Unconditional offers are a double-edged sword. If you get an unconditional offer, it can be really flattering because the university is telling you that they really, want you to come to the university, that your interview, that your personal statement, that your admissions test was so amazing, it doesn't matter what A level results you get, they still want you to come. But so often I see students who have accepted unconditional offers and then relax, and then I see students that should be on for three A's barely scraping three D's because they relaxed a bit too much.

There are a few ways that you can get an unconditional offer, and the stats from UCAS show that unconditional offers are on a massive increase. Whereas previously they used to be very rare, now each school is seeing maybe five to 10 unconditional offers given out to their students each year, whereas previously you wouldn't see any. If you have shown in your interview that you have an overwhelming passion for this subject, that you live and breathe this subject, that you've put the effort in, that you've gone over and above your A level studies to do the research, to do the thinking, and you've found out stuff for yourself, and this is what you're going to continue to study at university, and only by applying to this university to do this course will you be able to follow your passion, then the person interviewing you, is generally going to be really impressed by this. This is how I got my unconditional offer at university, and I was told in the interview that they were going to send me an unconditional offer.

Because we don't sit AS exams anymore, pre-interview assessments, tests, written work is really on the rise. You may be asked to a test or exam, you may be asked to submit written work, you may be asked to submit a portfolio, or a couple of audition pieces, and based on the strength of these, you may get an unconditional offer. If your test results, if your audition piece, if your portfolio was truly outstanding and the university will accept you no matter what you get in your A levels, this is the sort that can heavily influence it. You are also more likely to get an unconditional offer if you have your grades already, for example if you've taken a gap year after school, you know what your A level results are and then you are applying to university. We don't have to wait and find out what your grades are so in that circumstance, universities may give you an unconditional offer.

While It is great that you're not stressed about your exams anymore, it is great that you don't have to worry about what actual exam results that you get, but I have seen people who relax a little bit too much and don't forget, your A-level results stay with you for the rest of your life, you're going to be writing them on your CV for the rest of your life. And if for any reason you decide you don't like the university that you're at, you want to take a gap year, you want to switch universities, you want to switch courses, if you relax too much and your A level grades aren't quite what they should be, you're going to be in a tricky position, because you've relaxed a bit too much you might not be able to have as much flexibility in changing courses as you could if you had better grades.

Just because you've relaxed because you've got this unconditional offer, does not mean your teachers are going to relax. Your teachers are going to know if you've got an unconditional offer, and if you've accepted the unconditional offer, and we've seen this before, we know that you are going to be relaxing, however your exam results are going to be a reflection of your teacher, and a reflection of your school. Your teachers are still going to be hassling you to do the work, and they might even be hassling you a bit more because they know you've kind of taking your foot off the brake a little bit and relaxed. Don't expect your teachers to think that your unconditional offer is a fantastic thing, they're actually going to be slightly worried, because we've seen what could happen. Now if you get an unconditional offer, remember this is the university enticing you, trying to get you to come to them, you don't have to accept it, you don't have to accept an unconditional offer. If you don't think you're going to be happy there, if you don't think it's an exact right fit there, then don't fall for it.

My story – How I got an unconditional offer

Some lucky people are getting unconditional offers, as I did unconditional offer years and years and years ago. I didn't take it up because I changed my mind, I didn't want to go there but how do you get or how did I get this like fabled, amazing, unconditional offer? Your personal statement gets you an interview and your interview gets you the place. Now, unconditional offers are very, very rarely given out, but they are given to people that show passion, that show interest, that have read around the subject, that just live and breathe the subject that they are applying for. So, what I did in my interview, and this was quite a few years ago, and I'd already decided that I didn't want to stay in London for university and the only reason I want to the interview was I fancied a day off school. I went along to the interview, so I was so, so relaxed because if they gave me an offer, they gave me an offer, if they didn't, they didn't and on the train on the way in I picked up a New Scientist and the main article that week was about heat shock proteins.

The interview starts off with a fairly like standard question, “tell me something you've read recently that interested you” And I went blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, heat shock proteins and literally the guy couldn't get a word in edgeways for about 15 minutes because I was just going off on one about how interesting I thought heat shock proteins were. Now, you've probably never heard of heat shock proteins and that's absolutely fine because they're not part of the A level course. I could talk for so long, so passionately about something that hadn't come up in my A level course, the guy just sat there and then said I've got no other questions for you. 

I mean, don't go on for much longer than 15 minutes because the person interviewing you will probably get bored but you need to be able to talk passionately about a subject, passionately, confidently about a small, unusual subject because that in essence is what becoming a scientist is, A level gives you a very broad introduction to things. You want to get that unconditional for, that really good offer, become an expert in something. Now, you don't have to pick a different thing for every university, just pick something, become interested in it. If you're not entirely sure what you're interested in, that's fine. You need to show passion for your subject, you need to show that you are the most committed, the most enthusiastic person they're ever, ever met and they can't afford not to have you at university. I didn't take up my unconditional offer because I didn't want to stay in London, I wanted to go to Bath which is the best university in the world. You guys need to get out there, you need get reading, you need to get researching.