Six Firm and Insurance Do's and Don'ts

Tara, Industrial Design and Technology BA

Hi everyone! Choosing firm and insurance university choices can seem daunting, but hopefully my six do’s and don’ts will guide you through the process and take some of the stress off.

1) DO trust your gut

No matter how much good stuff you hear about a university, if you don’t get a good feeling about it (especially on an open day) then you won’t be happy there. This also applies when dealing with the opinions of your friends, family and teachers; the one that they like best is not necessarily the right place for you. My mum would only say she liked universities within a 60 mile radius of home, but I ended up going to Loughborough, around 3 times that (sorry mum), because it’s the perfect place for me.

2) DO choose your insurance carefully

Your firm should be your favourite university, and the one you are aiming to achieve the grades for. If your firm choice is accepted on results day your insurance offer is automatically declined. Do be prepared, however, to attend your insurance choice if you don’t meet the requirements for your firm; I chose not to have an insurance choice because if I didn’t get into Loughborough I didn’t want to go to uni at all. All of the universities I was interested in for Design asked for exactly the same grades; this will vary from course to course so make sure you’re doing what’s best for you!

Tara and her mother discussing options for university.

3) DON’T get starstruck by unconditionals

Some of my friends got unconditional offers from universities and they all got very excited about it. Some accepted straight away and were all sorted for the next year, some accepted then regretted it, and some stopped to think. If your favourite university, the one you would’ve firmed anyway, gives you one, then great and congratulations; enjoy being smug as your friends freak out over exams.

If, however, one of your original choices that you’d kinda forgotten about and might be your 3rd or 4th choice gives you an unconditional, please don’t blindly grab the opportunity. Ask yourself whether you’re just doing it because it takes the pressure off you come exam time; pushing yourself and going to the uni of your dreams will make you feel a lot better than taking the easy option.

Also, make sure you know the term of your unconditional; many only apply if you put them as your firm choice on UCAS, so be careful!

4) DO be strategic

You should base your insurance choice off your grades. If you’re not the best in exams, you could choose a university with required grades close to your predicted grades as your firm, then an insurance uni that asks for lower grades in case things don’t go as well as expected.

Alternatively, if you’re confident you will achieve your predicted grades and perhaps want to aim higher, your insurance choice could be a university with quite easily-obtainable grades and your firm choice with aspirational (but not ridiculous) required grades.

Tara on her laptop looking at other universities and courses.

5) DO your research

This is not a decision to take lightly, so do as much research as you can.

There are so many websites out there dedicated to helping you find the perfect uni for you, so use them! Look at student satisfaction scores, not just employability prospects; if you can’t stand the university you won’t hang around long enough to get your degree, let alone a job with it.

If you can, it’s also really helpful to ask students (at universities/doing courses that you’re interested in) about their experience so far. It may not be a good idea, however, to make a decision based on your teacher’s stories of their ‘golden years’ at university; they probably studied there a little while ago and it will have changed beyond all recognition.

6) DON’T be disheartened

If it all goes wrong and on results day you’ve got no university places, never fear! Clearing is your friend. Contrary to popular belief it’s not actually a trash bag full of awful courses at terrible unis, I know a lot of people that went through clearing and they were all very happy with the unis they ended up at.

However, don’t choose a course in a blind panic, as you might a can of out-of-date baked beans during a supermarket trolley-dash. Take your time and evaluate your situation; you can choose to take a year out and go travelling or work, then reapply next year. More and more people are choosing to take gap years, and taking a break from academia might appeal to you too.

Happy choosing everyone