Rule number one: Do not panic.
UCAS and Grades
If you are in this situation, you have probably already checked UCAS or received your grades. The first thing to do is to check whichever one you haven’t done at this point. Your university may have accepted you despite missing the entry requirements. If you haven’t got your grades, you will need these to apply for Clearing courses.
Once you have your grades and have checked UCAS, if you are close to your offer for your firm or insurance choice, give the university a phone call to discuss your options – they might be able to suggest an alternative course or a foundation year at that university. In addition, it might be worth speaking to your teachers about grade boundaries, getting a paper re-marked, and accessing your scripts, particularly if you are close to the grade boundary or if something doesn’t seem quite right.
Decide what you want to do and come up with a plan of action. What is most important to you? Are you completely decided on your course? Are there similar courses that interest you? Is there a specific location you want to be near? Whilst Clearing is open for a few weeks, it is important to bear in mind that the number of courses and universities on offer will quickly fill up as they reach their student capacity.
Unless you are looking at Clearing information or vacancies, try to stay away from social media. Speaking from experience, it’s easier to focus on your own decisions when you are not distracted by your friends’ situations. You can celebrate with your friends later once your place is confirmed!
Going through Clearing
Today, the UCAS Clearing Search (Link: https://www.ucas.com/clearing-launch) will be your best friend. Just like when you first applied through UCAS, there will be a list of courses available for September 2018 entry. In addition, some universities will have more up-to-date Clearing vacancies listed on their own websites. Even some of the best universities in the country advertise places through clearing, so don’t be disheartened by it. There will still be a massive variety of universities and courses on offer, including foundation courses, joint honours degrees and courses with January 2019 start dates.
When you have found some courses that interest you, write down three key reasons why you want to apply to that course as universities will want to know that you have considered your choice carefully.
Contacting the University
Once you have found a few courses that you want to apply to, you are going to need to call the universities. Do not be afraid to talk to the people on the phone – they want to help you and it is their job! They might ask you a few questions like why you want to study the subject; it is normal to be a little nervous, but make sure you are polite, clear and enthusiastic about the course.
When ringing the universities, have a copy of your personal statement and grades in front of you. The universities will want the grades to see if they can make you an offer (explain if you are having a re-mark: remember the mark may go up or down, especially if you are close to a grade boundary) and your personal statement may help you answer some questions they might ask. You also need your Clearing number found on your UCAS Track (link: https://track.ucas.com/) page.
Once the universities have this information and you have chatted to them for a bit, they might make you a verbal telephone offer; be prepared to email your grades to universities if they need you to do so after making you a telephone offer. However, if you are considering courses like teacher training, they may want to interview you over the next few days.
Persevere if you are put on hold when ringing for Clearing vacancies. There are lots of people calling universities today, so the phone lines may be busy. Be sure to use the Clearing hotline number!
Once you have had a few telephone offers and made a decision on which offer you wish to accept, you will need to formally apply to your new choice of course through UCAS Track towards the end of the day, with this feature opening at 3pm. Your new course or university will then do a bit of UCAS magic and you will soon have the screen saying “Congratulations! Your place is confirmed”.
Things to Remember
If you are unsure about your options or decisions, talk to your family and Sixth Form/College. Take advice and don’t feel like you have to go straight to university, particularly if you do not want to do the course you have been offered. There are other options open to you – maybe considering an apprenticeship or retaking your A Levels next year alongside working and earning a bit of money, volunteering or travelling.
If you have chosen a new university or course, you may need to change your information on your student loan application once UCAS Track has updated. It is also very important to consider accommodation. The university is likely to get in touch with you about this, but be proactive to make sure you have the best possible freshers’ year experience.
Well done on your results and showing how resilient you are by getting through one of the most stressful days in your life. Whatever happens, make sure you celebrate in the evening! Whether you have a new university, a new course or a new plan, celebrate your new adventure!
(Note: Five years ago, I went through Clearing and the world didn’t end Despite the panic I faced on A Level results day, I ended up loving my university and course, meeting some amazing friends and having the time of my life on the way. I really wish more people spoke about their Clearing experiences and I would love to hear how you get on. Tweet your experience to @GetMyGrades with the #GMGResultsDay. Good luck!).