The conditional offer: what is it and why you should know about it

There is nothing worse than opening a long-awaited email from a U.S. university (or packet in the mail, back in my day) and seeing the word "waitlisted" for your admissions outcome.


It's even worse than being rejected.


Because... guess what? It's not a firm decision either way.


On one hand, there's still a chance of getting in, but on the other hand, the anxiety continues--and may continue on well into May, June or beyond.


Enter, another option--one that is most commonly found when applying for college overseas in places like the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.


The conditional offer.


Sure, it's not a rejection or a firm acceptance, but it's definitely not a waitlist.


And unless you're super organized and took AP exams or other tests early on in high school, a conditional offer is often the most common outcome.


So there's no need for disappointment; it's a good result!



What exactly is a conditional offer then?


For all intents and purposes, a conditional offer is an offer--just one with a slight string attached; one that relies entirely on you, the student, and not the institution.


What happens next, is dependent on you and you alone, and that level of control over an admissions outcome is much welcomed by many, especially in a time where we can't seem to control anything.


A conditional offer from a college abroad has nothing to do with a university trying to build a very specific class and therefore waiting to see how many people from a particular region, school, ethnicity, gender or academic background end up enroling before deciding on your fate (the way a waitlist works for most U.S. universities).


Instead, it has everything to do with your academic qualifications.


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How does a conditional offer work?


Here's how it works: after receiving your application, the university admissions team has decided that on paper, everything you've submitted so far looks good, but there's still something missing to meet all the requirements.


Usually this is a particular test score or exam; for example, "achieving a score of 4 or higher on the Advanced Placement Spanish exam" or "achieving a score of 650 or above on any SAT subject test."


For non-native speakers of English, it could also be achieving a particular score on an IELTS or TOEFL exam.


And for students applying for graduate school abroad, it could be as simple as "graduating from your bachelor's degree and maintaining a GPA of X."


However, with a conditional offer, the university is holding a place for you in the program in the meantime.


Then, when you do achieve that very specific score on that very specific exam (or simply graduated), you just have to notify admissions to be granted an unconditional offer.


And that, my friends, is the end of it. You're in!


What should I know about applying?


Since universities abroad can make conditional offers, it's an important part of the appli