How conditional are “unconditional offers”?

Over the last few years the number of unconditional offers has dramatically increased from 3,000 in 2013 to 117,000 in 2018 (source: BBC), meaning a much higher proportion of students are now getting these types of offers.

However, the word “unconditional” can be a bit misleading. There are two types of “unconditional” offer:

  1. The university looks at your predicted grades and makes you an unconditional offer. Which means it doesn’t matter what grades you get as you will still have a place at that university
  2. The second type of unconditional offer is again where grades do not play a pivotal role, however you must put this university down as your first choice in order to receive this offer.

Considering the growth in “unconditional” offers, you could say that it’s safe to say that universities see this as a great opportunity to target the best people for their institution. Historically, it would have been the case to target the most academic people for that university, but in the majority of cases now it’s because it’s profitable for the university to have more people due to the increase in tuition fees.

It’s a very unfortunately truth and not a favourable one. If the university gives you an “unconditional” offer on the condition that the university is your first choice, then it’s likely to have offered the same to a lot of other students. But why do they need to guarantee that you will pick them? If they were offering a good course and the university has a great reputation, wouldn’t you pick them anyway?

So, my advice is this – if you are lucky to have a truly unconditional offer then take it. But don’t treat it as a Free Pass. You will have an opportunity to do exams without pressure, however, your grades will still matter because at every single interview for the next 5 years people will ask you for your grades. If you get an unconditional offer where they request you to put them as your first choice then I would probably not accept this offer. Why take something when the institution doesn’t have enough confidence in its own quality and reputation and feels that it needs to force students to accept their offers?

Whatever you decide, do try your hardest to get the highest possible grades. They will serve you well for many years to come.

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