Do Universities Know If They Are Your Firm Choice?

do universities know if they are your firm choice

Selecting the right university is a crucial decision for any student. As the application process progresses, applicants often wonder whether universities are aware of their firm choices. The question  “Do universities know if they are your firm choice?”  often arises.

This essay delves into every detail of the college application process, exploring how universities evaluate students’ preferences and the implications of their decisions.

Be Rest assured that your university choices are communicated to the institutions themselves. Your first and second-choice universities will be notified when you respond to your UCAS offers and make your firm and insurance decisions.

This ensures that all parties involved are aware of your preferences and can proceed accordingly.

It is also worth mentioning that the universities you have applied to will be able to see which other universities you have applied to, but this information is only revealed once you have replied to your offers.

This is to ensure that there is no bias during the application process. Keep reading for more information about the application process and what your universities get to see about your application once you have replied.

We will also look into how universities make their decisions, when you are likely to hear from them and so much more.

How Do Universities Make Their Decisions?

Each university has different entry requirements, and it is essential to ensure that you meet these requirements before making your application.

You must also check if you meet both the course and university entry requirements before applying.

However, university admissions teams consider other factors when making their decisions.

Admissions teams evaluate both academic and non-academic achievements. They consider if you have met the required grades for the course, and the likelihood of you achieving the course entry requirements for any qualifications you haven’t yet sat for.

They also assess whether you have a passion for the subject area and if this enthusiasm comes across in your application. Additionally, they check who your references are and what they have said about you.

It is also essential to consider if the course and university you have applied to is the right fit for you. Have you included your circumstances in your application, such as being in care or having a disability like a mental health condition?

Admissions staff will consider your achievements in context, which is called ‘contextualized admissions.’ The aim is to form a more complete picture of you as an individual.

Ultimately, it is the job of the university admissions team to determine whether you can succeed in the course you have applied for.

Read Also: What Are University Entrance Exams? Your Complete Guide to Choosing College Entrance Exams

When Are You Likely To Hear Back From Universities?

The wait for decisions on your university application can be an anxious time. However, it’s crucial to use this time effectively by familiarizing yourself with the decisions that the universities you’ve applied to could make. This way, you’ll know what to expect and what to do when the time comes.

Each university and college will make their decisions at different times, meaning you might hear back before your friends do, or vice versa. However, there are deadlines by which they will need to have made their decisions. These deadlines vary depending on when you submit your application.

For instance, if you are applying to study in 2023, the deadline will be:

  • – 18 May 2024 – if you send your application by 25 January 2024.
  • – 12 July 2024 – if you send your application by 30 June 2024.

It’s worth noting that if a university you’ve applied to doesn’t decide by the appropriate deadline, that choice will be automatically made unsuccessful.

So, it’s essential to keep track of the application deadlines and make sure that you submit your application well before the deadline.

How To Reply To University Offers

When applying to universities or colleges, you can expect to receive either a conditional or unconditional offer. A conditional offer means that you still need to meet certain requirements, usually exam results, to secure your place.

On the other hand, an unconditional offer means that you’ve got a place, although there might still be a few things to arrange.

Conditional Offers

Conditional offers are the most common type of offer you’ll receive. These offers show the conditions you have to meet to get your place confirmed. For most people, this means waiting for results day in the summer to see if your exam results meet the conditions.

These conditions could be a combination of grades, scores, or subjects – as explained in the entry requirements and Tariff info.

A conditional offer might look something like this:

  • – A levels grade AAB with A in chemistry and at least two other sciences or mathematics
  • – 112 UCAS Tariff points including BTEC National Diploma grade DM
  • – Scottish Higher grades of BBBB
  • – 36 points from your International Baccalaureate Diploma, including six in Higher Level English
  • – AAA from three A levels, or AAB from three A levels and grade B in your Extended Project
  • – 88 UCAS Tariff points, of which at least 60 must be obtained from two A levels, excluding General Studies

You may also receive a conditional offer that will change to unconditional if you firmly accept it.

Before making your decision, it’s essential to consider some key things to help you decide which is the right option for you.

Unconditional Offers

Unconditional offers are a type of offer where you have already met the entry requirements, meaning that the place is yours if you want it. However, it’s essential to check the offer carefully to see if there’s anything else you need to do.

Even if you have already got your qualifications and have met the academic requirements, you might still need to get a DBS or PVG check, provide proof of your results, or meet some financial/medical requirements. If it’s not clear, it’s advisable to contact the university or college.

By accepting an unconditional offer, you are committing to go to that university or college, so you can’t make an insurance choice.

However, if you change your mind, you can decline your place and apply using Clearing. If you’re taking exams but have been made an unconditional offer, your results won’t affect whether or not you get accepted.

Although your place won’t be dependent on your grades, taking your exams is essential to prepare you for university or college and could impact your future employment.

