Making your firm and insurance choices: top tips
By Rebecca Hughes (Digital content producer, Which? University) - 04 January 2015
Deciding which university offers to accept is one of the trickiest and most important stages of the whole application process. There’s no one-way-fits-all approach - but we asked careers advisers and Ucas for some top tips to help you make the right firm and insurance choices for you.
We’ve also got advice if you don’t get an offer from your first choice university - plus next steps if you're holding no offers.
1. Review your offers
Don't rush it. Take some time to revisit your course and university options, especially if it's been a while since you sent off your Ucas application.
- Re-familiarise yourself with the course description and modules on offer – the course content needs to match up with what you're looking for from a course. Will you be happy studying on this course for the next three years?
- Have you visited the university? It’s the best way to get a ‘feel’ for whether you could see yourself studying and living there for the next few years – a prospectus can only tell you so much.
Once you receive your last decision back from the universities you've applied to, you’ll typically have a few weeks before you need to reply to your offers (check Track for your deadline - this will depend on when you submitted your application) – so if you haven’t already, go on an open day, or at least suss out the general area.
2. Making your firm choice
Your firm choice should be your first choiceIf you meet the conditions of your firm offer, then the place is yours – so make sure your firm choice is the course and university you most want to go to (and not just the higher grade course you've been offered). We've got more advice on making your firm course choice here.
Before you make your firm choice, ask yourself if you’ve got a realistic chance of meeting it.
Is the offer achievable?
It’s also worth weighing up how flexible the course offer might be. While in theory you’ll only secure the place if you meet your offer, in practice, some universities will accept ‘near-miss’ applicants.
Is the offer flexible?
You can get an idea of what students on the course actually achieved (versus the entry requirements the university asked for) by looking at the 'typical Ucas points' achieved and the 'most common grades' sections on any course page on Which? University. And if in doubt...
3. Making an insurance choice
Your insurance choice should normally be a lower grade offerYour insurance choice should act as your 'back-up' option if you don't get the grades you were expecting. But according to a 2010 Ucas report, 42% of applicants choose an insurance choice with conditions harder or equal to their firm choice.
You can't swap between your firm and insurance choices
According to advisers, there's a common misconception that your firm and insurance choices are interchangeable:
As careers adviser Alan explains, 'an insurance choice is a commitment, not just something you can just dump and go straight into Clearing.' If there's only one university that you really want to go to, then don't put down an insurance choice - it's optional.
Only put down an insurance choice if you’d be happy to go there
Bear in mind that your insurance choice might not be able to guarantee you a place in their halls of residence, so you may have to find alternative student accommodation.
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