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First and insurance university choices explained

Once your offers have come rolling back you’ll need to decide which is your first - or ‘firm’ - university choice and which is your back-up, or ‘insurance’ option.

If you're weighing up your offers and planning your next move, read on for answers to some of the top questions students like you have before finalising your firm and insurance choices.

Next, head over to our in-depth firm and insurance choices guide, giving you top tips for making that all-important decision.

So, what exactly is a firm university choice?

Put simply, your firm choice is your first choice for university. If you meet the conditions of this spot, then it's yours!

It's a good idea to make sure it's going to be somewhere you think you can meet the requirements for - and that you really do want to go there!

And what's your university insurance choice?

Your insurance choice is your second or back-up choice. Essentially, it's there if you don't meet the conditions of your first choice. You should usually pick somewhere with lower grade conditions so you don't leave yourself high and dry. 

If your first choice falls through, you'll be obliged to go to your insurance choice if you've put one down, so don't pick somewhere you won’t be happy to go to. You don't have to have an insurance option, either.

When do I have to decide by?

You don't have to decide on your first and insurance choices until all your offers are back in from the (up to) five universities you applied for. Ucas Track will then show you the deadline you have to decide by. 

Generally, the deadline will be early May or June.

Need some help deciding? Try our uni decisions quiz.

Firm and insurance choices: popular questions

Can I apply for accommodation at my insurance choice too?

Some universities will allow you to apply for accommodation even if they're your insurance option; most will only open applications to you if you've selected their course as your firm choice.

Although you can't apply for accommodation for either your first or insurance choice while you're still waiting for your offer, it is worth doing your research in advance so that you can make your application as soon as they open.

Come results day, if you end up going to your insurance choice, you'll need to make a quick application for uni accommodation - but you might need to look at other options, including private student housing.


Is my student finance application affected by my firm and insurance choices?

The amount of student finance you're eligible for can be affected by your university choice.

  • Tuition fee loans: some unis can charge more for tuition fees - up to £9,250 a year - so your loan will be adjusted to cover this.
  • Maintenance loans: these also depend on your living circumstances, so may differ depending on whether your firm and insurance choices are in different parts of the UK. Students in London living away from home are able to receive more than elsewhere, for example.

If there's likely to be a difference between your firm and insurance choices, don't worry. Apply with your firm choice in mind - but up to any time before starting a course, you can update your details through your online account with your student finance body.  

What happens once I've finalised my choices?

Once you have selected your firm and insurance choices, your other choices will automatically disappear from Ucas Track, so be sure before you press the submit button!

Keep an eye out on Ucas Track afterwards:

  • If you have a message saying that an unconditional offer has been accepted - you're in, no questions asked!
  • If you have a message saying a conditional offer has been firmly accepted, this means that as long as you meet the requirements of the course come exam results time, the place is yours.

Changing your mind

I don't want to go to any of the universities that have offered me a spot. What now?

You don't have to accept a place anywhere if you decide not to - but as soon as you decline a spot, it's gone, so be sure. 

It is possible to have another go within the Ucas cycle if your initial choices don't work out:
  • If you don't accept any offers: try again with Ucas Extra
  • If you don't meet the criteria of your firm or insurance choices: go through Clearing (or try again next year).

I want to go to my insurance place instead of my firm - can I swap?

When you decide which unis you want as your firm and insurance choices from the ones that have given you an offer, there are certain expectations behind this final decision.

It's generally expected you will be attending your firm choice - conditional on meeting the requirements of the offer, if needed - and if you do meet them come results day, your insurance choice will automatically be cancelled.

If you change your mind, it's best to act quickly. Contact Ucas to change your replies if it's within seven days.

Otherwise, things get more tricky. You’ll have to request your first university choice to agree to release you from your accepted place and get agreement from your insurance choice too. Of course, no university is going to force you to attend them - but strictly speaking, you have entered into a contract with them.

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