How much do universities care about their applicants’ A-level results? Not all that much, in some cases. Some universities are giving students unconditional offers before they take their A-levels – a guaranteed place based solely on their predicted grades.
The offer could be no strings attached (i.e, you can use them as an insurance), or “a university may stipulate that their offer is only unconditional if you make them your firm choice,” writes Sarah Jardine, Professional Development Officer at UCAS.
So, why are universities apparently keen to hand out unconditional offers, and should you accept one if offered? “Since the cap came off student numbers this year, even highly regarded institutions are getting frightened about not being able to fill courses,” says Carnationlilyrose, a secondary teacher with many years’ experience of getting pupils into university. “If it's from a university you want to go to, clearly it's a plus. If you aren't sure, then it may not work out quite so well,” she continues.
What should you do if you’ve received an unconditional offer?
Firstly, be happy – even though unconditional offers have increased, they counted for less than 2% of offers made last year. So you should still feel really chuffed.
Secondly, read the small print – does the offer stipulate that you must firm the university in order for it to be unconditional? If not, then selecting it as your insurance could be a good choice as it “means you are going to university even if you completely flunk your A-levels,” says nulli tertius. However, do be aware that if you miss your firm grades then you will have to go your insurance choice. So make sure you’re happy with your decision.
Thirdly, read what not to do below.
Don't give up on A-levels
It might be tempting to see that unconditional offer as a free pass to slack off for the rest of your A-levels, or drop out altogether. Don’t be fooled. “They've given you an unconditional offer based on the knowledge that you will be completing A2 levels […]If you dropped out you'd have to notify UCAS that your qualifications would be changing (you wouldn't be completing A2 levels) and that wouldn't be the situation under which you got the unconditional offer,” warns lozzvipond.
“Do be aware that some graduate schemes also ask for a minimum number of UCAS points or a set of grades as well,” says Pro Crastination. By not trying your best at A-level, you could be doing yourself a disservice in the future.
There’s also your personal sense of wellbeing: “You might regret it if you drop out, since you'll miss sixth form and your friends and miss out on all the leaver’s events,” says feathergirl.
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Don't firm the University before you’re absolutely certain.
Receiving an unconditional from a university which isn’t your first choice can be confusing.
Chailatte101 says it was love at first sight when she visited her first-choice uni, and that it’s still the place she really wants to go to. But an unconditional offer from a uni lower down her pecking order has got her thinking again. “It'd take so much stress off my exam,” she explains.
“Think of how much pressure it will take off, knowing you've got a university place regardless of what happens during A2,” agrees snikutsmullac.
But think carefully how you’ll feel if you miss out on the uni that was really where you wanted to go. “It's fine as long as it doesn't make you choose somewhere you wouldn't have gone otherwise,” says Carnationlilyrose.
If you’ve got your heart set somewhere else, then go for it. “If you're aiming higher and think you can achieve the grades, why settle?” says Callu-m.
Even if you’re sure you want to go to that university, don’t rush your decision. Remember, if you firm an unconditional offer now you won’t be able to change your mind on results day – you’ll have to ask to be released and then go through Clearing.
Essential things you need to know
Our wiki article on Firm and Insurance Choices explains everything in depth, but here are the key points to consider if you firm an unconditional offer:
- Don’t rush your decision – you have until at least the May deadline to make your firm choice.
- You are committed to that university with the grades you get on results day. You will not be able to go through Adjustment.
- If you change your mind, you will have to go through Clearing and risk not getting onto the course you want.
- Your A-level results are still important – for your future career prospects and for your degree.
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Firm and Insurance Choices
Applicant thread directory 2017
The uni choices thread for 2017 entry
Fastest and slowest offer senders
Have you received an unconditional offer? How would you feel if you got one? Share in the comments below.