Six massive fibs you've been told about results day

Exams are finished, revision is a distant memory and you’ve spent the past few weeks trying, probably unsuccessfully, not to stress about results day. It’s hard not to dwell on the date that has now been etched into your brain from thinking about it so much. But what to expect from the big day? You will have heard all the stories and probably picked up a fair few misconceptions along the way, so, with the help of the experts at Sheffield Hallam University, we have tackled some of the biggest results day fibs that might come your way.

Fib #1 | Clearing is for failures

Once considered a bargain basement for people who missed their grades, Clearing has had a change of image. Some of the UK’s most prestigious universities had courses in Clearing last year. According to the National Clearing Survey, more than half (52%) of respondents went through Clearing last year for reasons other than achieving lower grades than predicted. For some it was simply a case of changing their mind, while for many others – known as direct applicants - it was the first time they had even applied for a course.

“Some people might be shopping around to see if there’s something more appealing than their firm offer,” says Adam Sturch, head of student recruitment marketing at Sheffield Hallam University.

“You also see people trading up, if they’ve done better than they expected,” he adds. This ‘trading up’ process, known as Adjustment, allows people who exceed their uni offer to apply for courses that they might once have ruled out for being too hard to get on to. Read more about how Adjustment works here.

Fib #2 | Unis slash their target offer grades

Some unis may lower entry requirements for Clearing, but you shouldn’t go into results day with that expectation. It is no advantage to anyone if the student and the course don’t match, so unis will try to get students who meet their original requirements. Dr Phil Bloor, head of admissions at Sheffield Hallam University, says: “Universities want to make sure students will be able to meet the academic demands of the course alongside their classmates and are successful in completing their degree.” He adds: “Not all courses will be in Clearing so don’t bank on the popular courses still having places.”

Fib #3 | UCAS Track will go live in the middle of the night

This is the perennial myth that appeals to anyone who’s hopeful and short on patience. But don’t be tempted to keep checking your UCAS Track throughout the early hours. It updates at 08:00 on A-level results day – so get some sleep instead!

Fib #4 | I won’t get into my firm choice if I don’t get the grades

This isn’t necessarily true. Many universities can be flexible – if your grades slip just a little you may still get your first choice. “Your grades and individual circumstances will be reviewed and if you only just miss out on your grades you may well still be offered your first choice,” says Phil. “It’s always best to speak with your first choice (if they are still your first choice) as you may be offered the same course with a foundation year, or an alternative course, if you do miss out on the course you initially wanted”. 

Fib #5 | Clearing means I’ll have to have a phone interview on the spot

Remember that universities want to fill their courses with the right people, just as much as you want to get a place. Yes, you have to speak to someone on the phone, but it’s an informal chat so try not to feel nervous. There are things that you can do to prepare. It is good practice to re-read your UCAS personal statement and have it to hand; it can be a good prompt if they ask you why you want to take the course and what experience you have. But no-one is going to be trying to catch you out. Also, don’t be tempted to avoid the phone call by sending an email instead. Clearing is a much slower process online, and you will still need to make the phone call in the end.

Fib #6 | You can’t hold places in Clearing and you need to make a decision straight away

Once you have been given a verbal offer you will be given some time to think it over and get a few other offers if needed. Each offer will come with a deadline, and these can vary according to the popularity of the course you’re applying for.

And finally… Thanks to information overload, you might be feeling like results day is the most important day of your life. But whatever your grades, you still have plenty of options. From retakes, to gap years, foundation courses to Clearing, the choice is yours.