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

student using phone

Feeling unsure about your upcoming calculated grades? Here are your options if they’re not all you’d hoped for

So this year it’s calculated grades instead of exam results. 

The summer exams you’d been planning for were cancelled; the grades you were working towards will now be defined by your teachers’ predictions.

The idea is that you’ll get grades similar to what you would have got if exams had gone ahead.

But what if those grades don’t match what you need?

We spoke to Rob Tucker, head of student admissions at the University of East London (UEL), to find out more about your options ahead of results day.

Getting ready before results come out

While you’re awaiting your results, Clearing provides an easy way to craft a back-up plan.

Clearing has been open since 6 July, so you can already check the courses that are available. 

By searching through the listings on the Ucas website, you can put together a shortlist of universities to contact on results day – if needed. 

“I am sure things will work out for most applicants,” says Rob. “But if there is any worry they can start looking at what courses are recruiting in Clearing.

“Many institutions have already begun taking Clearing applications, this means all the information is out there.” 

Universities will add further courses to Clearing on A-level results day, but doing your research now can help you be clear on the grades you’ll need for what’s out there.

Some universities also provide students with the option to pre-register for Clearing. “At UEL we have a priority Clearing line that applicants can register for,” says Rob. 

“If an applicant does need some help they will be able to call us and go straight to the front of the line.”

students at work

Checking your options on results day

Missing your offer doesn’t necessarily mean missing your place. This is true even in a ‘normal’ year. 

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.

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.

“I would not like to suggest institutions will be lenient on entry criteria and would fully expect things to be broadly in line with previous years,” says Rob. 

“However many courses are now taking a holistic view to accepting applicants. 

“At UEL we always look to assess the applicant rather than the application and will review not only academic profiles but an applicant’s ability to be successful on their chosen course. 

“If applicants do not get the grades expected there will definitely be many opportunities to speak directly with admissions tutors if needed.”  

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 start contacting universities about available places.

When you’re offered a place through Clearing, you can continue to contact other universities. You’re not obliged to accept an offer until you physically enter it as your choice on Track. Read our article for more information about using Track on results day.

Making Clearing phone calls

The quickest and easiest way to get through Clearing is normally on the phone. However, universities have been putting a lot of work into other contact options this year.

“Given the current situation and the investment made in virtual admissions processes due to the lockdown, this year will see many more ways for applicants to contact institutions.,” says Rob.

“The option to phone up and speak to admissions will still be available but there will also be wider use of things such as live chat, online applications and social media platforms.” 

If you are phoning up, you might feel a bit nervous. Try to remember: 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 to hand. You can use it for prompts.

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. 

Take your time

However your grades come out, remember you’ve got options. 

This year, there is an optional series of autumn exams. Sitting these could provide you with a chance to get the grades you’re after.

Alternatively, you might look outside university for a year, perhaps to go interning or to take a gap year doing something that might boost your application. 

Picking the right university is not something that has to be rushed.

“If an applicant really wants to defer they have that option, many courses start in January or an applicant can wait until next year,” says Rob.

“Admissions teams are always on hand to talk through the options so my advice would be ensure you make contact before making any final decisions.” 

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

About our sponsor

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From this September, students at the University of East London will benefit from a dual delivery approach to learning. 

This model provides a first-class physical and online learning experience, with the option to flip between on-campus and live online study throughout your course. 

Find out more about dual delivery learning.