Unconditional vs Conditional offers

Why you shouldn’t always to take the easier route


As if choosing which universities to apply to wasn’t hard enough, you're probably now finding yourself trying to decide which to pick as your firm choice. Choosing a university can be the most difficult part of it all; you have three or more years of education stretching out ahead of you, and you need to decide where to spend those so often referred to as ‘the best years of your life’. There are multiple factors which must be taken into consideration when picking a university: distance from home, league tables, student satisfaction, nightlife etc. One other factor which you may have to take into consideration, if you have received both types of offers, is whether to go for the safe option of picking an unconditional or whether to risk it and pick a university that has made you a conditional offer.

When to take the unconditional offer

Whether you're taking A-Levels, the International Baccalaureate, or BTECs, you will undoubtedly be under a lot of stress; it can be tempting to choose a university which has made you an unconditional offer just to reduce some of this stress and know that you are guaranteed a place. In some circumstances, this is the right thing to do, especially if you are really uncertain as to whether you will get the grades you need for the conditional offer. However, if you are not sure about whether to take the risk or pick the safer option, it might be a good idea to speak to your tutors and see whether they think you're on track for the grades you need.

When to take the conditional offer

A benefit of choosing the university which gave you a conditional offer is that you will have good motivation to keep working hard to achieve the grades you need. This prevents you from potentially becoming lazy and not working to the best of your ability, which may happen after accepting an unconditional offer. Remember, while you may not have to achieve certain grades with an unconditional offer, the university will still want you to pass your exams. They have made you an unconditional because they think you're capable of doing well and want to alleviate some of the pressure; they are keen to have you at their university, they don't want you to stop working and take a premature summer holiday.

Also, if future employers or fellow students at university ask you about your grades, you will want to be proud of what you have worked for during your two years of sixth form.

Think about the universities themselves

If there is a good chance that you could achieve the required grades, you need to consider which university you really prefer, trying not to be swayed by the flattering fact that one has offered you a free pass onto their course. Reading posts on Campus Society can be really helpful, but once you've narrowed your choices down it's great to visit them in person too; book yourself onto the Open Days or Applicant Days offered by the universities you're choosing between. When you're there, take the opportunity to not only look around the university and at the course, but around the city itself. After all, you will be spending the next few years of your life there, so you need to make sure it is the right place for you. Rather than looking at the universities in terms of ‘The One That Offered You a Conditional’ vs ‘The One That Offered You an Unconditional’, try to look at the universities and their cities in isolation of this fact, so that you can make the right choice for you.

As somebody who was faced with this same dilemma, I can tell you that taking the harder route is completely worth it. This is not only because I had a greater sense of achievement on Results Day, but because I knew that I was going to the university I loved the most out of the ones I had applied to. One of the main worries with accepting a conditional offer is wondering what you would do if you didn't get in. This can be a terrifying prospect, but remember that you have the option to choose an insurance university, and this can be the other university which made you the unconditional offer. Alternatively, if you don’t get the grades you wanted, you can take a gap year and retake your exams, or re-apply elsewhere through clearing.

But if you really do love the university regardless of their unconditional offer, then, by all means, choose it and be grateful that you won’t have to experience the stress involved in Results Day.

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