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What to do if you don’t get an offer from your Firm choice university

Getting rejected from the university you really wanted to go to is a tough pill to swallow. But that certainly doesn’t mean life (or your university hopes) is over…

If you don’t get an offer from the university you had your heart set on, here are some alternative options you can start researching now:

  • Accept another university offer
  • Apply to different courses through Ucas Extra or Clearing
  • Reapply next year
  • Take a gap year while you reconsider your options
  • Look at the alternatives to university
  • We’ve got the pros and cons of each route below.

First though, dealing with that rejection…

Reasons a university may reject you

There could be lots of reasons your application wasn’t successful this time round: competition from other applicants, grade requirements, and your personal statement. Perhaps the qualifications you’re taking don’t match up to their favoured subject mix.
Universities don’t have to give you a reason, but if that Ucas Track status has left you wondering, contact the university to ask for feedback.
Try not to take it too personally. Admissions tutors will be sifting through hundreds of applications and it might not always be obvious why it’s not good news for you.
What to do if a university doesn’t offer you a place

  1. Accept another university offer

If you had your heart set on going to a particular university, you might not have given much thought to what life at a different place could be like – now’s the time to start considering it. A prospectus can only tell you so much. So if there’s an open day coming up, book a place and head to the university to get a real feel for what the campus, accommodation, location and the course is like on the ground – ideally you’ll have visited already before applying but a second visit can be really useful too. Start to think about some of the positives other universities have to offer. Our annual student survey, for example, reveals which ones offer a buzzing nightlife, active sports scene and more.

Pros

  • You could be pleasantly surprised with an alternative option –and potentially end up studying with students who are better matched to your interests and academics.
  • Provided you meet your offer, you won’t have to go through the application process again –hooray!

Cons

  • Don’t settle for any university or course –if you’ve re-done your research and you still can’t imagine yourself at the university you’ve got an offer from, then it probably isn’t the right choice for you.
    When can you do this? As soon as you’ve received decisions from all the universities you applied to. If you’re not feeling confident while you’re waiting for these to come back, read below for more options.
  1. Find a course through Clearing

If you don’t manage to find a course through Ucas Extra, you could be eligible for Clearing. Clearing is another official Ucas process and kicks off in mid-July, but the majority of places become up-for-grabs in August when A-level results are published. It can all feel a bit frantic on results day, but if you get organised early enough, you could find a course and university you’re really happy with.

Pros

  • As with Extra, courses at your preferred university may become available during Clearing, although there’s no guarantee of this.
  • There’s a still a good chance you’ll be heading to uni that year.

Cons

  • It can be stressful as places on courses get snapped up quickly.
  • Don’t rush into accepting the first place you can find – you need to act swiftly, but make your course decision carefully.

​​When can you do this? Ucas Clearing opens in July but properly gets going in August. However, you can start looking into alternative courses beforehand (perhaps if one or two exams don’t go so well) – it’s a great way to get a head start on everyone else.

If you do better than expected in your exams, Ucas Adjustment gives you the opportunity to ‘trade up’ places for an alternative course (maybe even at the university you were really keen on).

  1. Take a gap year and reapply

If you don’t manage to find the right place for you this application cycle, or you think you could build on your experience or boost your grades for a stronger application second-time round, it may be worth reapplying for next year’s entry.

If a university rejected you, can you apply to them again?

There’s nothing stopping you from reapplying to a university. But before you do, think carefully about why you think you were unsuccessful first time, what you’ll be doing differently this time and how the time you’ve spent in the intervening year relates back in a positive way to your chosen course.
If in doubt, speak to a teacher or adviser, or contact the university directly to discuss your application.

Pros

  • A year out gives you the chance to build on your work experience or skills. If you’re applying for a particularly competitive or vocational course such as medicine, this could be especially useful.
  • You have the opportunity to retake exams and potentially improve your grades.

Cons

  • While most unis are happy to accept retake grades, others –including the Cambridge, Oxford and Warwick – tend to judge applicants on grades from the first year round.
  • As unis often don’t provide feedback when giving you a rejection, it’s difficult to know if you’ll fare better next-time round.
  1. Consider alternative routes to a degree

If you doubt whether the traditional university route is right for you now, take a look at the alternatives.
A higher or degree apprenticeship, for example, could give you the best of both worlds by offering a mixture of work and study. Our guide will help you decide whether an apprenticeship is right for you.

Pros

  • Apprenticeships give you a combination of study and real world experience. Even better you’ll be paid for the work that you do and could graduate with a debt-free degree.

Cons

  • You’ll be expected to achieve academically and at work, working full-time hours with fewer holidays than university-going friends.
  • Competition can be tough, with hundreds of applications per place.