In this post I provide an overview of the conditional offer and then share my personal story of how I successfully appealed a conditional offer to earn a full acceptance at Cambridge.
What is a conditional offer?
universities will issue an offer of acceptance based on a candidate meeting
certain conditions. Common conditional offers include GPA (candidate must earn at least a 3.7 for an unconditional
offer), TOEFL (candidate must earn
at least a 105), Honors Level (candidate must graduate with highest honors), or Standardized Exam Result (candidate must achieve a score in the 90% for an unconditional offer).
Why do universities issue conditional offers?
The reasons are surely varied but fundamentally conditional offers ensure that
each matriculating student meet certain standards that the university deems
important, ranging from academic performance to English proficiency. Several
universities issue conditional offers to far more students than they have
places for because of the difficulty in meeting the standards. It is important
to remember that many conditional offers are given without consideration of you
or your particular situation.
What can you do if given a conditional
Ideally, you will be able to meet the specified conditions by achieving
the grades or exam scores required. But if you are unable to meet the
condition, you can appeal the actual conditions.
In December 2010 the
University of Cambridge Judge Business School gave me a conditional offer
stating that I must achieve a 3.8 cumulative GPA to earn a full offer. I was disappointed because with only two
quarters to go, I could not improve my 3.66 GPA to the necessary level. My dream of studying at Cambridge now felt
impossible. I reached out to my mentor, Professor Charles Lipson (one of my
recommendation letter writers) and he instructed me that British universities
frequently issue conditional offers to ensure students stay motivated and
continue to perform with excellence even after applying. He advised me to
appeal the condition of the offer because it was not reasonable considering my
I began by mapping out my strategy and decided
I needed a couple key tools to sway the admissions office at Cambridge: a
concise email to officially appeal the condition; a new recommendation letter
to demonstrate my academic abilities; an update on my bachelor’s thesis
research and business projects to demonstrate leadership.
Let’s go in reverse order here. I wanted to
showcase my analytical and quantitative abilities (two attributes broadly
measured by the GPA condition and important for academic success in business
school). I decided to provide an early draft of my bachelor’s thesis that
demonstrated my ability to perform creative research and communicate complex
ideas. I also sent a progress report on Moneythink, the NGO I helped start,
which would help show my business acumen and leadership capacity.
I also realized that an additional
recommendation letter would be important to showcase my ability to perform
academic work at a high level. Fundamentally,
the supplemental recommendation letter should show why you are competent in the
particular area where you fall short of the stated condition. If your TOEFL is
below standard, then ask your professor or mentor to write a letter
recommending your abilities to understand fluently and contribute confidently
to English discussions. If your grades are too low (like mine were) ask your
professor to comment on your ability to handle the academic rigor and perform
creative and critical thinking.
Supplementary material like an essay you’ve
written or an updated CV can be very helpful along with an additional
recommendation letter. You will also need the official appeal addressed to the
The essential tool in turning your conditional
offer into a full acceptance is the concise email to officially appeal the
condition. It should contain: (1) The condition as currently stated; (2) Why
the condition is unreasonable; (3) Your plan to strengthen the particular area;
(4) Your continued enthusiasm in contributing to the university.
Finally, it should be addressed to the director
of admissions or the admissions officer you’ve previously corresponded with
because your candidacy will be well served if an insider is vouching for you
and willing to endorse you to her colleagues.
Here is a sample appeal email:
Director Benn Lawson
University of Cambridge
Judge Business School
Office of Admissions
Dear Dr. Lawson
I have been issued a conditional offer based on graduating
with a 3.8 cumulative GPA from the University of Chicago. I write today to appeal
this condition and believe Cambridge should issue an unconditional offer based
on the strength of my candidacy.
After 10 quarters at the University of Chicago I have
earned a 3.66 GPA. With only two quarters and six classes remaining, it is
statistically impossible for me to reach the 3.8 GPA threshold. Because it is
unattainable, I believe the standard is unreasonable.
As you may know, the University of Chicago is a
particularly rigorous institution and I have pushed myself each quarter with
the most demanding course load. My
analytical and quantitative abilities have significantly improved through the research
and writing of my bachelor’s thesis on Sino-American maritime relations. An
additional recommendation from my thesis proctor was emailed to you last week.
I am including an early draft of my thesis for your reference as well.
I have also successfully pursued numerous extracurricular
activities that prepare me for leadership at Cambridge and in the business
world. A full progress report on
Moneythink, the NGO I co-founded, is included as an attachment to this
email. I believe my passion for business
and insights on entrepreneurship will make me a substantive contributor to the
University of Cambridge's academic environment and social culture.
Cambridge is still my top choice and I will attend if granted
an unconditional offer.
Sincere thanks for your consideration of this appeal. Please
let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
A.B., University of Chicago
I know first hand how frustrating and stressful
it can be to be stuck with a conditional offer. Luckily, with a smart strategy
you can earn a full acceptance. I hope the tactics explained above are able to
get you started.
If you’d like a bigger boost, reach out to the
ChaseFuture team. Our Admissions Experts have helped many students earn
unconditional offers at the UK’s top universities, including LSE, Imperial, Warwick
and Cambridge. You can reach ChaseFuture’s Customer Care Team on QQ at 400 886
1636 or say hello on email email@example.com.
Best yet, add me on WeChat and we can speak directly. My User ID is GregNance1.
Together, we can Discover Our Potential.
*ChaseFuture is now Dyad.