What to do if you don’t make your uni offer

Exams are finished and all you want to do is relax and enjoy the summer. But that’s easier said than done if you’ve got a nagging feeling things might not have gone quite as well as you had hoped.

It’s natural to feel unsettled when your uni place rests on how those grades come out, but the reality of missing a uni offer is far more straightforward than you might expect. We’ve spoken to experts at the University of Huddersfield about what to do if you don’t get the grades you need.

1. Getting ready before results come out

Clearing actually opens on 5 July, long before A-level results day. This provides two advantages for the organised student: you can see which universities will be in Clearing and you can see most of the courses they will be offering.

Universities will advertise further courses on A-level results day, but checking Clearing in July gives you the chance to come up with an informed back-up plan. “It’s a good idea to go back through all your choices,” says Julie Pink, head of school and colleges liaison at the University of Huddersfield. “Revisit your back-up choices and get a shortlist together so you know who you want to call and what course you want to study.”

Some universities also provide students with the option to pre-register for Clearing. “Our university will have a Clearing pre-registration form on the website,” adds Julie. “If you fill that in, we will call you on results day to discuss your options.”

2. Checking your options on results day

A-level students get their results on 16 August. BTEC, IB and Scottish students will get their results earlier. Once your results come out, log onto UCAS Track to check whether your place is confirmed. Some universities will also send you a text to let you know.

If you’re confirmed you can celebrate. Bear in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve even met your offer! Many universities are flexible on results day, so if you’ve only missed your offer by a grade or two you may still be confirmed.

If your firm choice is unsuccessful, you’ve got a few options. Your insurance offer might show as confirmed, in which case you’ve still got a uni place sorted. If that’s also unsuccessful, then you are automatically in Clearing. At this point, it’s time to take to the telephone.

If there’s any uncertainty over your university offer – for instance, your offers on Track have not updated beyond ‘pending’ – you can take the initiative by calling the relevant universities.

If they are still keeping you waiting, there’s nothing to stop you lining up Clearing offers as a back up.

Offers are made verbally over the phone and you’re not obliged to accept one until you physically enter it as your choice on Track. Read our article for more information about using Track on results day.

3. Making Clearing phone calls

“By far the quickest and easiest way to get through Clearing is on the phone,” says Julie. “Don’t be tempted to email, it is too slow. Some universities, like ours, have a live chat facility online, but you will still have to speak to someone eventually. You need to be in there as soon as possible and we are geared up for receiving those calls.”

This may feel daunting, but remember that universities want to fill their courses with the right students just as much as you want to find a place. They are not going to try to trip you up, it is just a conversation.

The first part of the phone call will be about facts – name, address, results, and the course you would like to study. The university will then make sure there are still vacancies and that you have met the minimum entry requirements.

If you are eligible, you will then be put through to an admissions tutor, who will ask you some questions about why you are interested in the course. “It’s a good idea to have your UCAS personal statement form to hand,” adds Julie. “You can use it for prompts.”

4. Dealing with Clearing offers

If you are eligible you will be given a verbal offer there and then, and given a deadline for accepting it. You can get more than one offer, so don't feel obliged to take the first one that comes. When you've received an offer that you want to take, just log into Track and use the Clearing button to add the course details. Once you have your place confirmed you will be emailed the necessary paperwork. Julie says, "At Huddersfield we invite people in for an open day. If you've come to us through Clearing it might be the first time you have seen the campus. It also gives you the opportunity to sign up for accommodation and ask any questions that you may have."

5. A few final thoughts … 

It is worth noting at this point that there are other options. If you can’t find a place that excites you, then phone your first choice and ask for advice about applying again next year. Retake your exams, go interning or take a gap year doing something that might boost your application. Picking the right university is not something that has to be rushed.

For more advice on getting through Clearing check out our Clearing section.