Sorting your plan B: getting ahead of the Clearing game before results day

Student working on laptop

Results day is just around the corner and you’ll be wondering whether you’ve made the grade or not. If things don’t turn out the way you want, you can enter Clearing. It may not be what you planned, but Clearing definitely isn’t a last resort or a failed choice.

Whatever your results though, it pays to be prepared.

Do your research way before results day

Clearing vacancies are advertised from July – but if you’re waiting for your A-level results, you won’t be able to apply until you have them. This year, A-level results day is on Thursday 15 August.

Now is the time to start looking around though. You don’t want to be scrabbling around in a blind panic with thousands of others closer to the time – and especially not on results day! A good starting point is UCAS Search where you can check out the courses that interest you. That way, you’re fully armed with the info you need about the best unis available to you.

You can also get advice from other students in our university forums, or you can ask specific course questions in the university courses forums.

Refresh your memory of your personal statement

You probably spent hours perfecting your personal statement, getting others to read it, editing it and then still not feeling sure it was quite right. So don’t waste this hard work if it turns out you do have to go through Clearing. Print off a copy and highlight some killer points so you’re ready to bowl over the unis with when you call.

If you’ve suddenly decided you want to be a journalist as opposed to a nurse, be sure to be able to back up your decision strongly. Jot a few bullet points down – why the sudden change and why the new course is definitely the right one for you.

Get prepped for mini-interviews

You might get through Clearing based on your grades alone, but there’s a good chance that you’ll have to have a phone interview – or even a face-to-face one. Have a google to try and find out the type of questions you might be asked and rehearse them (and any you think of) in advance.

Have a think about any interviews you went to as part of your original application and think back to what you were asked then and the answers you gave and then try to improve on them. It’s helpful to keep some notes you can refer back to during the call so you keep on track and remember to say everything you planned.

Organisation is key

Lots of students will go into a panic around Clearing time, trying to get through to unis of their choice to save their places. So don’t add to your stress by having to look up numbers. As soon as the courses available are released, make a list of those that interest you – and save a file with their contact details so you’re raring to go on results day if needs be. You want to be able to hit the ground running!

Keep all related docs in one place, including your GCSE and A-level results, applications, personal statement and pre-prepared answers to questions that will almost certainly be asked – this way you should be able to answer oozing confidence. 

If Clearing isn’t for you…

Clearing is just one option if you miss your grades. Loads of people take a gap year, be it to travel the world, volunteer abroad, get a job, re-sit exams or even a combination of the whole lot. You’ll gain life experience and meet new people along the way whatever you decide to do.

If this is the way for you to go and you want to go to uni the following year, think about ways of making the next application even better. For example, you might look to gain work experience in your chosen area. Both unis and potential employers acknowledge and appreciate a gap year put to good use.

You could look at apprenticeships that can lead to a degree-level equivalent. You’ll be gaining important work-related skills at the same time.

If you fancy living in a different country, you might look into studying abroad. Some courses offer lower fees than in the UK, and there are plenty of other benefits to living and studying in a foreign country too. You’ll hopefully pick up another language and be exposed to different cultures. Just make sure you do your research and are fully prepared well in advance.

You might even decide that university or an apprenticeship isn’t right for you and get straight on the career ladder.

Top Clearing tips

1.  Prepare and relax
You will be making a decision that will affect your life for the next three years at least, so it’s important to be calm and consider your options. 

2.  Get advice
You can ask questions in our UCAS & Clearing forum and get personalised advice from UCAS trained advisors.

3.  Research
Make sure you know your options inside out. Choose a course that best fits you.

4.  Be available
You might not get an offer straight away or a university may ring you back with questions or offer an interview. Make sure you’re reachable.

5.   Finally, don’t panic!
It’s a busy period of the year and universities will have a lot of phone calls to deal with so be patient and you will get a response.

Grace Borg, a Media and Communication student at Liverpool Hope, says: "My top tip for students in the lead up to Results Day is to look at all of the options available, whether that's Clearing, deferring or accepting your offer straight away.

"Also, don't panic! Clearing is open for a few days after Results Day, or until the courses are at full capacity, so don't think it’s all over; there are options. And remember, everything happens for a reason. I'm so happy at Hope and could not imagine myself anywhere else!"

For more Clearing advice head over to our Clearing Hub

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