‘A contextual offer is usually up to 2 grades below the standard entry requirement. They are to reduce pressure on individuals who may have experienced socioeconomic disadvantages in their life or schooling. These talented individuals show the potential to succeed at university, so their potential barriers are taken into account. This helps to promote fairer access to higher education for students from all backgrounds.’
This is your standard definition of a contextual offer, but in practice, it can mean so much more.
My thoughts before university
Before I applied for universities, I had an idea of what a contextual offer was. But I didn’t know if I would qualify for one despite the clearly listed requirements to receive one.
The thing is, I wasn’t aware of what my own particular situation would be classed as and whether I was actually facing barriers in my education that I just hadn’t realised. I just thought I was your typical black, low-income student just trying to get through her education. But that in itself could be a barrier – to my surprise. And the more I understood the subject, the more I realised how different life can be for students of all backgrounds.
Barriers in effect
Some students may have an easier time joining extra-curricular activities, travelling to internships and career events, accessing internships, and even supporting themselves through university due to their background. So from this new-found knowledge, you can imagine the new worries, but also the heavy weight that was just lifted off my shoulders when I received my contextual offer from York.
My contextual offer and me
After all my work right through my academic life and building up to countless exams; after all the stress of wondering whether it was all enough; if I could really receive an offer from a prestigious university. The exact moment when I received that notification from UCAS and saw the offer I had received, made it all worth it.
It validated every effort I had put in place beforehand: getting the best grades I could, seeking help from all directions, attending a multitude of university and career events as well as honing my personal statement. It validated what I had always hoped to be true: that despite whichever barriers my background may unknowingly place in my way, I have potential, I’m worth it and regardless of what anyone else said- I fully deserved my place at the University of York.
Receiving my contextual offer meant that I was more relaxed and confident when waiting for my results. Especially during the pandemic when results were decided for us, it meant that I was less anxious than many others about whether I would get into my firm choice. Instead, I could focus on preparing for an exciting time at university and ensuring the best possible start to my new life.
The University itself is the cherry on top!
What made the whole experience even better was how awesome of a university York actually was, academically and community wise. The University is in the Russell Group and they pioneer sustainable initiatives throughout the campus and even incorporate it into your degree. The campus and city are gorgeous and it’s people-friendly too. And the amount of support I received even before I arrived and once I actually did was so helpful in integrating me into my new life.
So if you have already received a contextual offer from the University of York, a massive congratulations! Because, all your efforts, your work ethic and stunning potential are being fully recognised. And hopefully, this first step will help propel you to where you really want to be in the future.