Advice & Hacks

Unconditional Offers: What Are They And Should You Always Accept Them?

Ben HaywardMay 1st

It’s that time of year again…

Thousands of people expectantly waiting to see if - after all the work that’s gone into Ucas applications - they’ve got an offer from their preferred university.

So, if a university does decide to make you an offer, it will either be conditional (dependant on you getting the grades they require) or unconditional (they offer you a spot on a course regardless of the grades you achieve).

So, an unconditional offer, sounds great yeah? Well, it is great - well done - however, there are still a few important things to consider…

I’ve received an unconditional offer. What should I do?


First of all, there’s no need to rush. You should wait until you’ve received all your offers before making a decision. Make sure you review all your options and consider them equally. If you’ve got time, maybe even take a trip to see them again!

It’s also a good idea to weigh up your guaranteed offer against other factors - if you had your heart set on a different university, but they give you a conditional offer, don't move on from them just because they’re proving a little harder to get.

If you’re still not sure, try getting a different perspective. Parents, teachers, careers advisers and even admissions departments at universities themselves should be more than happy to offer you some guidance.

If I get an unconditional offer, does that mean the university really wants me?


Up to a point - yep, you’ve clearly impressed them with your application. However, there’s a couple of other things to remember…

Universities want to avoid having empty spaces on their courses, and making you an unconditional offer can be seen as a tactic to attract you to their institution - especially if you have several universities lining up to make you an offer.

In recent years, restrictions governing how universities recruit students have been lifted, meaning universities are competing with each other to try and entice students.

This has lead to an increase in unconditional offers - you’re now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago - with one university offering them to all students who have applied there with the right predicted qualifications, according to Which? University.

The increase has led to many students seeing unconditional offers as a form of 'bribe' in exchange for accepting the offer firmly.

Does an unconditional offer mean less end-of-year pressure?


Well, accepting a university spot that won't be affected by your grades is definitely appealing, but you shouldn’t let it change how much effort you put in to your studies.

“We are concerned that unconditional offers could have detrimental effects on attainment – we know of a similar college to ours where 75% of students who had accepted unconditional offers did not achieve the grades the college had predicted. However, we don’t see unconditional offers going away,” says Stella Barnes, a Higher Education And Careers Advisor.

The work you do during sixth form or college is preparation for what comes later. And to be frank, slacking off now is a bit of a waste of everything you’ve put in so far!

And if that’s not enough incentive, some bursaries and scholarships are only awarded to students who achieve top marks - so by letting the ball drop because of an unconditional offer, you could be waving goodbye to a nice little extra chunk of cash that - believe me - will be much welcomed come September!

Are unconditional offers going to be banned?


Probably not, but both university watchdogs and the government are certainly looking carefully at how they are used, with the Office for Students (OfS) saying they may even be breaking the law.

They warned that the exertion of ‘psychological pressure’ or ‘creating an impression of urgency’ for students making decisions could constitute a breach of consumer protection law.

The chief executive of the OfS, Nicola Dandridge, said universities shouldn’t be prioritising their own interests over those of students and instead, should be encouraging them to make informed decisions about which offers to accept.

What is a ‘conditional-unconditional' offer?


The term 'conditional unconditional' offer has surfaced in recent years and is where a university states that as part of their unconditional offer, you must make them your first (or firm) choice.

So although these don't have grades you need to achieve, they do come with strings attached.

If you accept an unconditional offer as your firm choice, you are committing to go to that university. You can't choose an insurance choice or enter Clearing as you need to request to be 'released' from your offer first, which is a tricky process.

The OfS has expressed concerns about the practise with Ms Dandridge saying: “We are concerned about the rapid rise in unconditional offers, particularly those with strings attached which are akin to pressure selling.

"It is plainly not in students' interests to push them to accept an offer that may not be their best option.”

Can I make an unconditional offer my insurance choice?


The simple answer is yes - unless the institution explicitly states otherwise.

Andy Gardner, a Careers Adviser at Central London Careers Hub says: “When an applicant has their offers in, and they have an unconditional offer with no extra conditions, this creates a very interesting situation with using the unconditional offer for the insurance choice. It's a great de-stresser. The applicant can have their firm choice and then have the insurance choice as the ultimate stress-free back-stop.”

Hopefully you’ll feel a little bit more knowledgeable about what your options are after all that. But, remember, if it feels like a bit too much, speak to someone who can help you!

Good luck!

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