Record numbers of students have applied for the most competitive university courses, according to figures from the admissions service Ucas.
Almost 57,000 applied for dentistry, medicine, or veterinary science courses or to study at Oxford or Cambridge, before their 15 October early deadline.
Ucas says the numbers are 2% higher than for the same courses this time last year.
Chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said the figures were "encouraging".
"Not only are they up against last year but also on 2011. Although this is a subset of applicants for higher education at the highest levels of achievement, I remain optimistic about overall demand in the 2013 cycle", said Ms Curnock Cook