Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

Clearing is often painted as a ghastly ordeal that will give you nightmares for months. Not so. It can be stressful, of course, but it can also be an opportunity to look at your options, check out different courses and get into a uni that suits you.

There are a few essential things to think about when you're going through the vacancies. We've broken them down into a handy checklist – don't forget to visit our clearing section for even more info.

1 – The Course

It can be tempting to lunge for the nearest degree without thinking. “What's that? A degree in re-inflating popped bubble wrap, from the Uni of Futility? That's the dream!”

Don't do it. Think about your original course choice (if you had one) – is it something you still want to pursue? Are you willing to make some adjustments? Or is this the chance to change direction?

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It's also worth considering how the course will prepare you for work, and even thinking about other qualifications. As well as honours degrees, places like Coventry University Scarborough Campus (CUSC) offer Foundation year programmes, HNC and HND with options to move on to higher level study later. If you didn't get the grades you were hoping for or expecting, never fear: places like CUSC can offer alternative ways to gain a degree, although they probably won't hook you up with the bubble wrap thing. Best let that one go.

2 - Teaching and facilities

If a uni is proudly flaunting its 'shouting dreary thoughts from an armchair, once a month' philosophy of lecturing, it might not be the one for you. Find out how much contact you'll get with tutors (CUSC students get 18 hours a week, for example), how your course will be taught and assessed and what the facilities are like, then factor it into your decision.

If you're not sure about anything, just ask when you're on the Clearing call. Unis are prepared for this and it will help you make your mind up.

3 - Location

Location near the beach
Found a course that looks good? Great. It's based on a slowly sinking ship that's also being eaten by lobsters? Not so great. Location is important for all kinds of reasons: transport links, distance from home, student community, nightlife and more, so be sure to look into it.

In fact, you might be surprised by the options available to you, as institutions can have campuses anywhere. CUSC, for example, is based at the seaside location of Scarborough and will be opening a purpose-built campus in 2016. CUSC is actually part of Coventry University and offers exactly the same standard of tuition, only with a sea view (and without any attack lobsters). So Clearing could open new learning avenues as well as putting you close to some of the best fish and chips in the world. Not too shabby.

4 - Accommodation

Worth thinking about for two big reasons: one, it will likely be your most significant expense. Two, where you live will be your home base for at least a year, so it helps if you like it.

Don't panic: going through Clearing won't mean you'll be handed a tent and some loo roll and pointed towards a field when it comes to accommodation. But you should investigate the options available and take to social media to see what current students are saying about their accommodation.

Moving into any student residence is always going to be a leap into the unknown, but if it's a uni-approved place (institutions like CUSC list approved residences on their websites) you'll be in safe hands, and a pack of biscuits does wonders for making friends on the first day.

5 – Soul

Harder to pin down but just as important is the personality of a uni. They all have one, and it comes across in the style of the buildings, the attitude of the Students Union, what sports are popular, and much more.

A prospectus or website can provide hints, but as with any uni decision it’s best if you can visit before you arrive for your first day. Many unis hold Clearing open days, which are a chance to get a feel for a place, meet staff and students and ask any questions you have.

If you rush in unprepared, Clearing might well be a nightmare. But keep this list to hand, write down the questions you want answering and do some research before picking up the phone to a uni, and you'll be on the way to the right place for you – and sweet dreams – in no time.

Hear about university course spaces from us to make sure you get into university

More on TSR:

Your guide to A-level results day

More information about A-level results day

Help and advice about Clearing and Adjustment