A level results 2013: turn Clearing to your advantage
Set aside time to research Clearing – ask the right questions and stay positive – you can turn the process to your advantage
It pays to keep a cool head in the days after getting your results. Not all of the 300,000 students who received their A-levels, or the equivalent, will have got what they wanted and many will have entered Clearing to find another course.
If you are one of those students, allow a little time to gather yourself, then breathe deeply and take charge — universities still have places to fill and teams of admissions tutors are poised to help. They’re used to emotions running high and the process works — last year some 55,000 students found places through Clearing.
Over the next few days, or weeks if you need them, you will have time to make the right choice for the next three or more years. Last year, Harry Spiers did what most students do when he didn’t achieve the required grades to study medicine: panicked a little.
He says, “The Clearing process was stressful. I felt I wasn’t going to get into university or make it into medicine.”However, experienced staff at St George’s, University of London, guided him towards a degree in biomedical science — which has an option for high performing students to transfer to medicine upon completion.
“The staff were extremely helpful and never left me in any doubt as to what stage my application had reached and what I needed to do next. So I had no cause for panic and I can now say that it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”
Find out which courses have spaces by looking in The Daily Telegraph (in England and Wales on August 17 and 29, and September 5) or visitclearing.telegraph.co.uk. Also see ucas.com — the website for Ucas, the universities and colleges admissions service, which posts live course vacancies.
Bear in mind, however, that while you can see which universities have spaces on which courses, you can’t see how many spaces they are offering. Keep checking, because the system is constantly updated as candidates accept and reject offers. Also, if your grades are only slightly below requirements, it is still worth speaking to your university of choice to find out if they will accept you — they sometimes do, confirms a Ucas spokesman, although your place might not be confirmed immediately.
Whatever happens, you should give yourself the time to mull over big decisions. “Last year, almost 2,000 excellent students gained places through Clearing at some 1994 Group universities,”says Alex Bols, executive director of the 1994 Group, an association of smaller research-intensive universities in the UK. “It’s important that students seek advice and consider all the options before making any decisions.”
Vacancies move swiftly on Clearing as universities juggle places, and most admissions staff want to speak to you by telephone before they make a provisional offer — which they usually do verbally. Do seek help if you need it, either through your own school or college’s careers service or by contacting Ucas’s free Exam Results Helpline (0808 100 8000), which this year has some 40 trained careers advisers on hand.
If you want advice on how Clearing works, call the Ucas Customer Contact Centre on 0871 468 0468 — this line remains open during the coming weekend.
Consider course requirements and universities carefully. Some institutions hold open days at the weekend or early next week. Once you know what course you like the look of, it’s time to contact the university’s admissions department and confirm that places are still available.
“I would advise against speculative applications [without having spoken to the university],”says Nic Pike, head of admissions at the University of Surrey. “We have a very delicate balancing act and the management of student numbers is a science all of its own.”
Before you call, make sure you have your personal ID and Clearing number — these are found in the “Welcome” and “Choices”pages on Track. Universities will also want to know your A-level, or equivalent, results and your email address.
More than half of all universities now operate a “central admissions” model, says Pike. “We have a team of professional admissions staff with the expertise and motivation that ensures we provide the best advice and guidance to our applicants.
”It’s far better", adds Pike, "to use the published phone lines rather than try to contact academic departments directly. This call is your chance to shine, so don’t dial until you have prepared for it thoroughly. Tutors will want to know why you are interested in a course and you’ll want to find out if it’s a good fit, so ask about how it’s taught and assessed. Even mundane details about accommodation are important."
Admissions staff will be able to see your existing application online. If you’re offered a provisional place — this might be done over the telephone or, more rarely, after an interview — you’ll likely be given an acceptance deadline, which varies between universities. St George’s, for example, allows 24 hours.
Once you have entered the course details into Track, Ucas will inform the institution. If you are successful, you will see the acceptance in the Choices section. If you’re not, you can add another choice through Clearing, which remains active until October 22.