Clearing calls: Four things you should say and one thing you shouldn't

Young woman having a phone conversation writing in notebook

Plan your Clearing call and get a headstart on the competition

Don’t panic! That’s the message you’ll hear again and again if you’re looking for a uni place in Clearing. 

But it’s not always as easy as that. Being in Clearing tends to come as a surprise, and calling up universities can be a scary experience. 

What you need is a plan. We spoke to universities from around the UK to get their take on what you absolutely must say when you get through to them on the phone. Once you know what they want to hear, it's a lot easier to feel confident about your conversations. Here's what they had to say.

Students working at uni

”I’ve done my research and I’m really interested in your university”

"When you call you should be able to demonstrate that you have researched thoroughly what it is that you want to do," says Paul Donnelly, enquiries manager in student recruitment and admissions at Staffordshire University. 

"Although we can help you with this we would advise you to have a good idea by the time that you apply through Clearing."

Universities aren’t interested in tripping you up with awkward questions, but they'll be impressed if you show you know a bit about the courses they’re offering. Admissions staff will be on the lookout for potential students who seem genuinely interested in their uni and who they judge to be less likely to drop out.

"If they can show specific knowledge about module content that would be advantageous as the student has shown a willingness to research the course," says Ben Furlong, admissions officer at University College Birmingham

"This also shows the admissions team that the student is making an informed decision and is therefore less likely to not enrol or withdraw from their studies."

Claire Pryke, head of admissions at Bradford University, suggests something like the following as an opener to your call: 

“I’ve had a look on your website and can see your Optometry (UCAS code B510) course is available. I would very much like to make an application; would you consider me with the following grades…?”

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I’ve had a look on your website and can see your Optometry (UCAS code B510) course is available.


”I’m passionate about this subject area”

Once you've demonstrated you've researched the course you’re calling about, you need to show how keen you are to study it. 

"You’ll have the opportunity to speak to an academic," says Paul. "This is your chance to tell us why you wish to study this course and why we should offer you a place."

Don’t underestimate the importance of getting across your enthusiasm – it could easily be the deciding factor.

"Above all else we want students that are passionate and excited about the course they’re applying for," says Claire, who suggests something like the following as a good line:

"Although I’m disappointed not to have achieved my original goal I can see you offer a similar course which looks perfect. I’ve also had a quick look at your facilities and university and it all looks amazing."

Although I’m disappointed not to have achieved my original goal I can see you offer a similar course which looks perfect.

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Tell you about myself

”I'd like to tell you all about myself”

Don't even think about ringing up without your UCAS details, relevant certificates and grades ready, says Claire. 

If you’re umming and ahhing while trying to remember your grades, it’s not going to make a good impression on the person you’re speaking to. 

"We want students to contact us having their UCAS details and qualifications to hand. It makes life a lot easier for everyone," she says.

"Clear and accurate qualification history information is vitally important," adds Ben. "It’s imperative that we fully understand the calibre of the applicants we’re talking to.”


”I’ve got what it takes”

Universities understand that the Clearing call can be a difficult one to make, so they won’t judge you for being a little bit nervous. But if you're well prepared and remember to focus on your strengths, it will help you come across clearly.

"Stay calm and be confident in your own abilities," says Paul. "We have a trained team of friendly hotline staff there to guide you through the process and we understand that this can be a stressful time."

"Speak in a confident and clear way," adds Ben. "No question is too silly. In fact we would be worried if you didn't ask lots of questions."

And here's the one thing you definitely should not say

Sad-looking student

"I've missed the university I actually liked... but have you got anything I could possibly get onto with my grades?"

Remember, Clearing isn’t a random lucky dip – you shouldn’t be looking to just get onto any old course. 

“Have a look on the different university websites and the UCAS website before contacting universities,” says Claire. 

“Take note of what courses they have available and what their requirements are. You don’t want to study on a course you’re not interested in for three years just because you were eligible.”

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

More useful links

Intro to Clearing
Clearing contacts directory
Top 10 tips for Clearing
Guide to Clearing
Highest-ranked universities in Clearing