This is a strange piece to write, because in some ways I hope that people won’t need to read it, as I hope everyone will get the grades they want to go to the place that they want to go. That being said, if you, like me, find yourself short of the grades you need to get your preferred choices, then you will end up in the UCAS Clearing process in order to secure yourself a university place.
Before I get into my advice, I’ll say two things. The first is that Clearing is by no means a fun process to go through. Regardless of how good any advice that I or anyone else may give you, it is not an enjoyable experience. That being said, good things can very easily come from it. I am at a university I love, and I couldn’t imagine doing my original choice of course now, because I enjoy my current one so much. So let’s get into some step by step advice.
Let’s say you need AAB for your course (around 34-35 points for IB), and when you get your results you are one grade off. The first thing to do is check UCAS. Being one grade off of your offer doesn’t necessarily mean you will be turned down. I was three grades from mine (needing AAA I got ABC) and I still was considered for a long time for my original firm choice. Dependent on the overall scores that year, it may well be that the university is happy to accept you.
If you have checked UCAS and both your firm choice and your reserve choice have declined to make you an offer then you will be put into the Clearing process. I know at this point, I was quite upset, and so if you are the same, take some time and try and get some emotion out. There’s no shame in this, and you will make much better decisions later on with a clearer head. I would suggest talking to teachers in your school or college who are involved with the UCAS process (my school had a UCAS coordinator for example) and getting some advice from them.
You do have some time now to really take the power back into your hands. Assuming you get your results in the morning, you can’t refer yourself through Clearing until 3pm., so this is time you need to use. Universities who are offering Clearing places will have Clearing hotlines that you’ll be able to find on their websites. You can call these to find out what degrees have places available and what grades they are looking for. These will typically be lower than they would have been under a normal application system. Try and find universities that you have visited and liked or use the virtual open days that many have on their websites now. Also consider different courses if needs be. In my case, I originally applied for history, but history was my lowest grade making it difficult to find history places. However, I liked the political side of history so I instead started searching for politics courses. York was my original first choice, and I knew I liked the university, so I looked for politics related courses here. I also looked at courses at Sussex and Southampton, both of which had been on my original 5 choices.
If you are unsure which courses are similar, then call up the Clearing lines at the universities, and they will be able to give you some idea. Once you have found something you like, you will be able to be made an offer over the phone. My advice would be to get two or three offers if possible (for example I got offers from York for SPS, and from Southampton and Sussex for politics) this puts the ball firmly in your court and gives you the choice back. Once you have made your choice, then you will be able to go back to UCAS and confirm the place as soon as Clearing opens.
So there you have it. Hopefully this guide will help some of you who are unsure of what to do if you find yourself in the position I did. As I said before, it is not a fun experience, especially when you will be going through a whole range of emotions, but try and keep a cool head, get yourself organised, and you can make the best of it. I have just finished my second year one mark from a first, planning to do a dissertation in a subject I didn’t even know about before I came here, and going into my second stint as departmental representative for the university. So bear in mind that it can all work out better than you even expected.