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Clearing 2021: how to call universities

Calling universities is a crucial part of the Clearing process. But before you pick up the phone, here are some top tips from admissions tutors, careers advisers and students…

What is Clearing? Read our full guide to Clearing including how the process works and what you can do to stay a step ahead of everyone else. 

Your Clearing call could be an interview

When calling a university, the conversation might just involve confirming your grades and checking that there's still have a spot available on the course you're interested in. On the other hand, you may find yourself on the receiving end of some tricky questions designed to test out your suitability for the course.

An engineering student at Aston University found the Clearing process very straightforward: ‘Called them, told them about my qualifications and got a place in less than 15 minutes.’ 

But for a tourism student from London South Bank University, bagging his Clearing place was a bit more involved: ‘I had a 30-minute telephone call which included filling out the application form and an informal interview.’ 

What might the call be like? Find out more in this video.

How universities view Clearing phone calls

We’re looking to make sure that an applicant in Clearing has made a considered choice to choose our university and the opportunities and the student experience that we offer here. David Giles | Head Of Admissions - University Of East Anglia

The most important thing I would ever ask a student is ‘why do you want to study my subject, and why do you want to do it at my university?' Regardless of whether they’re coming through Clearing or the regular cycle, it’s really the students who can best answer this that will stand out the most. Matthew Leeke | Admissions Tutor - University Of Warwick

Applying to uni through Clearing? Here are some tips from students.

Preparing for your Clearing call 

Do your research

Our course and university profiles can help with this. You don't necessarily need to know a course's male-to-female ratio off by heart, but you should know what modules it offers and perhaps what some of their graduates have gone on to do, for instance. When asked why you want to study that course, this sort of information can feed perfectly into your answer. All of this will show that you've done your homework about them and are serious about applying (as opposed to simply trying to grab whatever you can).

Plus, it's as much about whether they are a good fit for you as you are for them. Read the student comments on their profile to see what current students feel you should know and what their experience has been like.

Learn more about a course including full entry requirements, what you’ll study and student satisfaction scores – search for a course now.

Make notes

For each university you’re planning to phone, have a list of notes or bullet points to hand about why a certain course or university appeals to you. Plus, think of a couple of questions to ask them to really demonstrate that you're keen. Our list of open day questions might be worth taking a look at.

Having some pointers to glance at can help steer what you say (especially if you're nervous), cover the important bits and make a positive impression straight away.

Practise your answers

To help you prepare for questions you might be asked, think back to what you were asked at any admissions interviews you attended. You can also read our guide to common Clearing call questions to see the difference between a good and bad answer to the same question.

Practise saying these out loud so they sound natural rather than too rehearsed. Noting down some brief bullet points for each can help make your answers sound more spontaneous and ‘off-the-cuff’. 

Preparing for your call? Check out this video from our sister site The Student Room to make sure you're ready.

Your Clearing call checklist

Organisation is key when it comes to make the call. Here are some essential tips:

Before the call

  • Have your Ucas ID, Clearing number and grades close to hand.
  • Have a few (working) pens and paper next to you, to write down names, phone numbers and times to call back.
  • Keep your notes with what you want to say and your list of numbers nearby.
  • Re-read and print out your personal statement, so you can refer to that too.
  • Head to a quiet room where you won't be disturbed.
  • Keep your phone charged! 

During the call

  • In the busy Clearing period you might find you’re on hold for a while be patient and don’t panic if you can’t get through straight away.
  • If it's engaged, don't waste time move on to your next option and try again later.
  • Get names, emails and direct phone numbers in case you have to re-connect or follow up. ‘Universities often involve extra staff to cover the Clearing period so it’s important to know who has provided information if you need to ring back,’ careers adviser Stella Barnes explains.
  • Speak clearly and confidently and don't be afraid to be honest about why you think you didn't achieve your grades, if asked.
  • Sell yourself why should the tutor give you a place on the course? Use examples to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject area, and make specific references to something about that particular course you uncovered during your research.
  • As a politics student at Coventry University sums up: ‘Treat it like speed-dating; if they can't offer you what you are looking for, move on!'

After the call

  • After you’ve got your verbal offer from the university you want to go to (and you're sure about going there!), head straight to Ucas Track to do all the necessary paperwork/electronic admin.
  • Sort out accommodation. Some institutions will set aside space in campus halls for students coming in through Clearing. However, if your university can't guarantee you this, they'll at least be able to point you in the right direction to private landlords and letting agents in the area.
  • Update your student finance body to tell them where you'll be heading to. Depending on where you'll be studying, you might get a little more in financial support.
We have a special Clearing hub full of helpful advice for each stage of the Clearing process, from coming up with back-up courses quickly (and sensibly) and making that all-important Clearing call.

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