It’s important to note that some graduate employers take A levels and other qualifications into account when reviewing job applications. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider this when preparing for your exams.

Before making your decision, it’s essential to think about some key things to help you decide which is the right option for you. Additionally, you might find it helpful to read the UCAS blog for additional advice.

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Unsuccessful and Withdrawn Application

If a course choice has been withdrawn by either you or the university/college, this means that you’ve got a withdrawn application. The reason for the withdrawal will show up on your application. It could be because you didn’t respond to emails/letters they sent or missed an interview.

An unsuccessful application means that the universities or colleges have decided not to offer you a place on the course. Sometimes they’ll give a reason, either with their decision or at a later date. If not, you can contact them to ask if they’ll discuss the reason with you.

In the UK, applicants often designate a “firm choice” and an “insurance choice” through UCAS. Your firm choice is your top preference, and you commit to attending if you meet the conditions. The insurance choice acts as a backup. Universities only know if they are your firm or insurance choice if you inform them during the application process.

It’s crucial to make your choices wisely. If a university is your firm choice and you meet the conditions, you are committed to attending. However, if you miss the conditions, you may be left without an offer.

If a university is your insurance choice and you meet the conditions for both, you can choose which one to attend. But if you meet the conditions for your insurance choice and miss those for your firm choice, you must go to your insurance choice.

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What is the process during the Application Process?

Before we discuss whether universities can determine your firm choice, it’s important to understand how the application process works. In most countries, prospective students apply to multiple universities without necessarily revealing which one is their top preference.

This initial phase usually involves submitting standardized test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters, and other necessary documents. In the United Kingdom, the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) system is widely used for undergraduate applications.

Here, applicants can select up to five universities but do not rank them. They all receive the same application. In such cases, universities cannot distinguish whether they are your firm choice or just one of several options.

Read Also: Can You Apply to the Same University Twice?

​​What happens if you make a university your firm choice?

After you receive correspondence from all 5 of your chosen universities, you’ll receive a reply deadline. By replying, you’ll be picking between the universities you received offers from and choosing a firm and insurance choice.

Your firm choice is your first choice of university, the university you most want to attend (of the universities you received offers from. You cannot firm a university that rejected you). If you find a university and then meet the conditions of their offer, you’ll have a confirmed place!

Your insurance choice is your second choice of university if for some reason you didn’t meet the conditions of the offer from your first choice.

However, you’ll still need to meet the conditions of your insurance offer to have a confirmed place at the university. It’s recommended that you choose an insurance with a lower offer than your firm so that you can avoid going through Clearing!

As for your question, universities cannot see where else you’ve applied unless you’ve declared it on your application.

Can universities see where else you’ve applied to?

Yes, universities will be able to see which other universities you have applied to.

However, as stated on the UCAS website’s FAQ section, “[universities] only find out when you have decided which offers to accept, or if you have no live choices”.

This means that universities won’t know until you’ve ‘replied’, so your university choices will have no weighting on your application, and universities can’t be biased against you based on where you decided to apply.

The UCAS website does not say anything about opting out of showing your universities your other choices, so as far as is known, this is not an optional process.

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What Do Universities Make Of Your Application?

When universities receive your application, they will see the information you’ve put into it, including your statement, academic record, predicted A-level grades (or equivalent), and your teacher’s reference.

However, the only information they can access outside of that included in your application is your academic record of qualifications in case they want to double-check grades.

If you don’t want a university to see something about you (for whatever reason), then it’s best not to include it in your application unless you are required to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Universities Automatically Know If They Are My Firm Choice?

Universities do not automatically know if they are your firm choice, and it’s important to make this clear when applying.

How Can I Indicate My Firm Choice to a University?

To indicate your firm choice, you should explicitly designate it during the application process. In most cases, you will also need to designate an “insurance choice.”

What Happens If I Don’t Meet the Conditions for My Firm Choice?

If you fail to meet the conditions of your offer, you may not have a guaranteed place at your firm-choice university. However, some universities may offer alternative options or clearing opportunities if you narrowly miss the requirements.

Can I Change My Firm Choice After Submitting My Application?

Regarding changing your firm choice, it is possible in some cases, but it depends on the individual university’s policies and the timeline of the application cycle.

Can Universities Tell If They Are My Firm Choice If I Apply Directly?

Universities won’t definitively know if they are your firm choice unless you explicitly state it.


Universities need to be informed if they are your firm choice during the application process, as they may not automatically know it.

It is essential to designate your firm choice properly, as it can have implications for your admission and educational journey. By understanding the application process and communicating your preferences clearly, you can ensure a smoother transition into higher education.

Remember, universities may have some indications of your level of interest, but they cannot definitively determine if they are your firm choice unless you explicitly declare it.



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