the course information fully before choosing which course to study. Your child can also chat to current students and ask questions about course content before deciding.

What support will my child receive from their academic department?

As well as a personal tutor to support your child during their academic studies, departments are on hand to help students with any personal issues they may be experiencing. There is also a dedicated team of staff available to help with student support.

What support do you provide for international students?

Imperial benefits from an extremely culturally rich campus, with over 130 nations represented among our student community.

Support for international students includes free English language support from our Centre for Academic English and our Language Pair scheme.

Our International Student Support team runs a year-round programme of social activities that are open to all students, as well as specialist advice on a wide range of UK visa and immigration issues.

Visit our guidance for international undergraduate students for more information.

What support do you provide for disabled students?

Imperial is committed to supporting all its students to reach their full potential. If your child is disabled, the College will provide the support they need, regardless of their fee status.

We recommend that your child contacts our Disability Advisory Service if they have additional needs relating to a specific learning difficulty, enduring mental health or health condition, Autistic Spectrum condition or a sensory or physical impairment.