What is a Conditional Offer?

Ben Maples  · Jun 28th 2023

A conditional offer is the most common kind of university offer that a student will receive from a university.

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A student will have one of two different offers from a university. One will be a conditional offer and the other will be an unconditional offer.

Students who receive a conditional offer university will be able to reply to the university directly or via UCAS. There are slightly fewer hoops to have to jump through when there is a conditional offer than if there is an unconditional offer.

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What is a conditional offer?

A conditional offer is an offer that a university makes to a student. The offer is dependent on the grades that the student is likely to get at either A Level or college level.

A conditional offer will be made by a university prior to receiving your A Level grades. This means that most students will have to reach the required level in order to fulfil their offer.

Whereas an unconditional offer guarantees a student a place on a course regardless of their academic performance, a conditional offer does not.

What the difference between conditional and unconditional offer?

A conditional offer is an offer that is dependent on your university grades and depends on your overall performance in other criteria. You have to fulfil this criteria in order for you to be offered a place at the university.

As the name suggests, an unconditional offer is an offer that allows a student to attend university regardless of their overall academic performance or any other criteria.

If you want to leave your firm choice, you need to check your application.

Does a conditional offer mean I am accepted?

A conditional offer does not mean you have been accepted per se. A conditional offer means that the university has accepted you, provided you meet the terms of the offer.

Conditional offers require you to meet the entry requirements before you are accepted. Provided you achieve the grades the university expects you to achieve and have the required UCAS points, you will be accepted.

What happens if you don't meet your conditional offer?

At face value, if a student does not reach the standards expected of them in their conditional offer, they are likely to miss out on the offer entirely, though, universities have been known to make exceptions to this rule.

It’s easy to say that conditional offers will be instantly dismissed, but many students are still accepted under their conditional offer terms, even if they don't meet them. If you miss your UCAS tariff points by one or two points, for example, the university may still admit you.

With your conditional offer firmly accepted, you may still see that the entry requirements change, if this happens, you need to speak to your university.

How do I accept a conditional offer on UCAS?

Most offers are dealt with through UCAS Hub.

When using UCAS, you can only accept two choices at a maximum, one firm offer and one insurance offer.

You will have to reply to all of the offers that you get at the same time.

Why has my conditional offer changed to unconditional?

An unconditional offer may change if the university entry requirements for the university change. This may seem at odds with the name of the offer, but this is fairly common for universities that experience higher or lower entry numbers from students.

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This can also work in reverse. You may soon see your conditional offer change into an unconditional offer for the same reason.

What is a Firm Choice?

When you go to university, you need to select a firm choice. Essentially speaking, this is the university that you are most likely to attend when you receive your exam results on A-Level Results Day. This means that when your results are out (and you have achieved what is expected of you) that is where you will be going.

What is an Insurance Choice?

An insurance choice is a choice that you make before going to university. Essentially, an insurance choice is there as “insurance” to ensure that you have a university to go to if your first choice does not work out for you or you are turned down from going to that university – from not meeting the university’s entry requirements.

A conditional offer UCAS is an offer that is dependent on your university grades and depends on your overall performance in other criteria.

Is a conditional offer final?

Conditional offers are final, though they have been known, in rare circumstances, to change. Generally, a university will not change the terms of the offer; however, if there is a waning interest in the course, and the university wishes to have more people on it, you may find your offer amended.

In this instance, conditional offers have been known to be upgraded to an unconditional offer. Again, this is very rare and very few universities will amend their offers or entry requirements so soon.

How long does a conditional offer last?

This will largely depend on the university. Generally, your offer will remain up to the final day of applications for that course. If you decide to retake your A-Levels or to take a gap year, then the offer will likely be rescinded until you re-apply.

You can ask for an extension, but this is unlikely to be granted except for mitigating circumstances. In this instance, you will need to supply relevant documentation to the university before they will consider this.

What if I don’t get into my firm choice?

This is why you have insurance choices. Insurance choices are created with the express purpose of making sure that you have a university to go to when all is said and done.

Now, just because you have an insurance choice, doesn’t mean that you have to go there, although you will need to let your insurance choice know that you will not be going there.

If your firm choice was that of the University of Manchester, but you did not achieve the grades required to go there, you can do a number of things: Join up with your insurance choice, go through Clearing, which will allow you to see a number of universities that are open to you and have a number of different courses for students that did not achieve the grades that they thought they would get or you can take a gap year, which is a popular thing for students to do, and you can focus on retaking your exams during a gap year to improve your grades and re-apply next year.

Can I change my firm choice and go to my insurance choice?

If you want to leave your firm choice, you need to check your application. If you have made your firm choice less than seven days ago, then you will need to change this via UCAS, which can only be done by calling them, not through the website.

If you applied more than a week ago, you will need to check what the situation is on UCAS Hub.

If your firm offer still has a status of “Unconditional Offer”, then you can’t apply for an alternative course yet. You will need to call your firm choice and request that they reject you (it’s nowhere near as harsh as it sounds, so don’t worry too much) which will allow you to move to your insurance choice.

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