So you haven't got the results you need?
Results have come out, and all that "I swear, I haven't got the grades
I need" modest talk you've been mouthing-off to your friends has actually
come true. So - what do you do?
Missing your exam results happens to most people. Without trying to sound trite, just view this setback as an opportunity to test your character and as a new challenge. Plus, if you remain calm, you'll have a more rational outlook to choosing your next step.
Don't feel like a failure!
Many of your friends will be in the same boat! And many, many famous and successful people went to University through clearing. Can't think of any offhand, but I'm sure there are. And don't just sit there and watch daytime TV either! You'll have plenty of time for that when you get to University.
Don't worry about not getting in to the University you wanted to go to!
Even if you haven't got the grades that your first choice University asked for, you may still be offered the place. Get straight on the phone to their admissions department and ask - you may well have to wait a day or two, however remember that the Universities get your A-level results before you do, so they should have a good idea about availability of places.
If you can't get on the course you want at your first choice university you may still be able to get to the same university doing a different course. For instance you may have wanted to do BA Geography, but how about seeing if there are places on the BSc Geography course. In the first year many of the core courses will be shared and you can always look into the possibility of transferring whilst your there.
If you can't get into the uni that you wanted (after reading all the info below) in any course that appeals, start looking at other universities. There are loads of good ones out there, and you'll have a great time wherever you decide to go.
Don't think that no one wants you!
If you're clever enough to get A-Levels, no matter what the grades, you're clever enough to get into University. FACT.
Talk to people! Get close to information overload!
Ask your friends, your family, your uncles and aunts, the landlord of your local, a Japanese tourist - ask anyone and everyone about their opinion on what you should do. Don't be embarrassed to, as everyone likes to give his or her opinion! Just make sure they have no ulterior motive. Check out the Internet, student websites or the websites of the institutions themselves - even the student union websites. They'll all give you a good insight.
Call the University!
If you really, really wanted to get into that particular University, then call them and let them know, and then ask if they'll let you in. I'm sure that if you're convincing enough (or grovelling enough) then they'll try and help you. Remember, they want you too and wish they could have you, otherwise they wouldn't have offered to you in the first place! So make it easy for them. After all, Universities get paid by the government, according to how many students they have.
Get you tutors or teachers to speak up on your behalf!
Nothing works better than personal recommendation, so get someone in authority to phone up the university on your behalf and spend ages talking about how great you are. A little good press can't hurt, and may swing the balance in your favour.
Check the Papers!
Most of the quality Broadsheets will have lists of available clearing places within 24 hrs of the results coming out (the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent are all good). Make sure that you pick up each days copy of the clearing guide when it comes out, and then trawl through it, places can go fast so make sure you make an effort to get up early and get to the local newsagents. Maybe work through it by a process of elimination if you're not sure what to do. After all, American Studies isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Don't give up!
Just because you couldn't get in to your "first-choice" university or course, that doesn't mean you should abandon the idea of tertiary education. Think of the benefits - you now have more options than you did before you got your results. The so called 'New Universities' often do a wide range of more unusual courses (as well as the more popular), so if you've always had a hankering about learning home brewing check them out. If nothing tickles your fancy - you can always take a gap year while you mull things over.
The Dreaded Clearing Interview
When you do go into clearing, one of the main things that they ask you to do (not all of the time, but most of the time) is to either do a phone interview or (god forbid) a face-to-face interview.
The most important thing to do in an interview is to be calm. Easy to say, I know, but just remember that the interviewer is just a person, like yourself, and may even be more nervous than you. If you still feel you need to relax more, do the Homer Simpson trick, and visualise the interviewer in his or her underwear. If nothing else, that should make you smile and you smiling is the best way to put you and the interviewer at ease. (And yes - you CAN hear a smile over the phone).
So what shouldn't you do?
Don't just list your hobbies and interests, especially seeing as the majority of them will have no relevance to the course of University you want to attend. After all, 90% of the hobbies of prospective students include, music, hanging out with friends, pubs, and sport. That's not going to differentiate you from the competition. Instead, try and list hobbies that are close to the course you want to do - for instance, for a music course, playing the flute; for a film studies course, making home movies; or for a Media Studies course, keeping up with current affairs.
Don't say "I want to study here because I've heard that this University is has the longest bar in the UK in the student's union." Yes - students party all the time, No - you shouldn't tell the interviewer that that's the reason you chose the University.
Don't say, "Well, my first choice rejected me, so I thought I'd try this University what's it like?" Instead say, "I've heard little about this University, but all I have heard has been positive, and from what I've seen here already today, I know I would be happy both academically and socially here". Or something to that effect - just common sense really.
