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Applying to university

Replying to university offers

A guide to replying to UCAS offers, your options and a list of useful deadlines, as well as hints and tips on replying.

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  1. After choosing your universities

  2. What happens when you accept an offer?

  3. Deadlines for replying to offers 2021

After choosing your universities 

You could get up to five offers from your UCAS choices and you can hold onto any offer you get until you make a decision. Then you have to choose which one(s) you want to accept.

  • You can accept one offer as your Firm Acceptance (often called your CF or UF choice depending on if the offer was conditional or unconditional)
  • If your Firm Acceptance is CF, then you can accept a second offer as your Insurance Acceptance – either conditional (CI) or unconditional (UI) – and then you must decline any other offers
  • Many applicants who have more than one conditional offer will accept their first-choice university as CF and then a university that's made a lower or unconditional offer as their insurance choice

You can decline all your offers if you realise you've made a mistake in your choice of subject and want to look for another subject in UCAS Extra or Clearing. Most students accept one of their offers as their firm acceptance to make sure they have a place in the bag (depending on grade requirements of a conditional offer).

What happens when you accept an offer?

Once you've accepted an offer, you and the university are bound together by the rules of UCAS.

  • If you firmly accept an unconditional offer, you have a definite place at that university
  • If you firmly accept a conditional offer and then meet all the conditions, the university is obliged to accept you and you're obliged to go there to study

Firm acceptance 

Assuming you have conditional offers, you'll have to balance your desire to attend a particular university against whether you think you can meet the conditions when making your Firm Acceptance.

For example:

  • If you expect to get ABB at A Level and the offers are all BCC or below, then your choice is easy
  • If you expect to get BCC and your offers are ABB, BBB, BCC, and CDD, the decision is more difficult, especially if the conditions are higher for the university you want

Insurance acceptance 

Most applicants with more than one offer choose an Insurance Acceptance as well. If you're accepted by your Firm choice, the Insurance choice becomes irrelevant.

If you want to, you can just have a Firm Acceptance and decline the rest, but this is only advisable if you know you can meet the conditions of your Firm Acceptance or don’t mind applying again through UCAS Extra or Clearing.

What happens when you decline an offer?

When you decline an offer through UCAS Track, you're released from your place. If you choose to decline all of your offers, you'll be automatically entered into UCAS Extra or Clearing. You may want to do this if you’ve changed your mind about what course you want to study.

If you'd just like to hold off until the following year, you can always defer your place rather than declining your offers. See our guide to deferring your place

Tips and advice

When making your decisions, there are a few things to bear in mind: 

  • Make sure it’s a university you'd still like to go to because UCAS rules need you to honour that decision, although you can now self-release into Clearing
  • Typically, about 8% of applicants use their Insurance choice each year, e.g. by going to their Insurance choice having not met the conditions of their Firm choice
  • In some subjects, such as Humanities, it can be easier to get a place in Clearing even at prestigious universities, so making just one Firm choice may be better than choosing a second you don't really want
  • Holding an Insurance offer just for the sake of it would delay your entry into Clearing
  • Make sure you reply to all of your offers – if you don't, and ignore the UCAS reminders, you'll be 'declined by default' and lose your offers

UCAS Track 

You can track the progress of your application throughout the process using UCAS Track, which will give you an up-to-the-minute summary of where all your applications are in the system. Your password will be sent to you with the acknowledgement of your application.

Deadlines for replying to offers 2021

There are several different deadlines for replying to university offers, depending on when you submitted your application and when UCAS gets offers and decisions from universities.

11 Feburary UCAS Extra opens
20 May Universities and colleges deadline to send decisions on applications recieved by 15 January
10 June If UCAS gets all decisions from universities by 20 May, you need to reply to any offers by this date (unless you're applying through UCAS Extra)
30 June All applications after this date will be automatically entered into Clearing

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