My Clearing experience

My Clearing experience

By Pamela Head,

When I went to school to pick up my A-Level results back in 2008, I was terrified.

I knew I’d done well, but with the pressure of having to get specific grades in order to continue with my education, the panic had well and truly set in. Although I knew there was nothing I could do on that day, because I’d sat my exams weeks ago, it still felt as if it was judgment day.

I ended up with three B grades in History, English Literature and Sociology. Not bad, but not quite what I needed to take up my place studying English Literature at Royal Holloway.

So, Clearing for university it was.

There are a lot of myths surrounding university Clearing. That it’s just full of places that no other student wanted. That it is only in place to fill up some of the places lost by other students who weren’t successful and that somehow, everyone would know and not treat you the same because you’re a ‘Clearing’ student. None of these are true, as I found out.

I was worried I’d screwed up my prospects. I was panicked that I’d failed to meet my conditions and didn’t know what the procedure was next. I still had an insurance offer to deal with too. I soon found out that if you don’t meet your firm offer, they release you from the contract you entered when you agreed to make them your firm choice. With your insurance choice, you need to call them up and then discuss your options with them.

As they are not your firm choice, you have the power to ask them to release you if you’ve met the conditions, been accepted but no longer want to do the course. Then you’re ready for Clearing.

The first thing I did was grab a newspaper at school. I had looked through some courses at other universities with lower grade requirements just in case “the worst happened” and knew that universities often drop their grade requirements for Clearing. “The worst” turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d made.

I had seen a course at the University of Kent that I liked the look of: English and American Literature. It was on the UCAS clearing list so I got my Clearing number and called the admissions department. The woman on the other end of the phone was very friendly and immediately eased all my fears. I was asked for the grades I’d just been awarded and for some personal details, and was then passed over to another woman who held a phone interview right then and there to see whether I’d be a good fit for the course.

Less than two hours later, I was the proud owner of a place at the University. The whole process was simple and quick, and immediately assuaged all my fears about Clearing.

I learned that universities hold back a certain number of Clearing places to try and scoop up some of the people who missed out on top ten universities.  I also learned that universities allocate more offers than places available to make sure they fill up, and yet have a contingency in place to make sure their courses are full. There is no obligation for a university to offer places up in Clearing and indeed, many don’t.

When I stared university in September feeling like I’d have a big ‘C’ for Clearing imprinted on my forehead, I found that no one knew, could tell or even cared that I’d got my place that way. Fresher’s week took over and the experience was the same for us all, regardless of how we got in.

When dealing with Clearing, the main secret is to be flexible. Be prepared to call early in the morning, and be organised. Planning ahead for Clearing will make things a whole lot easier. Check UCAS as soon as possible to get your Clearing number and keep an eye on the updated Clearing spaces. Above all, keep calm. It will all be okay in the end.