A Student's Guide to Clearing

Posted by Chloe Nicholson on 15/08/19 10:08
Chloe Nicholson

A-Level Results Day 2019 has finally arrived! All over the country students are opening envelopes with trembling hands, waiting to see their grades and finally have an answer to the question that has been plaguing them since their last exam: ‘Will I get into the university I want to go to?’ For some, the answer will be ‘no’. In this article, one of our interns, Chloe, shares her experience of going through Clearing. 

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Clearing allows universities and colleges to fill up spare places on their courses and provides another chance for prospective students to get into university. Clearing can be a very stressful and emotional period for students, but it can be a good opportunity to explore new courses and new possibilities for your future.

In 2016, I was one of these people. I had done well in my exams, even scoring an A in English Literature. But it was not enough to get me into my first-choice university… or any of my other university choices. 

What to expect when you’re going through clearing

  • Emotional upheaval - You will most likely be experiencing a mixture of sadness, anxiety and anger during this period. You might blame yourself for not getting the grades you needed. Do your best to ignore those kinds of thoughts. Whilst important, A-level grades are a stepping-stone in the grand scheme of everything, not the be-all-and-end-all. There are plenty of universities that will accept the grades you have and will meet your expectations. Keep in mind that there are alternatives to going to university this year; you can apply for 2020 entry, find employment or an apprenticeship or take a gap year.

When I received my results and learnt that I would not be attending my first-choice university, to say I was upset was an understatement. I was deeply anxious about not finding a place somewhere and even debated taking a year out to do my A-levels again just so I could go to the university I wanted to go to. Now that I look back, I can see that was a rather mad idea since my results were pretty good; I was too busy dramatically languishing at the time to pay attention to what my parents and teachers were telling me.

  • Offers, offers, offers - Mere hours after you get your results, your phone will ring. It’s a university and they want you to join them in September. Stop. The urge to say yes will be almost over-powering but you do have to resist it. You may have been dreaming about the university you had planned to go to; you may have thought about what accommodation you would have and how you would decorate your room or begin looking at places you could go when you get there for Freshers Week. You had been wooed by that university and now that they have rejected you, you want to say yes to any university that calls you up. But think about it. You are going to university to learn, not just for the sake of going. Phone calls during Clearing should be thought of as a pitch, not an offer that requires an immediate yes or no answer.

I had several phone calls for a couple of weeks after I entered Clearing. I wrote down their names on a spare piece of paper and then did my research on the course. I found out that some of the courses did not offer the content I had been interested in and so I simply continued with my search for a university.

3 top tips for choosing a university through Clearing

My top tips for students going through Clearing are:

1) Do your research.  

2) Do not make any sudden decisions! You might be under the impression there is a tight deadline for this, but you have time to make an informed choice. Make a list of potential universities and debate whether they fit with what you want from your university experience. Ask your parents/guardians or friends for their thoughts as well.

3) Visit the university and make sure it feels like a place you can call home for the next three to five years (depending on your course). It can seem easier to just pick a random university based on the pictures the internet provides, but you should remember they are professionally taken and can be made to look better than they really are. You need to trust your own impression of the university, not the one the university have carefully crafted for you. Some universities do Clearing Days, where students going through Clearing can visit the university to get a feel of the place. It is almost identical to Applicant Days with the only difference being the name. Alternatively, you can arrange an informal visit. Although less structured than Clearing Days, you can get an authentic feel for the university.

It was on an informal visit when I eventually chose my university. Most of the departments were closed so my parents and I walked around the accommodation and across campus before going back to the car. Eventually, we went down to the town to see what it was like there. It was a sunny day with blue skies and the university, being right on the coast, had a beach. It was only when I was walking along the promenade that a sense of rightness settled into me, very similar to the feeling that I had when I went to my applicant visit for my first-choice university.

I made it my Clearing choice on Track that very night.

A final note

Three years later after I went through Clearing, I have graduated with First Class Honours in my degree. My time at university has been among the happiest in my life and I felt welcomed and supported the entire time I was there.

The university I ended up going to may not have been my original choice, but my university turned out to be the place I needed to be and has helped make me into the person I am today.

It can be hard to let go of your first-choice university but Clearing opens a heap of new possibilities for you. Although it may not seem like it now, you can be assured that everything will turn out fine. 

Topics: university, student advice

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