The UCAS deadline for the 2019 application cycle has now passed and most students are eagerly checking their TRACK account to see if they have received offers from their chosen universities. Some universities are very quick to respond but others may take more time. All universities have to have made their offers by the end of March.
So what happens when you have heard back from all five of your choices?
At this point you have to whittle your choices down to two. A firm acceptance and an insurance offer.
Your Firm Offer
Your firm choice should be the university that you most want to go to. Once you commit to a firm choice, you are effectively agreeing a contract with them that if you achieve the conditions they have set, i.e. reach the grades in the offer, you will take up your place in the autumn of 2019. Therefore this offer will generally be in line with your predicted grades or maybe even slightly aspirational.
Your Insurance Offer
Your insurance offer also needs to be a university that you also want to go to as this will be the default option if for any reason you do not make the grades for your top choice. If you miss your firm offer you will automatically be accepted into your insurance university and again this will be a formally binding contract.
This has become more common in recent years, where universities will offer a student an unconditional place, regardless of their exam results, if the student makes them the firm choice. Whilst this can be flattering and look like a safe bet, it is only worth going down this route if it really is the university you want to go to. Sometimes it is better to back yourself to get your grades and go to where you want to rather than compromise on what looks like a safe bet.
Other universities may make two different offers, a standard offer and another lower one if you make them your firm choice. The advantage for universities is that they can be pretty sure of nailing down that place, but again a student must be sure that it is where they really want to go.
What happens if you have no offers from your universities? If this is the case do not despair, there are still plenty of other options and the first of these is called EXTRA. This system kicks into place if a student has not received any university offers. It allows you to apply to additional universities via UCAS. First you need to contact the alternative universities to see if they have spaces on the course and if they will consider you as a potential applicant. If they agree then you can log into UCAS EXTRA and make the application.
The Final Decision
The good news is that whilst you can make these decisions as soon as you have heard from all of your universities, most students have until May to make a final decision. So there is time to reflect and evaluate your choices to be sure you are making the right one!