Of course we all understand the difference  between a conditional and an unconditional offer.  But what if you get an unconditional offer that has a condition?  Sounds strange?  Read on.


An unconditional offer means you’re in

offer tips for international students

If you get an unconditional offer, congratulations.  The university likes you and they want you to study with them.  Accept the offer and your place on the course is guaranteed – you’re in!


A conditional offer means you’re ALMOST in

With a conditional offer the university is saying to you “We want you to study with us, but first you have to meet ‘these conditions'”.   When you meet the conditions, your offer changes to unconditional.  If you miss them, you might end up losing your offer – although sometimes the university might consider you if you’re borderline.

You know what the first step is to meeting your offer conditions? Understanding them.  Make sure to read your offer details in your offer letter /UCAS Track very carefully.

Your Conditional Offer Changes to Unconditional When You Meet Your Conditions


If you have a conditional offer, the reason usually is that….

You’re Still Completing an Academic Qualification

Your offer could have some ‘academic conditions’, such as ‘complete this qualification with this grade’ and  / or  ‘get these grades in these subjects’.

You Need to Take an English Language Test

If you’re applying from a country where English is not spoken as a first language, you’ll have to show proof that you’re able to write and speak English to a good level.  Your offer will say what test with what scores. Universities in the UK accept different tests like academic IELTS  – or  IETLS for UKVI if you need a student visa.

offer tips for international students

You’ve Not Sent Your Certificates or Transcripts

If you’ve completed your qualifications but not sent your transcript or certificates to the university, your offer may be conditional on you doing so.

You Need a Student Visa but Are Missing Some Documents

If you need a student visa to study in the UK, you will need to send a copy of your passport to the university.  And, if you have already studied here on student visa, the university will also ask you to complete a ‘Length of Study’ form.

Some universities may not make you unconditional until you’ve done this.

You Haven’t Paid Your Course Deposit

If your course asks for a deposit, the university won’t confirm your place (i.e. you can’t go ‘firm’) until you’ve paid.  But sometimes a university might give you a conditional offer until you’ve showed by paying the deposit that you’re serious about accepting the offer.

Of course if you miss the deposit payment deadline you usually lose your offer.


You might get some conditional, some unconditional offers

offer tips for international students

Remember that universities set their own entry requirements?   Don’t be surprised if you get different offers from different universities.

Some universities could make you an unconditional offer, while others will make you a conditional one.  Or, they could all make you a conditional offer but set you different conditions.


The face you make when you get an offer for a course you didn’t apply for

offer tips for international students

Now, this doesn’t happen very often, but you could get an offer for a course that you didn’t apply for.

Usually, it’s when the course you’ve applied for is already full or has been cancelled for that year. Or, maybe the admissions staff feel that the other course is more suitable.

Either way, an ‘alternative offer’ is a positive sign: They didn’t reject you, they want you to study with them just on another course.


If you expect a conditional offer but get an unconditional one….

offer tips for international students

You may be confused but really you should be excited!

Some universities have a policy of making unconditional offers to their most excellent applicants – to encourage them to accept the university’s offer.

In fact, if you do get this type of offer, the one condition you might have is that you make this offer your firm choice.


You get a conditional offer…with higher requirements

Getting a higher UCAS offer to accept as your firm choice

Remember how you’re encouraged to pick a higher offer as your firm choice and a lower offer as your insurance?  Sometimes admissions tutors might give you tougher conditions (i.e. ask for higher grades) to encourage you to accept their offer as your firm choice.

I have to admit though, I’ve mostly seen this mostly in relation to local students, not international students.


offer tips for international students

The main difference between conditional and unconditional offers is that you would usually get an unconditional offer only if you have already finished school and any other tests the university asks for.

With an unconditional offer, your place on the course is secure.  If you accept the offer as your firm choice, you will study at that university.

If your offer is conditional, the university wants you to study with them.  But, you still haven’t met all the requirements. When you meet them your place will be guaranteed.

An offer for an alternative course or an unconditional offer when you still haven’t met all the condition both tell you this: The university thinks you’re great and they want you to study with them.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that you get the offer you’re looking for.  If you fancy sharing your experience, post your comments below.

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