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Our guide to the Clearing process


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With A Level results out tomorrow, many fingers, toes and other bodily parts are crossed for the right results. Lots of you might be logging onto UCAS in the early hours to see if you’ve made it into your first choice.

Achieving less than you expected is always a horrible feeling, and only more so when your plans for September are affected by a few grades on a piece of paper. However, there are still ways to grab that university experience you wanted.

Here’s our guide to the Clearing process:

Check UCAS and the university itself

Yes, you might not have quite achieved the grades which your offer was based upon, but make sure you log on and check UCAS anyway. Universities often lower their offers once the results are in and you may still be accepted by your first or second choice.

If not, it’s still worth giving the university a call. They may have similar courses which have spaces, and you may even be able to transfer from one to another once you get there. It’s even been known for students to charm their way into their first choice from a simple phone call – so be polite and you never know what might happen!

Go old school – buy a newspaper 

I know you can access lots of information online these days, but UCAS is notorious for being overloaded on results day. Don’t leave your future up to a dodgy internet connection: buy a newspaper! The quality newspapers will have pages of courses still available through Clearing which you can tick off, cross out and work through methodically. By all means, use the internet to research the university and the course, but sometimes old school is the best. 

Do your research 

There is such a temptation when your plans change so abruptly to choose any course at any university anywhere - but don't do this! Stop. Think. Do you really want to move that far away from home? Do you really want to study psychology when you had your heart set on French?

You spent a long time mulling over your choices when you applied via UCAS and a long time studying for these exams: don’t throw it all away now by being rash. Yes, there is a greater sense of urgency, but don’t find yourself agreeing to a course or university you really don’t want. 

Contact the universities you’re interested in directly

It’s worth calling around and seeing what offers universities can make. It’s a hell of a marketplace out there these days so remember everything you’ve done. You’ve got your grades, but you’ve also got work experience, volunteering, positions of responsibility you’ve held which are relevant to what you want to do.

Make sure you mention all of that and ask questions over what the university is looking for – it might be you’ve just forgotten to mention that Extended Project you did which makes you perfect for their course!

Use the people around you

You probably haven’t been alone in this journey so far. Teachers, parents; their input doesn’t stop just because you’ve got those results in your hand. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say.

In the heat of the moment, you might very well forget that you actually did really like that university you visited last year or that you were actually considering applying for geography anyway. Your teachers have seen a lot of students go through this process, so don’t discount their advice – just remember it is ultimately your decision.

Be independent

With all that said, however, this is your chance to take control. Whatever you do, don’t get your parents to call the university for you! There’s a good chance they won’t discuss your details with anybody other than you anyway, and it’s also going to look far better for you if you can take responsibility for your future.

Don’t despair!

Those grades are not the full story of your life. If you really want to go to university this year, you can almost certainly find a course which will take you. It might be that you’ll have to complete a foundation year or module before you start the course you applied for, but think of the long-term aim and consider if it’s worth taking this short-term hit.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to go to university this year. If you just can’t find the right fit for you, it’s okay to take a year out and start again. The important thing is to make the right choice for you, however that happens.

Good luck, Class of 2018 – we’re rooting for you!

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