Once you have sent off your UCAS application you will start to hear back from your choices. You will either be made an offer (conditional or unconditional), be rejected outright or be offered an interview or audition. Once you have received decisions from all the universities that you have applied to then you can start to think about which ones to accept and which to reject.
If you receive all your decisions by the end of March then you have until May to reply to the universities through the UCAS Track system. If you have an unconditional offer then you can select it to confirm your place and if you have conditional offers you can select two – a firm choice and an insurance choice. At this time you must reject any other offers that you are holding.
An unconditional offer is usually made when a student already has the results of all his/her examinations before applying. However, universities will sometimes offer unconditional places to students who still have to take their exams. This means that the place is yours regardless of your results but be warned – it is still important to get the best grades you can for future employment prospects.
A conditional offer will depend on the results of any examinations that you are yet to take. Conditional offers can specify particular overall grades, particular grades or scores in certain subjects or overall UCAS tariff scores. If you achieve these results then the university is required to give you a place. If you are not clear what the exact conditions of an offer are then it is really important that you contact the university concerned and ask for clarification.
Assuming that you are holding conditional offers you will need to decide which to accept as your CF (conditional firm) choice and which to accept as your CI (conditional insurance) choice.
The CF choice should be your first choice – the course you really want to study at the university that you really want to go to. It needs to be the right fit for you as an individual and it is worth spending time checking that the course description and modules on offer are what you are looking for.
The Insurance Choice should be your backup and should be a lower offer than your Firm Choice. Then, if you fail to meet the requirements of your firm offer and are subsequently rejected by that university you will hopefully have still met the conditions for your second choice. Be honest with yourself over offers – if getting the required exam results for your Firm Choice is going to be difficult then it is doubly important that you choose a realistic Insurance Choice.
If you are finding it difficult to choose try to visit each university, even if you have already been to an open day. You may be offered a ‘post-offer’ visit but if not arrange a tour independently. Take the opportunity to talk to current students and academics within the department. Ask about the support offered, both academic and pastoral and try to get a feel for whether you would be happy to study there.