Depending on the strength of your application and the institution or course that you are applying to, you may find that you receive an unconditional offer from a university. This section will explain what an unconditional offer is and how you should best respond to receiving one.
If you receive an unconditional offer then you have already met the entry requirements for a college or university – the place is yours if you want it.
If you still have exams to take when you get this offer, the results of those exams will not affect whether or not you are accepted.
Unconditional offers will come in one of two ways:
- Unconditional offer to study at a university.
- Unconditional offer to study at a university, but only if you select that university as your firm choice. If you select it as your insurance choice, the offer will become conditional (i.e. you must achieve the required grades).
There are pros and cons to getting an unconditional offer. Most people don’t get them, so it can be a real confidence boost knowing a university wants you enough to offer you one. However, you need to make sure you carry on working as if you received a conditional one for numerous reasons: future employers make look at your grades for example.
When you receive an unconditional offer, your instinct may be to accept the offer as quickly as possible and assure yourself of a place at university.
However, this is not a decision you should rush. Most offers will have a deadline of the May before Results Day in August, so you will likely have a couple of months to make your decision. You should use that time to take the following steps:
1. Find out more about the university's motives
Unconditional offers are much less common than conditional ones. So, if you receive one you should ask yourself: why is the university making this offer – is it a genuine recognition of your excellent potential, or a pure recruitment strategy to entice more high achieving students?
2. Don't let an unconditional offer affect your choice of university
If the offer was just conditional (i.e. with grades attached), would you still choose that university? If so, then great! Accept the offer and work as hard in your A Levels as possible, secure in the knowledge you have your place.
However, if your real ambitions lie elsewhere, choose the university you really want to go to. It may be that achieving a grade or two below your offer is still enough to get into your firm choice.
3. Keep working hard
Don’t let an unconditional offer impact your work ethic. If you’ve also received conditional offers that feel a little out of reach, use these as a motivation to work even harder. It could mean that, by April, you feel more confident of achieving the conditional offer meaning you do not need to accept the unconditional one.
4. Check scholarships and financial support
Conditional offers are linked to performance in your A Levels, Highers or International Baccalaureate. You can be offered a place based on achieving specific grades or UCAS points. In some cases, conditional offers can come with a monetary incentive if you achieve better than your offer.
For example, if you are offered a place with ABB, the university may offer you money off your tuition fees or a contribution to your maintenance loan if you achieve AAB or higher. If you have this sort of offer, as well as an unconditional one, think carefully about which one to accept.
That said, don't let money be the main factor when making your decision. If the university that offers you a scholarship does not feel right for you, do not go there.
5. Make use of your insurance choice
If a university is making you an unconditional offer without the need to choose it as your firm choice, you could hedge your bets and select that university as your insurance choice instead. This lets you go for your real first choice, knowing you have a guaranteed backup.
6. Be aware an unconditional offer is quite rare
Don't assume universities will continue to make unconditional offers in this way, or that because you have high predicted grades you will receive an unconditional offer. The criteria used by universities are not clear and may change. The Government has recently taken a dim view of universities making these offers and has issued recommendations for them to change in 2020 and beyond.
7. Seek advice
Speak to university admissions officers, careers advisers, friends, family and teachers. They may be able to provide a different perspective on the issue.
8. Remember you're in a fortunate position
Deciding what to do with an unconditional offer is tricky, but let's face it – it's a nice problem to have! Most applicants won't be lucky enough to receive such an offer, and others may not receive any offers at all, so stay positive and remind yourself how well you've done to find yourself here!
If you hold an unconditional offer, you may be able to use UCAS Adjustment (from A Level Results Day) to look at available places at a different university. Some students use their unconditional offers strategically as a safety net, and shop around for different opportunities after receiving their results. UCAS also have a new feature in 2019 called Self Release – find out more here.
If you do change your mind come Results Day, and want to attend somewhere different, make sure your decisions are measured and rational. Adjustment can be useful in larger cities where there are two or more universities in close proximity, and it is easy to switch universities if accommodation is not an issue. If you wish to live away from home, make sure to check accommodation availability before making any agreements with a university or UCAS.
Next page: Replying to Offers