What are unconditional offers?
If you receive an unconditional offer then you have already met the entry requirements for a college or university – the place is yours if you want it.
If you still have exams to take when you get this offer, the results of those exams will not affect whether or not you are accepted.
Unconditional offers will come in one of two ways:
Unconditional offer to study at a university.
Unconditional offer to study at a university, but only if you select that university as your firm choice. If you select it as your insurance choice, the offer will become conditional (i.e. you must achieve the required grades).
There are pros and cons to getting an unconditional offer. Most people don’t get them, so it can be a real confidence boost knowing a university wants you enough to offer you one. However, you need to make sure you carry on working as if you received a conditional one for numerous reasons: future employers make look at your grades for example.
How to reply to an unconditional offer
When you receive an unconditional offer, your instinct may be to accept the offer as quickly as possible and assure yourself of a place at university.
However, this is not a decision you should rush. Most offers will have a deadline of the May before Results Day in August, so you will likely have a couple of months to make your decision. You should use that time to take the following steps:
1. Find out more about the university’s motives
Unconditional offers are much less common than conditional ones. So, if you receive one you should ask yourself: why is the university making this offer – is it a genuine recognition of your excellent potential, or a pure recruitment strategy to entice more high achieving students?
2. Don’t let an unconditional offer affect your choice of university
If the offer was just conditional (i.e. with grades attached), would you still choose that university? If so, then great! Accept the offer and work as hard in your A Levels as possible, secure in the knowledge you have your place.
However, if your real ambitions lie elsewhere, choose the university you really want to go to. It may be that achieving a grade or two below your offer is still enough to get into your firm choice.
3. Keep working hard
Receiving an unconditional offer should not stop you from working hard!
Don’t let an unconditional offer impact your work ethic. If you’ve also received conditional offers that feel a little out of reach, use these as a motivation to work even harder. It could mean that, by April, you feel more confident of achieving the conditional offer meaning you do not need to accept the unconditional one.
4. Check scholarships and financial support
Conditional offers are linked to performance in your A Levels, Highers or International Baccalaureate. You can be offered a place based on achieving specific grades or UCAS points. In some cases, conditional offers can come with a monetary incentive if you achieve better than your offer.
For example, if you are offered a place with ABB, the university may offer you money off your tuition fees or a contribution to your maintenance loan if you achieve AAB or higher. If you have this sort of offer, as well as an unconditional one, think carefully about which one to accept.
That said; don’t let money be the main factor when making your decision. If the university that offers you a scholarship does not feel right for you, do not go there.
5. Make use of your insurance choice
If a university is making you an unconditional offer without the need to choose it as your firm choice, you could hedge your bets and select that university as your insurance choice instead. This lets you go for your real first choice, knowing you have a guaranteed backup.
6. Be aware an unconditional offer is quite rare
Don’t assume universities will continue to make unconditional offers in this way, or that because you have high predicted grades you will receive an unconditional offer. The criteria used by universities are not clear and may change. The Government has recently taken a dim view of universities making these offers and has issued recommendations for them to change in 2020 and beyond.
7. Seek advice
Speak to university admissions officers, careers advisers, friends, family and teachers. They may be able to provide a different perspective on the issue.
8. Remember you’re in a fortunate position
Deciding what to do with an unconditional offer is tricky, but let’s face it – it’s a nice problem to have! Most applicants won’t be lucky enough to receive such an offer, and others may not receive any offers at all, so stay positive and remind yourself how well you’ve done to find yourself here!
Unconditional university offers on the rise for 18-year-olds
Ucas figures show that 38% of would-be undergraduates received offers with unconditional component
A total of 257,910 18-year-olds from England, Northern Ireland and Wales applied for university through Ucas before the deadline this year.
Nearly two fifths of 18-year-old applicants to university received an unconditional offer this year, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
The Ucas figures show a rise from last year, with 97,045 (38%) of would-be undergraduates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving an offer with an unconditional component in 2019, compared with 87,540, or 34%, in 2018.
A total of 257,910 18-year-old students from England, Northern Ireland and Wales applied for university through Ucas before the 30 June deadline this year.
Unconditional offers are often offered to students, whose qualifications are still pending, meaning their grades are predicted rather than achieved.
“The use of unconditional offers remains a complex issue and continues to evolve. We look forward to working with the Office for Students and Universities UK on their respective upcoming admissions practice reviews, to deliver meaningful recommendations.”
Reports also found that applicants from the most disadvantaged areas were 50% more likely to receive an unconditional offer than those from the most advantaged areas.
A quarter of applicants from England, Northern Ireland and Wales who are 18, received a “conditional unconditional” offer, up from a fifth at this point last year. Conditional unconditional offers are initially made by universities as conditional – or dependent on the grades a student achieves – then updated to unconditional if the offer is accepted as the student’s firm choice.
Overall, 80% of 18-year-old applicants received an offer of conditional, unconditional, or conditional unconditional in 2019.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There is a place for unconditional offers, however this data highlights the continued rise in their use and we know some students who accept unconditional offers can be more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades.
“We also have particular concerns about the use of conditional unconditional offers, which can potentially pressure students into accepting a place which may not the best option for them.”
As most Scottish applicants already have Scottish Higher qualifications, which often form part of the entry requirements for university courses, they were not included in the analysis by Ucas.