If your results don't turn out quite as you've hoped, Clearing gives you another chance to find a uni place for the coming year. And if you're going through Clearing, one thing's for sure: you're going to be making a lot of phone calls!
Before you get on the phone, it's crucial to be well prepared so you can make a good impression with the unis you're hoping to attend. We spoke to admissions staff at a range of UK universities who shared their advice on handling the Clearing call.
Before you make the call
"Write down a few key reasons that explain why you would like to go to that particular university," says Emily Moore, student recruitment officer at Royal Holloway, University of London. "That way, when you are asked, you will have some clear reasons and give a good first impression."
Kieron Broadhead, head of recruitment at Goldsmiths, agrees. "Visit the institution’s website to find out as much about them as possible," he says. "Even though your research might mean that you know practically all there is to know about the course you are being interviewed for, it is still a good idea to have some intelligent questions to ask.
By doing so you look keen, inquisitive and motivated – all of which are qualities that tutors look for.
Sarah Archer from Birmingham City University suggests some questions to ask yourself before calling up for a Clearing place. "Can you imagine living there? Check the course description – is it what you want to do? Have you got the grades they are asking for? It's worth ringing if you are within 10/20 points of the required tariff points."
You also need to make sure you've got all of the necessary information to hand. "If you are not already, get into the UCAS system," says Kieron. "This makes the process of applying through Clearing much quicker and easier. Check Track on the UCAS website to see if you're eligible to use Clearing. If you are eligible for Clearing an 'Add Clearing choice' button will appear on your Track 'choices' screen which you can use to apply for a course."
"If you are already holding an offer but looking at different options, be aware that a university will not formally be able to offer you a place until you have rejected the other offers you are holding."
It might seem obvious, but getting hold of the right phone number is also important. "Most universities will have a separate number for Clearing enquiries so don’t just assume a generic university number will get you through to the right person," adds Kieron. "Have a look on the university homepage for the latest information."
All the clearing contacts you need can be found in our Clearing contacts directory
During the call
Once you're on the phone, it's time to really sell yourself. "When you’re calling the university’s Clearing lines you could well end up speaking to an admissions tutor whose job it is to get the best students on their course, so treat it like an interview," says Kieron. "Tutors will still be looking for enthusiasm amongst those wanting to study their course and will be looking to avoid students who seem to be applying for any course for the sake of getting through Clearing."
"Draw on your work/voluntary/extra-curricular experience," adds Sarah. "Even if it seems irrelevant, it shows you have the commitment to do other things with your time, and are improving your employability skills."
One of the most common traps that students fall into is getting someone else - typically mum or dad - to make the call for them.
"Try to make important calls yourself," says Kieron. "It can be nerve-wracking and the temptation is to let a parent or guardian make the calls for you, but before committing to a three-year course you need to be certain it’s the right one for you."
Getting your research right is also key - you need to prove to the person on the other end of the line that you are both committed and keen.
"Sometimes we get calls from students who have not researched our programme content before calling," says Khilna Bhadresha, admissions manager, Regents University London. "Some basic research will ensure you don’t waste time calling for courses that really are not for you."
Students with that lack of focus are unlikely to impress. Emma Smith, admissions officer at Royal Holloway, University of London, says callers can often make the mistake of trying to be considered for every possible course, because they are more motivated by the university itself than what they will study there.
"We want students who really want to study our course at our university," she says. "This student is much more likely to be happy and successful on the course than someone who takes up a place for a course that they have no interest in doing."
At the end of the call, don't get upset if you're not given a decision straight away, the person you're talking to might not be able to make an offer immediately. Similarly, don’t be pressured into making a decision while you're still on the phone. "Take time to research your options before making final decisions," says Emma.
After the call
Having made the call, it's time to make another...and another. Clearing is competitive, but giving yourself as much choice as possible can only be beneficial.
"Bear in mind you don’t have to accept the first uni place that is offered to you," says Sarah. "You can ring round a number of universities, do your research, bounce ideas of friends, family, teachers before making a decision. Only then should you go on UCAS Track to choose the university you want."
"Take time to assess the options on the table," adds Kieron. "Don’t forget that those options might include taking a year out or re-sitting some of your exams."
Once you've got a Clearing offer that you've decided to accept, it's time to log onto UCAS Track. "Ensure you accept a Clearing offer by the deadline you were given by the admissions teams," says Emily at Royal Holloway. "Remember that you need to add your chosen university through UCAS track and they will then accept you. Just getting verbal confirmation of your place on the phone is not enough, you need to do it through UCAS too."
Clearing discussion on TSR