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Student view: what it's like to go through Clearing

Not got the grades you needed? Our student blogger reveals what it's like to go through Ucas Clearing and offers some tips on how to approach the whole experience.

There was no better feeling than finishing my A-level exams. After months spent working through revision books and mock papers, I was quietly confident I had got into my chosen university. Unfortunately, things don’t always go the way you plan – and like many others, I found myself going through Clearing.

Although the prospect of Clearing may seem scary, there are ways to make the experience both manageable and straightforward. Plus, here's our expert advice for Clearing

Don't feel sorry for yourself

After receiving my exam results I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disheartened. As I watched my friends celebrate around me, I dwelled on that daunting question, 'what am I going to do now?'

It’s easy to wallow in self-pity - like I did - but assessing the options available to you is the best course of action. Once I got to a computer, I was immediately assured by the scope of universities offering a variety of courses.

Keep a rational head

More than 63,000 students found a course through Clearing in 2015, and it can seem like a hectic race to get the course you want. When I began searching for courses, the only thing I wanted was for the whole process to be over.

I began to look at subjects I’d never shown the slightest interest in and even started to consider them. It was only after I narrowed my search around subjects I had often enjoyed that I realised how absurd my rationalisation had been.

When I chose my initial course it was because I enjoyed the subject. Although something can sound potentially interesting, stick to what you already like, after all, you’ll be committing three to four years of your life.

Study course content

I came across courses which shared similar titles to my initial choice and it was encouraging to know that I could still study my favoured subject. On further inspection however, I found that the content of the course wasn't too interesting.

I originally chose to study English language and couldn’t find a course that interested me like my initial choice. However, it certainly wasn’t a help that that my final grade in English had been lower than expected. Having been initially tempted to apply for media studies before deciding on English language I broadened my search. I was then able to find a course which I knew I would enjoy and wasn’t too far from what I intended to study.

It is worth investigating the content of each course you are interested in, from first to final year. Some courses come to life when you read through their modules.

Learn about the city

Manchester was my initial choice for university. When I visited, I loved the city’s urban and industrial charm. Instead, I ended up in Bournemouth, but this certainly wasn’t a bad thing – there’s a great beach and vibrant nightlife for starters.

Though you might end up in the opposite place to where you originally intended, each city has its own little features that make it unique. If you are very interested in a course, check out what the city has to offer.

Our university pages give further detail on universities and what you can find in their surrounding towns. If one interests you it is worth attending an open day or paying the university a visit.


Sell yourself

Before making calls to the courses I had narrowed down, I made some notes on what sort of questions I would be asked. In my case I was fortunate; when talking to the course leader I was asked what grades I had and why I wanted to do the course. After answering a few more routine questions I was offered a place.

Unfortunately it isn’t always that straightforward. Sam, a student at Nottingham Trent University, went through a rather different situation: ‘Even though I had the grades, graphic design was really popular. It was like a job interview. I was asked what set me apart from other candidates and where I thought the degree could take me in the future.’

With this in mind, always expect the worst it’s better to over prepare than under prepare. For information on the sorts of questions you may be asked see our survivor's guide to Clearing.



Here’s where to go for help with Clearing
Five things you might not know about Clearing and results

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