UCAS has rules for when you can reply to your offers and how many offers you can accept.  In this post, I’ll share my tips with you on replying to your university offers and for choosing your ‘firm’ and ‘insurance’ acceptances.


You can’t reply until you’ve had decisions from all your choices

tips for international students

As an undergraduate student applying through UCAS, you will need to wait until you’ve had decisions from all your UCAS choices before you can accept or reject any offers.  So, if you’ve applied to five courses, you have to get five responses first.

If you’ve had offers from your top choices and you want to accept them before the other universities have replied to you, you can withdraw your application for the other choice(s) in UCAS Track.   Just make sure it’s what you want as you may not be able to reinstate (put back) the choices you’ve rejected.


You can only accept two offers, and only one of them as your ‘firm’ choice

tips for international students

I’m sure you know about this but, although you can apply to five UCAS choices, you can accept only two offers – or just one if you’ve already made up your mind.

If you accept only one offer, that course will be your ‘firm’ choice – this is where you will study if you have an unconditional offer.  Usually, applicants who make a conditional offer their firm choice, choose a second offer as their ‘insurance’ choice.  Your insurance course is your backup option: you’ll go there only if you miss the conditions of your firm offer.


  • If your insurance offer is conditional, you still need to meet those conditions.
  • If your firm choice is unconditional, your place on the course is guaranteed. You don’t need a backup option and can’t have an insurance choice in UCAS.


How to reply to your university offers

tips for international students

You accept and decline your offers in UCAS Track.  UCAS then lets the universities know about your decision and you won’t need to contact the universities directly.


If you do decline any of your offers by mistake, contact the university and UCAS immediately.  Often they can reinstate it for you especially if you contact them straightaway, though there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to.


The university has a deadline to reply – and so do you

tips for international students

UCAS sets the deadlines by which universities and students have to make their decisions.  Your university choices will have a deadline to reply to you depending on when you sent in your application.  And you will have a deadline to reply to any offers based on when you received your last university response.

You get more time to reply to your offers if you apply and receive your university replies earlier in the year.  The closer you get to the course start date, the less time you have to decide.


Don’t miss your deadline for replying to your offers.  If you do, they will be cancelled automatically. You could contact the university and UCAS and try to get an offer back, but often that may not be possible.


These are your UCAS deadlines…save them now!

tips for international students

If you’re starting a course in September or October 2016, here is when you’ll need to reply to your university offers:

4 May

If you receive your last university decision on or before 31 March 2016.

8 June

If you receive your last university decision on or before 5 May 2016.

23 June

If you receive your last university decision on or before 8 June 2016.

22 July

If you receive your last university decision on or before 14 July 2016.


Reply by the deadline…but don’t rush into making a decision

tips for international students

When you reply to your offer(s), you can start making your preparations for studying in the UK.  For example, you could start looking at your student accommodation options, as well as what you need to do to apply for a student visa (if you need one).

But if you’re undecided, remember that you don’t have to reply to your offers before the deadline.  Take the time you need to consider your options and make the decision that’s right for you.


If you can’t make up your mind, this will help….

tips for international students

Remember the research that you did to find the right university course? Do something similar now to decide which of your offers to accept.

Here are some of the most important things to look at again.

The Course Content

I start with this because it is in my view the most important criteria.  Go back to the course information and have a careful look at the course details, i.e. the structure and content.

Are you still happy to study this course for three or more years?  Will you find it interesting enough?  Is it the right choice for your future plans?

The Things that Matter to You

Think about how the course meets the criteria that are important to you. You might care about reputation, location, facilities, career advice or other criteria.  Does the course meet your requirements?

Tuition Fees & Overall Cost

What is the total cost of the course?  Don’t just look at the tuition fees, but also your living expenses.  Does the university offer any scholarships and what are your chances of getting one?

If in Doubt, Get Advice

Speak about your options with your parents, friends, teachers and other people that you trust and whose opinion you value.

If You Have a Chance, Meet the Universities

If you want to really know if a place is for you – visit.  You’ll be able to see for yourself what the university is like as well as speak to staff and students to get answers to any questions you may still have.

But visiting the universities is easier said than done if you live too far away and it’s going to cost you hundreds of Pounds, if not more, to come over for a few days.  This is one of the reasons staff from UK universities travel abroad to meet their applicants.  You should be able to find out from each university’s website about any visits to your country.

Attend the Pre-Departure Briefing

Many UK universities visiting countries between March – August will do so to hold pre-departure presentations.  These may be at the British Council office nearest to you, at education agency offices or in hotels.  You can usually attend a pre-departure whether or not you have accepted your offer.Again, if you check the university’s website, you can find out if an event is happening near you, when and who for.

Sometimes universities hold pre-departure ‘webinars’ – these are online presentation that, with a good internet connection, you can attend from anywhere in the world.


You’re pleased to have the offers…but you don’t like any of them?

tips for international students

If you’ve chosen your carefully, you will hopefully have at least one offer that you’re happy to accept.  But if you’re not happy with the courses you’ve got offers for and you’ve changed your mind about what to study since you’ve applied, think about what would be the best step for you.

Do you need to speak to anyone to clarify any doubts?  Or do you feel that you would better off rejecting your offers and applying again?


If you’re very sure you don’t want to accept any of your offers, you could decline them all.  Provided you have used all your five UCAS choices, you can apply again in UCAS Extra between 25 February and early July.  Or, if you don’t mind leaving everything to the last minute, you could try getting a place using Clearing, which I’ll bring you a post on soon.


Although you apply to five UCAS choices, you can accept two only offers. One of your acceptances will be your ‘firm’ choice – the course that you want to study.  Your second acceptance will be your ‘insurance’ choice – your ‘just in case’ option.

If your firm acceptance is an unconditional offer, you won’t need an insurance choice and won’t be able to accept a second offer.

Make sure you write down the UCAS deadline for replying to your offers.  If you miss your deadline, you risk losing all of your offers.

When deciding on which offers to accept, do your research again. Look at the things that matter to you and how the course meets them.  If none of the offers you’ve received are suitable for you, think about whether it may be a better option to decline them and to apply again in UCAS Extra or UCAS Clearing.

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