How to get the best out of your Clearing call

Student making a phone call

Phoning up universities for the first time can be a daunting experience, but making a Clearing call is actually surprisingly simple

So you get your exam results and they're not quite what you were hoping for - or what you needed for uni. At this point, calling a stranger for a chat is probably a long way down your list of things you want to be doing. 

But, if you want to make the most of Clearing, it’s best to start dialling sooner rather than later. By ringing around a range of universities, you can pin down a selection of offers and take your pick of the best.

To make this all a bit easier, we’ve put together a guide on how a Clearing call works. These tips will help you stay calm and confident, so you can find a uni place that's right for you.

The waiting game

Clearing is busy. More than 66,000 students secured their university or college place through Clearing last year, with most getting confirmation over the phone on results day.

With all those people frantically dialling away, it’s understandable that phone lines tend to get pretty busy during the results day peak – usually between 9.30am and 11.30am.

For that reason, the first voice you’ll likely hear on the call will be a recorded message. Try not to be put off and hang up straight away; it’s all part of the process.

Even during peak times, your waiting time should be no more than a couple of minutes. Hold tight and you’ll be talking to a real human in no time.

Initially you may hear an automated message with options to follow so you can speak to the right person and not queue for too long. Time is precious on results day so we don’t want to waste it!

You will then be put through to a friendly call handler who is trained to guide you through the process. The call handler will go through a series of questions such as ‘which course interests you?’.

If they are able to make an offer they will do so over the phone, if they can’t they will advise on next steps, so don’t panic they are there to help!

 - Kathy Thompson, head of admissions and applicant experience at University of Leicester

Your first impressions

Once you’re through to the call handler, you'll have a conversation about available course places. This Clearing call doesn't take long; it will probably last between eight and 10 minutes.

Be prepared for questions to be short and snappy. The trained staff at the other end of the line just want to help people as quickly as possible.

But you can expect them to be friendly and helpful. Universities want to speak to you, and they want to make sure the Clearing call process is as stress-free as possible.

Your qualifications

On the call, the first thing you'll be asked for is your details. This will be key stuff such as your Ucas ID, your results and any other qualifications.

As well as your A-levels or Btec results, you can expect to be asked what you got in your GCSEs - and in what subjects.

You might know your qualifications by heart, but in the heat of the moment they can easily slip your mind. To help calm any nerves, jot them down on a piece of paper before your call so you have them ready.

Your eligibility

While you're on the phone, the uni representative will check the current status of your Ucas application to make sure you’re eligible for Clearing.

Chances are you’ll already know where you stand, but the university will want to double check to ensure they’re giving the right advice to you.

If you’ve already accepted a place elsewhere but want to transfer, the handler will talk you through the process of releasing yourself from your place. 

Your options

The handler will then see what vacancies are available to you in your chosen subject. This can take a couple of minutes and you may be placed on hold while the search takes place.

If vacancies are available, you can then ask for more details, such as where it’s based, potential placements and what modules are on offer. If there aren’t any places, you might be presented with similar alternative courses, for example a joint course with another subject instead of a single subject course.

Decision time

If you have the grades, then - good news - an offer can be made. You may be put through to speak to a member of academic staff at this point.

If you accept the offer, a confirmation email will be sent to your inbox. But bear in mind you don't have to accept there and then. Most offers come with a time condition which means they must be accepted within 24 or 48 hours.

Once you do choose to accept, you can enter your place into Ucas Hub and start planning for uni. Alternatively, if you don’t get an offer (or want to try for a better offer elsewhere), just pick up the phone and try the next university.

Try to do some research the day before so you have a shortlist of options and universities to call. Then get some rest and a good night’s sleep, results day is a busy day. I know that’s easy to say but a good rest will help you keep a clear head to make decisions.

Then there is the practical stuff, charge your phone, have a pen and paper and your Ucas ID handy. Finally and most importantly stay calm and don’t panic. Your teachers and university staff are there to support you, so use the resources available to you.

 - Kathy Thompson, head of admissions and applicant experience at University of Leicester

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