Conditional Offer? Strategies to Earn a Full Acceptance

Application Strategy

Conditional Offer? Strategies to Earn a Full Acceptance

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?

Many British 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 offer?

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 academic standing.

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 admissions office.

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.

Very respectfully,

Greg Nance

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 Best yet, add me on WeChat and we can speak directly. My User ID is GregNance1.

Together, we can Discover Our Potential.


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO