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Clearing - No Time To Slouch!

Aug 21, 2008
It's that time of year again. All those pictures in the paper of stellar kids, reeling from the joy of getting their 4 grade As. And you haven't. You have just failed to get the grades your chosen university said you had to get when they offered you the place earlier in the year.

Don't despair; look at it as your new opportunity. There will be 30,000 + places on offer in Clearing, some of them at surprisingly good places. They will be taken up by 30,000 people facing just the same predicament as you are. And some of them will find a place on a course that is much more to their liking than their original course.

These lucky people are seldom featured in national newspapers. But universities are penalised for failing to fill their undergraduate places with suitable students and so the universities problem can be your opportunity to get stuck in and grab a place at the university you want.

However, first you have got to take a realistic look at what you have achieved in the summer exams. If you have bombed completely, you will probably need to have a radical re-think. Should you try again, retake your exams and apply for the same sort of course next year? Or should you aim for a different or less-competitive course? Or simply forget the idea of going to university and find a job or a job-related training course?

But if you have only missed your offer by a couple of points, and qualify for the sort of course you want to do, you're still in with a chance to start your course this September. But ACT NOW!

Start with the offer you've just missed. Your first telephone call should be to the admissions office at the university that made the offer (both universities, if you had an insurance offer too). They may still admit you this year, in spite of your results - it's not certain and don't bank on it but definitely worth a crack. Sometimes they are overwhelmed with students because everyone else got the right grades and in that case you would find them totally inflexible. But if nearly everyone has missed their offer, then the course could have hardly any students and they may be delighted to take you. So, if you don't ask, how will you ever know?

If the answer is no, go for Clearing. Remember universities with spare places act like airlines with spare seats - offer them at a discount. So universities with spare places will accept grades that they would not have accepted earlier in the year, to fill up as many places as possible with teachable students - your opportunity.

The first message in Clearing is - ACT FAST. Of the 30,000 Clearing places, there surely must be one with your name on it, perhaps even one on a hard-to-get-on course. But you want to get in ahead of the others. If the one place on a course has gone a couple of minutes before you are on the phone, it's all over for the year.

How to get cracking? UCAS lists all courses available through Clearing this year from 14 August to 12 September. The information is also published in various ways in the national press; and if you want to study locally, check out the local press, radio and TV. If you want to talk to somebody, your school or college should have staff available; and the DCSF runs a helpline (0808 100 8000) giving free, independent advice. Universities with places available often have specially staffed admissions units and open days to help you during Clearing.

One caveat; don't let yourself be hassled into accepting a place you are not happy with. It's a waste of your time and money (and theirs!) if you leave during the first year because you are in the wrong place or on the wrong course - and, sadly, Clearing students are the much more likely to drop out within the first year than others. So find out what you can about the universities you are interested in. Check them out and make your own shortlist.

Contact universities direct. Keep focused. Keep shopping around. Don't let a holiday, a party or a job get in the way. Do it yourself, don't leave it to your parents (hardly shows you're keen) .Loads of other people will be on the phone too. The race is to the swiftest.

Finally (hopefully) success! A university offers you the place you want. You give them your Clearing Number. UCAS sends you an official letter when it's all done and dusted. And you're in this year!
About the Author
Student Book is a website for prospective and current students. It offers a university comparison tool and a wealth of information on the ins and outs of applying to university. The site is also a guide to student life with advice on finance, welfare, study skills, accommodation and a lot more. These are helpful, relevant and entertaining articles aimed at students and future students.
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