© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.Increasing access to university for those currently under-represented is a UK government priority. Understanding the views of under-represented students can help direct widening participation activities. In recent years, a positive trend finds increasing numbers of Black students attending university, but it is not clear why White disadvantaged student numbers have not increased. Thus, we aimed to explore the student viewpoint on barriers and facilitators to university access in disadvantaged adolescents and how this might differ by ethnicity. We used an online semi-structured interview with questions about applying to university. Seventy adolescents (mean 16.9 yr.) were recruited who are currently under-represented at university level, based on various measures of disadvantage. Black, Asian, and ethnic minority students (BAME) reported similar barriers and facilitators to applying to university as White disadvantaged students. However, there were some differences, for example, BAME participants stated ‘having no choice’ was a reason to apply to university while White participants did not mention this. Also ~60% of BAME students said they would prefer to study close by compared to far away, while only 46% of White participants said this. Our results support previous findings that financial issues are a key barrier to university access and that outreach activities can act as facilitators to increase university access. However, we compare the unique viewpoints on the barriers and facilitators to university access in Black, Asian and White under-represented students. Based on these views we also make recommendations for future widening participation events targeted at different ethnicities.