This paper reports on one phase of a research project examining the National College of Teaching and Leadership’s (NCTL) revised methodology for the allocation of postgraduate ITE places for the 2016-17 academic year. The paper’s focus is the often-neglected voices of applicants as they negotiated this process, for whom this revised methodology ‘pilot’ year was their first and potentially only engagement with the ITE recruitment system, and doing so often represented a significant personal milestone on a life-long journey towards a career in the classroom. In all, 21 participants from a large Undergraduate Education Studies degree took part in focus groups or interviews during May and June 2016 about their experiences of applying and interviewing for a range of ITE routes and providers. The findings indicate the significance of (assumed) differences between University-based and School-based routes in shaping applicants’ perceptions of their experiences; the impact of the frenetic atmosphere generated by the ‘race’ to secure a place during this recruitment cycle; and applicants’ varied responses to providers’ tactics and reported ‘gaming’ of the system. Implications and recommendations for ITE providers are made, set briefly in the context of the ‘teacher recruitment crisis’ and the direction of travel for ITE provision.