University of Surrey Contextual Offer

Hi! I’m Tess, a final-year Microbiology student at the University of Surrey. I’ll be talking a bit about my contextual offer experience in this blog, to hopefully answer any of your queries surrounding contextual offers!

A contextual offer takes into consideration the context in which an applicant has achieved their grades prior to going to university. Provided by universities, these offers are based on meeting the eligibility criteria. This could either be socioeconomic, academic or personal barriers that could have prevented, or will prevent, you from achieving a standard grade offer. Every university has different eligibility criteria. Here’s Surrey’s:

  • Live in an area where few people progress to higher education (POLAR4 quintile 1).
  • Live in an area of multiple deprivation (Indices of Multiple Deprivation, IMD quintile 1).
  • Disclose a disability or long-term health condition.
  • Have experience of living within care.
  • Have received free school meals at any point during your secondary school education.
  • Are estranged from your parents (i.e. you are not in contact with and supported by your parents).

One thing that is different about me compared to other contextual offer students that came to Surrey is that I didn’t actually hold one for this university; I was involved in a contextual offer scheme at another university, which was closer to my hometown in Yorkshire. Nevertheless, the criteria I needed to meet to qualify for this is relatively the same as Surrey in that I am a BAME student who lived in an area of low progression to Higher Education and received Free School Meals during my secondary education.

The scheme I was involved in provided me with so much help and advice, much like Surrey does with their programme, to ensure you receive as much support as possible. I was paired with a mentor who was a current student, checking over my UCAS application, and I had the chance to attend a week-long summer residential, making me feel like I was already a student there!

After completing this and other parts of the scheme, I was eligible for a contextualised offer, which took a lot of pressure off me to perform really well in my A-Levels. Despite this, COVID-19 stopped me from even having the chance to sit my exams and I was awarded grades much lower than my contextual offer, so I was rejected on Results Day. I was heartbroken – I had been involved with this one university since Year 7 in their Pre-16 programme, and then their contextual offer scheme during Sixth Form, so I always thought I would attend there. However, I decided to call Surrey when applying for Clearing, and they offered me a place on the Foundation Year pathway, which I happily accepted!

I didn’t know what to expect – I was going to be moving four hours away from my hometown, unaware of what Surrey and the university was like. Nerves were settling in as it got closer to moving day, but I stayed firm in my decision. Four years later, I am so grateful I came here. I was worried that because I hadn’t built the same rapport over several years with Surrey like I had with the previous university, they wouldn’t understand my personal circumstances. However, I have received so much support from the Student Success Team, the Chaplaincy, and the Centre for Wellbeing ever since first joining Surrey. They have made me feel understood if I am struggling, pointing me towards the Money Team to receive specialist advice because I face financial difficulties as an independent student. They’ve also helped in building my self-confidence, enabling me to form some amazing friendships and connections that I would not have otherwise formed.

My journey is almost coming to an end at Surrey as I graduate in five months. Even thinking about it upsets me as I have loved my time here! From personal experience, I would really recommend making the most of every opportunity while you’re here; every university service that’s available, every society event, every opportunity to excel in your degree, take it. Also, make sure to stay in contact with the Student Success Team and any connections you already have at Surrey, even after you’ve moved in and started your course. They will always be happy to help!

Wishing you all the best!