When you're making Clearing phone calls, your number one aim is to be each university’s dream of the perfect applicant. Sound like pressure? It doesn’t have to be.
Making yourself utterly irresistible to uni admissions staff simply comes down to one word: preparation.
You don’t need to be a silver-tongued charmer to bag a place, but you do need to know what you want and why.
But what do admissions staff really want to hear? We asked universities around the UK what would impress them on a Clearing call. Here’s what they had to say…
Know your target
Blind desperation is not an attractive trait. Being prepared before you call is key. You want to be showing enthusiasm for a particular course or area, not randomly asking about what's on offer.
"Avoid just asking us what you need to get in," says Paul Starkey, director of student recruitment and admissions at the University of Bolton. "Do some research so you know what we offer and whether it’s right for you."
That means spending some time looking at the Clearing pages for individual universities. You can find links to these in our Clearing directory.
"Look at our website first," says Andrew Allen, BPP admissions manager. "You will need to tell us which programme you’d like to apply for when you speak to us."
But it’s not just the course that you need to think about – you’ll also want to suss out whether the uni is the right place for you.
For instance, how much does it cost to live in the city where it's based? This could dictate whether you can afford to live close to the campus or miles out into the suburbs. How much does accommodation cost? Will there be any spaces left in halls?
"Think about accommodation and look into which universities are offering accommodation guarantees," says Jenny Ventris, head of admissions at the University of Hertfordshire.
"If you’re planning to live at home, think about how you will get to the university. Ask about open days and try to visit as many as possible before making your decision – particularly if you are not familiar with the universities you have Clearing offers from."
Understand the process
If you know what to expect before calling up, it’s a lot easier to be confident and comfortable. You won’t be kept on the phone for hours by each uni, but you can expect them to be thorough.
“Remember that this is likely to be the first contact we’ve had with each other and we won’t have seen your UCAS application so we need to take a few details from you,” says Starkey. “Bear with us; we’ll be as quick as possible.”
“We will need to ask you some questions about your background and education and then we’ll look to see what you are interested in studying and whether we can find a match for you with the courses we have available.”
Don’t presume that the first person you speak to on a Clearing call will be the person making the decision on your offer. A lot of universities will have a team of staff whose job is to answer the phone and then put you through to the relevant department or academic.
For instance at the University of Hertfordshire, the initial phone call will be taken by a ‘Clearing networker’.
“They will ask a series of questions to ensure that the student is put through to the appropriate academic,” says Ventris.
“The academic will then discuss the student’s course requirements and make sure that they are given an offer - if they’re eligible - for the most appropriate course.”
Have your info ready
Write down all your questions before you call – that way you won’t forget anything.
You’ll also be better prepared if you’ve got your personal info easily to hand. Make sure even the most basic information is written out clearly, this will make the call easier and will also make you sound more composed and confident.
Make notes on how you’ll reply to questions on the call. You may be asked why you are interested in the course or where you think the degree will take you in the future.
There’s no getting away from it – making calls in Clearing can be stressful. Take a deep breath before you dial the number, and remember to stay calm throughout the conversation.
“The person you speak to will understand that this is a difficult call, but try not feel nervous – we are here to help,” says Starkey.
“Of course, be polite and patient too. Our advisors have questions they must ask you before they can proceed to recommending an offer so plan to spend a bit of time with them on the phone.”
Although it might seem obvious, you should also make sure it’s you that’s making the call. Universities can’t discuss your application with your mum, your dad or anyone else for that matter, so take a minute to relax and then make the call.
Ultimately it will work in your favour to be the one ringing up, as it gives you a chance to show your personality.
“Universities want to know about you personally, so try to be yourself,” says Allen.