Don't succumb to using clichés. Explain why you think like you do. Don't just say - "I like working with people", try and flesh it out a bit, by explaining how you think working with people would give you an insight into the course that you want to be doing.
Don't come up with a glib reason for choosing a course, and by the same token, don't exaggerate either. Saying "I've got no idea why I want to study 14th Century Philosophy, but it sounds good", or "It's been my life-long dream to study Crop Rotation in Classical Civilisations!" Keep it realistic, but do try to have some knowledge of the course you want to study. Try something like, "Well, I'm not an expert yet, but I am interested in Sociology and particularly the effect of crime on society."
Finally, remember that whoever is interviewing you, will have interviewed countless other people as well. So try and stand out! By which I don't mean wearing your favourite black eyeliner and Indian headdress - try and shine though being enthusiastic, confident and relaxed. And above all, be (or pretend to be) interested in what the interviewer has to say.
How do I decide where to study?
Don't take any account of "University rankings". They change every year, and general across all courses and they're not that accurate anyway. Obviously, there are 'good' and 'better' Institutions (and this goes for colleges as well), but don't base your decision on the league tables alone. A particular establishment may have a poor ranking but be superb for the particular course you wish to do. Here's a quick guide to give you some idea of what you should be looking for. For more information, check out our guide to Choosing a University.
Do you prefer to live near your parents, so that you have a free "Auto-Mum" Laundrette service every 2 weeks? Or do you want to break free and cut the umbilical cord? Do you want to go to a large University, or a smaller, family-sized institution? Campus, non-Campus, or City Institution - what's best for you?
Cost of Living
London is the most expensive place to study, but places like Middlesbrough can be cheaper and much more fun. Also think of the travel costs involved.
Teaching and course quality can differ immensely between unis and departments, and you should really try and chose a course that's more your scene. Do you prefer the analysis side of things, or the theory side? Check out the prospectuses or the University websites for a clear picture of what the course is about.
OK - so the course is important, and French in Leeds, isn't the same as French in Bangor, but what about the rest of the time? Is there an active Student's Union? Is there a film club, or a good computer centre? Are there live bands coming to play regularly, or is the place a little 'dead'?
Do you want to go to a large institution or a smaller one, and would prefer more men, or more women to increase your odds? (You know what I'm talking about!) Will you be a mature student (if that's not a contradiction in terms) or an overseas student?
Check out our City Pages and our guide to Choosing a University for more details!
Last year's students thoughts on Clearing.
"Once you're at University, no one, certainly after the first week,
no one asks whether you got in through clearing. Your lecturers don't know and
neither do your tutors, so academically, and from a lifestyle point of view,
it doesn't make the blindest bit of difference. People aren't going to point
at you and snigger."
Jackie Durrant, 1st year, Hull.
"I was really 100% sure I was going to get the right A-Levels to go
to my chosen University. Well, surprise surprise, I didn't. But I did get to
go to my chosen Uni after I called them up and said how much I wanted to go
there, and how much I could offer the Uni. It was hard to swallow my pride and
do that, but it paid off in the end. Irony of ironies though, I left to go to
a different University this year."
Jim Rogers, Fresher (again!), Bangor.
"Right away, from my last exam, I knew that I'd failed. So over the
summer I planned what I was going to do for clearing. I'd already short-listed
some Unis and some courses I was interested in, but none of the Unis I was interested
in had the courses I wanted. So I just chose between what was more important
- a course, or a uni. Most people will say 'the course' but I just wanted to
go to Uni, I wasn't bothered about what I'd do there - as long as it sounded
Sarah Victor, 1st year, Sheffield Hallam.
"When Warwick didn't accept me for my chosen course (Psychology) I
thought it was the end of the world. So I checked out the clearing guide in
the Times that came out, and just trawled through the psychology listings and
chose a Uni that I'd heard of. I had to act quickly, but it definitely paid
Ali Khan, 1st year.
"Act quickly! That's the only advice I can give. If you wait around
and 'umm and ah' for a week, deciding on your 'options', by the time you've
made a decision, there'll be no spaces left."
Peter Dort, Head of 6th Form.
"If you really have no options left, and don't know what to do, or
where - just stick a pin into the newspaper and go for it! I didn't quite adopt
that method, but I might well have done - not many people do a Sociology and
Criminology mix. Plus, don't worry as you can always change course after you
get there. In fact I think it's something like 10% or so of people get their
degree in a different subject than they started their studying."
Jo Lording, 1st year, Staffs Uni.