If your exam results haven’t gone according to plan, all is not lost… you don’t need to give up on going to uni.
The UCAS Clearing system is there for universities and colleges to fill any spare places on their courses, and gives people a second chance to choose a degree that appeals. Loads of institutions (including top universities) will have vacancies for all sorts of reasons: from other students deferring or not taking up places, to increased availability since the cap on university places was lifted a few years ago.
HelloGrads’ guest blogger, Jess, talks about her Clearing experience and shares her tips for how to be prepared rather than panicked on results day.
Up until results day, I didn’t really know what Clearing was. During exam season, Clearing was known as the place for ‘UCAS rejects’ or the place on the deep dark web where you would go to if you didn’t receive any offers on results day, but no one really understood how it worked, or what steps you would take in the situation I landed in.
Logging on to UCAS the morning of results day and having no offers is a very scary and daunting moment, and made me question exactly how badly I had done, if neither my firm nor my insurance offer wanted me. Flooded with worry, I arrived at school feeling like a failure, and as though I was the only one of my friends who wasn’t now going to university.
Results day is stressful enough as it is, and there is a pressure amongst peers with comparing marks, so it was definitely humiliating having to explain to everyone that I hadn’t got the grades. The window between when the results came out on UCAS at 8am, and when we could collect our exam results at 11am, felt like forever – and I just wish that I’d known then what I know now about Clearing and how it all works.
I arrived at school to collect my papers and assess the damage, and after a little cry, I went to speak to my tutor, who suggested I log on to the Clearing website and see if there were any spaces at universities that have lowered their entry requirements. I was astounded at the number of places offering much lower entry requirements! I felt this immediate relief, as university could once again be an option for me.
After having a browse, I was surprised at how many of the popular universities were listed. I specifically remember seeing the University of Nottingham advertising entry requirements as BBB, when it was previously AAB via UCAS at the application stage.
I finally came across a course at Bournemouth University (which was actually a higher-rated course than my firm choice!) and, on the advice of my tutors, I made the phone call directly to the university, where I spoke to the unit lead. I explained my situation, gave my grades and had a chat about my interests and why I would be an asset to the university (very similar to a job interview, but less intense!) I was then offered a place on the course for the upcoming year, and had one week to either accept or decline.
Whilst receiving an offer was a huge relief, it was also very unsettling as I had initially planned on deferring my place at my firm/insurance to take a gap year and go travelling, which is unfortunately not allowed when you go through Clearing, as the places are much more limited.
This was a shock to the system, as I wasn’t planning on going to university so soon. I had nothing ready, no accommodation and no student finance set up, and if I chose to accept the offer, I would be leaving home in 2 weeks! However, after much deliberation and caring support from family and friends, I decided to accept the offer and I can comfortably say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
For the first couple of months at uni, there were times when I thought I had made the wrong decision, but I made a conscious effort to live by ‘everything happens for a reason’ and I just had to trust that I had done the right thing.
If I could go back and do it all again, I would make all the same decisions to put me where I am right now. After three years at Bournemouth, I graduated with a 2:1 and I'm now working in my chosen field of nutrition - and thinking of going on to do a Masters in dietetics.
So, from my experience, here are my top tips for dealing with the Clearing process…
If you find yourself in the position of waking up on results day to no university offers, and you feel as though the world is crumbling around you, here are some top tips for survival.
1. Stay calm
Breathe! Although this is not what you planned, you have got options and this is not the end of the world.
2. Collect your results
You may be thinking of writing the day off and drowning your sorrows in tequila, but you will actually need to know what grades you received if you wish to go through Clearing.
3. Speak to your tutors as soon as possible
Ultimately, they are there to help you, and can be great shoulders to cry on. They should put you on the right track to Clearing, or talk you through alternative options that you might not have considered e.g. degree apprenticeships, work experience schemes, resit and reapply, or even taking a gap year and going travelling.
4. Log in to Clearing
Deep breaths, and make the phone call! Logging on to Clearing will let you see which universities have lowered their entry requirements, and lists the relevant numbers to call. You will most likely be directed to speaking with the unit leader, so brush up on your social skills and be prepared to charm them away.
5. Talk to friends and family
This time will involve a lot of fast-paced change, and could mean you are considering choices you had never thought of before, which can be both daunting and unexpected. So it’s really important to have a secure support base around you, as well as listening to others’ experiences and seeing what inspires you to make your own personal decision.
Good luck! We hope your results will be everything you want them to be, but don’t worry if they’re not – Clearing is easy to navigate and it’s there to help.
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