Rejected: what to do if you don’t get an offer from your first-choice uni

pot of pencils including a pen with a graduate hat topper

Didn't get an offer from your favourite university? There’s no denying that a rejection from the uni you really wanted to go to, well, sucks – but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. 

Rejection hurts – but you’re not alone

There’s no way to sugarcoat it – rejection is tough. And as very few universities will offer feedback, you can be left agonising over why it didn’t work out – what you should have put in your personal statement, what work experience you should have had – with little chance of finding out. 

You won’t have been the only one to miss out on your dream uni. Loads of students, even those with straight As involved in every extra-curricular activity going, receive rejections. You've only got to look at discussions here on TSR to see how many people are in the same boat.

Recent English graduate Becky went through the same thing: "I was rejected from three of the five universities I applied to. It was difficult to deal with, especially as I was predicted to meet their entry requirements and left guessing as to why they had rejected me. 

"But I had no regrets in the end – I accepted an offer from a university that turned out to be the right place for me. It was a better fit for me academically and had more opportunities to build up my CV."

Accepting an offer at your second-choice uni

If you had your heart set on one particular university, you might not have given much thought to your other choices – up until now. Getting a rejection from one university can be the perfect opportunity to discover another that’s potentially even better suited to you. And accepting an offer from another uni means you won’t have to go through the application process again. 

Firstly, take a fresh look at the courses you're still in the running for - our sister site The Uni Guide can help with that.

Next, head to an open day to get an on-the-ground idea of what life at that uni might be like. Check out the campus and facilities, accommodation and local area and chat to current students and tutors for the insider view.

Still can’t imagine yourself at any of the universities you have existing offers from? Consider these options…

students walking through a park

Finding a new course through Ucas Extra or Clearing 

Discover a whole new course or university through Ucas’s second-chance application schemes. You could even get a second stab at applying to a different course at your preferred uni if they have places, but do discuss this with the admissions department before applying. 

Your options:

  • If you don’t get any offers or decline any you receive, your first route to finding a new course is Ucas Extra, which kicks off at the end of February until early July.
  • More courses become available during Clearing – starting in mid-July, but with most places up for grabs after A-level results day in August.

Tips for applying

Although you probably won’t receive feedback about why your application was unsuccessful, give it some thought when applying second-time round. If you originally only applied to very competitive courses, increase your chances of an offer by looking at broader alternatives. You also have the option to decide on a different subject area altogether, including joint honours degrees.

Clearing in particular is a frantic time, but while you should act swiftly to secure a place, do your research properly and ensure your decision is a carefully considered one.

Reapplying next year

If you don’t manage to find a course or university this application cycle, or reckon you could use a year out to build on your experience or boost your grades for a stronger application for next year’s entry, then consider reapplying. 

Most universities are happy to accept retake grades, but bear in mind that a small minority (including Oxford, Cambridge and Warwick) may judge applicants on their initial grades. Contact the university you’re keen on to ask about their policy.

Taking a year out to build on work experience and skills, particularly for competitive and vocational courses such as medicine, should make you a stronger applicant. There’s still no guarantee you’ll get an offer, but try to get the most out of your time out.