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 second choice and will often lead to a different, even more exciting degree.

Whatever your results though, it pays to be prepared.

Teesside University offers its expert advice on how you can get yourself sorted before the results come out.


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 17 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.

Dave Hudson, student recruitment and marketing director at Teesside, says: “Students come to us for many different reasons – maybe you didn’t get the UCAS points you needed, you changed your mind about the course you wanted to do, you hadn’t planned to go to university or just because.

“But the thing we stress to everyone is do your homework. Make sure you know what vacancies are available and what you need to apply. Have all the numbers, your UCAS ID and course code to hand so you’re ready to hit the ground if you need to enter Clearing.”

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 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.

If you’re lucky you’ll get through Clearing based on your grades alone but get it into your head that you might have to have a phone interview – or even a face-to-face one. Get some mates to brainstorm some questions they think 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.

Being organised 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. 

Abbie English from Teesside’s student recruitment team says: “Have your phone at the ready and check your emails regularly. You may not get an offer straight away but keep looking so you don’t miss it when it does drop in.”

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 getting your qualifications a different way by way of apprenticeships that can lead to a degree-level equivalent level. You’ll be gaining important work-related skills at the same time.

Maybe getting started on the career ladder appeals to you – you’ll be making money and be able to avoid getting into debt by totally avoiding uni tuition fees.

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.

Top Clearing tips from Teesside

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 – Ask friends, family and teachers who you trust will guide you the right way.

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.


For more Clearing advice head over to our Clearing Hub

More on TSR

Your guide to A-level results day

More information about A-level results day

Help and advice about Clearing and Adjustment