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Primary Education News
News Clearing 2013: top tips and FAQs
You may be upset about your A-level results but don't just settle for the first offer that comes along
Ask admissions tutors for the advice they give to students about going through Clearing and they will all say "don't panic". From the students' point of view, this is easier said than done, but there are at least ways of turning panic into something more productive.
Nikita Shah used the process last year to achieve her place in economics and accounting at the University of Northampton, and the one piece of advice she would offer students who are going through Clearing is to plan.
"It's stressful because you are applying on the day you get your results – and most people who go through Clearing haven't got the results they wanted," she says. "But if you have a plan in your head and you are organised, you are going to get to university."
Before receiving her results, Shah made a list of all the universities that did the course she intended to study and then looked at the grade criteria, so she was able to move quickly on the day.
It meant she was better able to cope with the fact that things hadn't gone as well as expected and she hit the phones within an hour of getting her grades. Nevertheless, she was determined not to make hasty decisions. A couple of universities offered her a place, but they wanted her to commit sooner than she felt able to, especially as one was much further from home than she had planned on living.
Some people have their hearts set on the universities they put on their Ucas form, says Shah, but she feels this is a mistake. More important is to identify the course you want to study for the next three years and the way that it is taught – for example, how flexible it is and whether it is assessed mainly through module coursework or final exam.
Paul Amanatidis, who achieved his place at the University of Hertfordshire through Clearing, agrees that the course is the most important consideration.
"I would advise people not to settle for another course or combination you are not pleased with," he says. "And ask as many questions as you can."
Frequently asked questions
I've just missed my grades – I have to go through Clearing, right?
Don't assume all is lost. Get on to the Ucas Track website – you may not have been rejected. If there's no decision showing from your university, get in touch with them. They may be willing to take lower grades or offer you a place on a slightly different course.
I've missed my firm and insurance choices, and I've been placed in Clearing. How do I find out which courses are available?
The Ucas website shows all the courses that universities are trying to fill and it's constantly updated, so courses not available at the start of Clearing may be there later. Follow universities' Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, too, because admissions team use social media to communicate the latest offers.
The Clearing process sounds so frantic - can I afford to do lots of research before ringing round?
Chat through possible alternatives with your parents and teachers. If your results are disappointing, there's no need to start ringing round the second you get home; dedicate the next day – or even few days – to doing research before approaching universities.
I'm too upset about my grades to think straight. Should I get one of my parents to make the Clearing calls and then do the follow up conversations myself?
Not unless it is impossible for you to make the call. First, it doesn't make a good impression on admissions tutors if they think you're so distraught you can't pick up a phone. Second, the people staffing the lines need information only you can give. Clearing is about matching you with the courses available, so an institution needs to get a sense of who you are and what motivates you.
What do I need to have with me when I make my calls?
Your grades, Ucas number, personal statement, a pen, a notebook and, ideally, a landline phone. If you're using a mobile, make sure it's charged and you have a good signal. You'll also need your Ucas Clearing number, but, if it's not come through, you can give that later.
If my results are better than anticipated, can I apply through Clearing for a course with a higher tariff?
You can, but, if you're holding any current offers, you'll need to ask to be released by those universities before you can apply through Clearing. But this doesn't mean you can't have preliminary phone conversations with universities offering places on courses you're interested in – and it would be advisable to do so.
How soon after finding out my grades do I need to call Clearing?
If you've done your research in advance, crack on. If you haven't, slow things down. You need to make sure you're calling about a course you're really interested in, rather than one for which you simply have the grades.
Is there a limit to how many universities I can contact?
No – call as many as you like. You can take unlimited numbers of informal offers over the phone. Universities that make you an offer will give you details to enter in the Ucas Track Add Clearing Choice section, but don't fill it in until you know you want to accept; once the university confirms the offer through Ucas, you're committed.
Should I accept the first offer I get, especially if I like the sound of the course? I wouldn't want to lose one offer while I investigate others.
Universities won't demand instant firm acceptance and they know people are looking around. Unless you're absolutely sure (even then it's worth sleeping on it) ask them for a date by when you need to decide, and use that period to keep looking and taking advice.
I can't find anything I want to do, but my grades won't get me on the course I want, even if I wait a year. Should I just get on something?
Keep looking. Sometimes places become available later in Clearing that weren't on offer at the start. But if you are set on a particular course or uni, you may have to retake exams.
The Clearing phone line is constantly engaged and I'm scared places on the course I want will go - should I send an email?
Yes, but keep trying by phone. Clearing is about having a conversation with the institution you're hoping to attend– emails don't pack the same punch and won't get the same level of attention.
The admissions tutors will know this isn't my first choice of course, so how can I convince them I really want to do it?
By doing enough research into the course to convince them you'll be an interested and enthusiastic participant. Ask lots of informed questions. If you approach Clearing with a positive attitude, universities are far more likely to regard you as an asset and offer you a place.