1. Order The Telegraph newspaper on results day
Clearing listings are published in The Telegraph newspaper. Order a copy to be delivered to your door on the morning of results day so that you have a paper copy of vacancies ready and waiting for you. The listings here will not be completely up to date, but provide a useful starting point to view all of the clearing places at a glance and for you to highlight courses that you might be interested in. This year The Telegraph also offers a Clearing app for iPhone/iPad and Android. The vacancies listed on the app are updated every hour by UCAS.
Prior to making any calls, you will need to check the UCAS website for an updated list of vacancies in Clearing. Universities also start to publish Clearing lists on their own website from early August, so be on your toes from then on.
2. Do your research and be prepared
Results day is an immensely stressful time, especially if things don't go to plan. The more you can do to prepare and think about your options in advance the better off you will be on the day. Research universities and courses that you might be interested in if you don't get the results you expect. No-one knows what vacancies will be in Clearing before results day, but if you have a good idea of what you would be interested in then you'll be in a strong position if they appear in the Clearing listings.
It's often easier to work out what you definitely don't want rather than think about what you do want. Spending time evaluating your opinions of aspects like location, cost, course content and university "feel" will mean that you can be much more focused and level headed if you do end up using Clearing. Think back to when you originally made your 5 choices and make a list - which universities/courses didn't you like? If you really didn't want to go to a campus university or a university really far from home when you originally applied then it's highly unlikely that you will want to do that now. Taking a year out to reapply will be much better than settling for something that you were never happy to do originally.
When thinking about your options for clearing, don't just think about the course, check what the accommodation policies are for Clearing applicants and think carefully about where you're flexible and where you aren't. You can use The Student Room to speak to university official representatives and other students who are already at university to find out more information about the university or course. Re-read your personal statement so you are familiar with what you said and can talk about any experiences or extra-curricular activities you discussed there.
3. Find a quiet place to phone universities
Make sure that you call from a place where you feel safe and relaxed with easy access to phone and the internet. If it's not too far, it may be a good idea to go home to make any phone calls, where there is more peace and quiet and you have everything to hand. Clearing places do go quickly, but you have time to compose and prepare yourself. You will give a much better impression to universities and colleges if you are relaxed and calm when speaking over the phone. Have a drink to hand if you're nervous, in case you lose your voice on the phone. At home you may also have access to a land line which (with the bill payer's permission) may be cheaper to use. You might also want to use a land line to make calls, but give your mobile number as contact details if a university wants to ring you back. This way, the line won't be engaged if they choose to call you back!
4. Have your details to hand
Have the following information to hand during your call to universities:
- The phone number for the university and your own contact details
- Your Clearing number from UCAS Track
- Your A-level, AS-level, GCSE and equivalent results, including module marks
- Personal statement from your UCAS application
- Your log-in details for Track
- Your notes on the course/university and any planned responses to questions
- Any questions you want to ask the university
- The name and details of anyone you have spoken to in a previous call (if you've called the university before)
5. Make the call yourself
Treat it like a job application; they are unlikely to be impressed if one of your parents or a teacher has to make the call instead of you. Not only that, but the university will be unable to talk to your parents because they are not allowed to discuss your application with others. Articulate yourself well and make sure you demonstrate an enthusiasm for your course and institution. If you get upset or flustered then take a deep breath and start again. It's important that you stay positive and sell yourself, rather than focusing on the negatives and where you didn't do well.
6. Make notes during the call
Have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes as you go. Amidst all the anxiety about projecting yourself well, you may forget what the person is actually telling you. If you're making a lot of phone calls it's easy to get confused or misremember something important. Keeping job titles, dates and times noted as well as a summary of what you said and what they said is also a good idea. This will make it easier to get back in direct contact should you need to.
7. Have some constructive questions to ask them
Clearing interviews are not just a chance for tutors to see if you are right for their university, but also for you to work out if they are the right choice for you. Do your research and try to avoid asking daft questions that are easily answered on their website, but equally if you do have niggling questions make sure you ask them. This is a big decision for you and you want to decide with possession of all of the facts. Check what entitlement to accommodation and bursaries you have as a Clearing applicant, as this can vary from university to university. You might also want to ask about open days and opportunities to visit the university so that you can have a look around. Asking questions makes you look keen, inquisitive and motivated – all good qualities that tutors look for.
8. Ask for email confirmation
If the university decides to give you a verbal offer, ask them to confirm their offer and how long it stands for in an email. This will ensure that there is no room for misinterpretation, and if there are any problems later with your Clearing choice not being accepted by the university then you have written evidence to support your claims, which will make your position much stronger.
9. Be persistent and flexible
If at first you don't succeed... keep trying. Even if you have an offer already you can still continue to call universities to receive more offers and then decide which of these you wish to add as your Clearing choice on UCAS Track. The situation can change quickly and even if a university wasn't interested in you initially, if places still exist a few days later there is no harm in trying again. If you find yourself on a reserve list, maintain contact with the university to demonstrate your continued interest.
You are more likely to be successful in finding a place in Clearing if you are flexible and consider similar courses to the one you originally applied for. A lot of courses have similar content and you might be interested in Joint Honours courses such as English and History. Check the course content carefully to see if it interests you and what options you have to change to a single honours course later.
10. Add a Clearing Choice within the allotted time
You can only enter a Clearing choice on Track after 5pm on results day. In addition, most universities will give you a time period (typically 12-48 hours) for which their offer is valid. If you enter a clearing choice after this period has passed then the university may reject you. It is very important that you only enter a Clearing choice on Track if you have spoken to the university or college and they have provisionally offered you a place on the course. If you enter a Clearing choice without discussing it with the university or college, they may take a while to reject you and this can significantly delay the progress of your application, wasting valuable time as other clearing places are taken up.
You can only add one Clearing choice at a time, so only add a choice if you are sure you want to accept the verbal offer that you have been given by the university. You cannot add a Clearing choice until at least 5pm on results day so there is plenty of time for you to make sure that you are happy with your choice and comfortable with studying at your chosen university for three or four years. Go back to your prepared notes of where you are flexible and where you are not prepared to compromise. If you are not totally sure then maybe you are better off taking a gap year and re-applying, rather than starting a course which you are not fully committed to and then dropping out having accumulated thousands of pounds of debt.