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How to make your university firm and insurance choices

How to make your university firm and insurance choices

by Caroline Hardaker

You’ve received offers to study at university and now you have to decide which one to accept. But what do your offers actually mean and how do make the right choice for you?

Read on to find out more about university offers, the difference between firm and insurance choices and some of the things you should think about as you make your decision.

What are the deadlines for receiving offers?

Universities make decisions on offers at different times, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back about all your applications at the same time. However, there are deadlines for when they should respond to your application:

  • if you applied by 29 January 2021, you should have all your offers by 20 May 2021
  • if you missed the UCAS January deadline, but apply by 30 June 2021, you should hear back by 13 July 2021
  • universities have until 20 October 2021 to make a final decision on applications to courses starting in 2021.

If you don’t hear back from a university by any of the relevant deadline, your choice will be automatically made unsuccessful.

If you applied late – after the UCAS deadline – and are wondering what effect this might have on your application, why not read our blog?

What are the different types of university offer?

You may have been checking the progress of your applications in UCAS Track or received an alert from UCAS telling you they’ve been updated. Either way, let’s take a look at the types of offer you could receive:

  • unconditional: this means you’ve already met the university’s entrance requirements and, regardless of your exam results, are guaranteed a place
  • conditional: this means you need to meet certain requirements, normally exam results, so you’ll have to wait until you receive your results to know whether you’ve got a place.
  • unsuccessful: this means the university hasn’t been able to offer you a place on your chosen course.

If your applications are unsuccessful and you haven’t been made any offers, don’t worry – you can still apply through UCAS Extra or though Clearing.

How to respond to your offers

Once you’ve received all your offers you’ll get an email from UCAS about responding, including a deadline for making your choices.

You’ll need to decide on a firm choice and an insurance choice.

Your firm choice should be your first choice university – the one you really want to go to. If this is an unconditional offer, you don’t make an insurance choice. If it’s a conditional offer, that’s when you’ll need to make an insurance choice as well.

Once you’ve decided, you’ll need to log back in to UCAS Track and select the university that’s your firm choice and, if necessary, your insurance choice. You’ll also need to decline any other offers you may be holding.

The universities you’ve chosen will get in touch soon after you’ve made your decision.

Making your firm choice

If you’ve received an unconditional offer it can be tempting to automatically make this your firm choice – after all, you won’t need to make an insurance choice and you won’t need to worry about your grades.

But you still need to make sure your unconditional offer is for your first choice university. You’ll be spending three or more years there, so your unconditional offer still needs to tick all the boxes.

Before making your decision it’s worth thinking once again about:

  • the course and whether it’s the right one for you – for example, is it more exam based or coursework focused?
  • the university’s location – is this somewhere you want to live? You might want to go to a university that’s close to home, or move further away, so how good are the transport links and how will you feel about any travelling?
  • the student experience – can you picture yourself settling in at the university and making friends? What are the opportunities like to get involved in clubs and societies, including sports clubs?
  • the accommodation – what’s the university accommodation like? Will you be happy living there and what will your living costs be?

You’ll have gathered all this information when you were researching the universities you wanted to apply to, but it’s still worth reviewing this detail now, just in case your priorities have changed.

If you’ve received conditional offers and now need to choose which one to make your firm choice, then the same sort of process applies – choose the university you really want to go to, weighing up all the pros and cons of your conditional offers.

Making your insurance choice

If your firm choice is a conditional offer and you need to make an insurance choice, think of this as your back-up – just in case you don’t get the grades you need.

Your insurance choice should still be a university you really want to attend, but this time consider broadening your options and choosing one that’s asking for slightly lower grades, or offering a less demanding course.

You’ll only attend your insurance choice university if you don’t meet the conditions of your firm choice, but you still need to feel confident and happy about your decision.

What happens next?

After you’ve updated your choices in UCAS Track, and unless you’ve made an unconditional offer your firm choice, the university you eventually go to will depend on your exam results.

Now’s the time to really concentrate on your studies so you achieve the best results you can.

Even if you accept an unconditional offer, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to work hard and stay focused. Your exams help prepare you to study at university and some employers also take A Level, or equivalent qualifications, into account when looking at job applications, so they’re still very important.

We hope you’ve found this blog post useful. If you’d like to find out more about university offers, check out our video, or visit our application hub for lots more resources to help you prepare for university.

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