I’d finished my exams, packed up my stuff, and was driving out of the school gates. “That’s it!” I thought, “I’m off to Durham!”. Two months later I wasn’t so confident. Perhaps it hadn’t gone as well as I thought.
Then results day came. I was still in the car when UCAS updated. So I found out I hadn’t got into any of my universities before I actually knew my results. The half-hour between this and actually arriving at school was the most painful half hour of my entire life. You cry, you curse, you just want to dig a hole and jump into it.
- Stay calm! Don’t do anything until you’re at school with your teacher or head of Sixth Form. They know what they’re doing.
I walked into school and saw all my friends laughing, having pictures taken for the paper, doing interviews. And there I was – keeping my head down so no one could talk to me.
My first tip at this point is: just ignore everyone else.
You think they’re all celebrating and that you’re the only one who hasn’t done well. You’re not – trust me.
I immediately found my tutor who gave me my results. Not as bad as I thought, but still not good. I then found an empty office with a desktop and a landline (how retro!), got out a piece of paper and a pen, and drew out my list of priorities.
- Time is absolutely crucial in Clearing so you must have a clear plan of action and a reliable phone and internet connection.
Now it was time to get calling.
UCAS will give you a directory of numbers to phone. You just have to stay on the line and be patient.
Universities will only speak to you about your results.
So don’t put your Mum on the phone and expect to get anywhere. They’re offering you the place, not your parents!
Firstly I called my top two choices just to see if I could convince them over the phone. This didn’t work but is still worth a try. Then I went down the list of my other three choices and phoned them to see if they had any places. All were either full or weren’t accepting my grades.
Be prepared for some pretty brutal rejections from phone operators at any point during the conversation. Most are fine but one nameless northern university, in particular, was pretty awful (I convinced myself I didn’t want to go there anyway). They are handling hundreds of calls and have to make split-second decisions – don’t take it personally.
While I was doing this my mother and tutor were scrolling through the Clearing section of UCAS.
They made a note of all the suitable universities offering my course. I was surprised by the number of excellent universities that were offering places: Edinburgh, Sheffield, Glasgow, Exeter, Bristol, KCL, UCL, and, of course, York.
Before you call any of your options, do a quick bit of reading about the department, the course content, and the university itself.
It only needs to be a brief overview but it means you’ll have something to talk about if your conversation gets that far. I went down the list calling each one. Some were very quick, others put me on hold for about 35373588 years. Again, just stay calm – you’ll get your turn.
- Have your grades and UCAS number close to hand. If they do decide to offer you anything these are the most important bits of information they’ll need.
After working my way down the list alphabetically I eventually came across the number for York.
“I didn’t even know York had a university,” I thought to myself, “let alone one that offered my course.” I picked up the phone and dialled the number. A kind “Hello!” rang out on the other end of the phone. By this point, I’d learned to just be straightforward and as concise as possible. I gave a summary of events and almost immediately the words “Well, I think we can make you an offer” came back. I was speechless! After so many failed attempts, finally, someone was prepared to take me on!
When all my details had been processed and an offer had been sent out I was asked whether I had any questions. The first thought that came to mind was “Is this a prank? Am I actually going to university?” but I decided that might have been seen as inappropriate. It turns out I’d been talking to the course director the entire time so I did feel slightly foolish when I said that I didn’t. She was very understanding and said she couldn’t wait to meet me in September.
The very next day I got on a train from London to York and visited the uni in person.
This may not be an option for everyone, but I can highly recommend it if you can. I got to speak to various members of staff in my department, went to the Students’ Union, and generally had a good look around the campus – all before officially accepting my Clearing offer.
So, in less than 24 hours I had been rejected from all my universities, got my results, gone through Clearing, got an offer from a Russell Group university, visited the university, and accepted the offer. It was emotionally draining but my perseverance paid off.
My top tips for clearing:
- Don’t do anything until you can get independent advice
- Have a landline and a good internet connection
- If you can, have someone with you for support
- Make a game plan
- Be patient and polite on the phone – you never know who you’re talking to
- Have all your details ready to go, including your UCAS ID
- You don’t have to accept your offer straight away – you have time to go home and consider it
- Keep calm and carry on! It’s the only way