Choosing your next steps as a student is the most important aspect of applying to university. You will need to manage your offers, decide which universities you want to join and which offers you consider to be the most attractive.
The different types of university offers and replies
There are three different types of university offers a university student can receive. These UCAS offers are:
- Unconditional offer: An unconditional offer does not rely on your A-Level or college results. This is ordinarily offered to students with very high predicted grades or who has an academic scholarship.
- Conditional offer: This is the most common type of offer for a student to receive from a university. It is an offer extended to a student dependent on the student meeting the set criteria of the offer.
- Contextual offer: These are rarer university offers and are usually discussed after students receive their A-Level or college results. These offers accommodate students in difficult circumstances (i.e. loss of a parent or spending time in local authority care). Your university may lower its entry requirements for you.
On top of this, there are also different types of replies a student can make. Replies are your way of letting a university know what your decision is.
You can apply for up to five universities or colleges.
The three different types of replies are:
- Firm acceptance: This is your first choice. If you meet the terms of the initial offer, then the place at university is all yours.
- Insurance acceptance: Your backup choice. This is generally a university that has lower entry requirements than your first choice. You will only attend your insurance choice if you do not meet the entry requirements at your firm choice but meet the requirements if your insurance.
- Decline: You’re not accepting the offer. You can decline or reject the offers from all universities if you choose.
You may receive combination replies too. These typically tend to be:
- Unconditional firm (UF): Your place is officially confirmed.
- Conditional firm (CF): Your place is officially confirmed if you meet the conditions of the offer.
- Conditional firm (CF) and conditional insurance (CI): Your first and second choice. You will be in at your first choice if you meet the conditions of their offer. If you do not meet them, then you will be in at the second, provided you meet their conditions.
- Conditional firm (CF) and unconditional insurance (UI): Your first and second choice. If you meet the conditions of the offer of the first university, then you are accepted. If you do not, you will be accepted at the second university.
These reply combinations are essential for understanding your offers moving forward. You will also have these offers come through on UCAS Extra.
You will have a specific deadline that you will need to reply by. The dates you must respond by are all dependent on when you receive your final decision from universities or colleges. Your UCAS application should have your personal deadline for you to see.
The UCAS deadline for accepting offers are:
- If you receive your last decision on or before 18th May 2023, then your reply date is: 8 June 2023 (except if you're using Extra to find a place).
- If you receive your last decision on or before 12th July 2023, then your reply date is: 17 July 2023 (including Extra choices).
Some universities or colleges may have early start dates and may start before your reply date. If this is the case, you should speak to the university or college and discuss what to do next. Universities and colleges have also been known to withdraw their offers if you do not accept before their deadline.
There are three different types of university offers a university student can receive.
What if I missed my deadlines?
Missing your deadline is not the end of your university journey. You re still able to apply through UCAS’ application system until the 30th of June 2023.
Missing this date is not the end either. If you miss the 30th of June deadline, your application will automatically be entered into Clearing. Many students also send their applications in after January.
Do I have to have an insurance choice?
An insurance choice is optional, but recommended. Many students have only one university or college in mind, and don’t want the hassle of having to contact them and ask to be released from their offer.
If you don't choose an insurance choice and don't meet your firm, then you will automatically be placed into Clearing. Those who miss out on their firm choice still have two options open to them. You can look into the possibilities of other colleges or universities, or you could look into the possibility of re-siting your exams in a gap year, and then re-apply next year.
What if I get my unconditional offer before I receive my exam results?
Most unconditional offers tend to arrive before you sit your exams or receive the results of them. This does not mean that you should not still take your exams seriously, as unconditional offers have been known to fall through or for the course they relate to to have been cancelled.
You will have a specific deadline that you will need to reply by.
Unconditional offers are, for many students, the best offers you can get. However, there are potential downsides to this. Accepting an unconditional offer means that you cannot have an insurance choice selected, meaning you must attend the university if you accept their unconditional offer. You can be asked to be released from your offer by the college or university, however, this may mean that you miss out on the course you want as it may niot be available through Clearing.
It is possible to select an unconditional offer as an insurance choice. This means that you select a conditional offer for your firm choice and then have a bullet-proof back-up for your insurance choice; though this too can have consequences. Many colleges or universities have been known to modify their offer from an unconditional offer to a conditional offer if you make them an insurance choice.
Is it possible to choose my insurance choice over my firm?
You can, but you cannot change after your A-Level results have been released. You must change your choices before results day, or your insurance choice will dissappear once you meet the criteria of your firm, however, if you still want to join them, you will need to contact UCAS.
An insurance choice is optional, but recommended.
You also need the permission of your universities before you can do this. Neither university is likely to reject your decision, even the university for which you have accepted an offer will likely be happy to comply.
How many offers can I accept on UCAS?
You can only accept two offers. One is your firm choice, the other is your insurance choie, although you can only have an insurance choice if your firm is a conditional offer, not an unconditional offer.
You can apply for up to five universities or colleges. Although you can apply for five, you can only accept the subsequent offers of two of them.