The clearing system offers students another chance to get on a course
EVERY STUDENT dreads getting their exam results. For some it is a time of celebration as they look forward to starting a new life at their dream university or college to study the course they had set their heart upon.

But for others it can be an anxious time as they decide whether to retake their exams and try again, or use the qualifications they have got and try to study at a different college or university.

Just because you fail to meet the conditions your chosen college or university set for you, it is not the end of your academic career. In 1997 more than 54,000 students secured places through clearing, which runs from mid-July until mid-October, and there were vacancies in more than 21,000 courses.

If you do not get the results you require, it is still worth phoning the university or college to see if they will accept you.

If this fails, you will be sent a clearing entry form by UCAS which can be used to apply to universities or colleges that have vacancies, but only to one at a time.

The first step is to start looking at clearing lists which are printed every day in The Independent. The list, which is also published on Ceefax and the UCAS website,, includes all UK course vacancies available that day.

Once students have found a course they want to study, they should contact the university or college. If the admissions staff are interested in you, they will ask you to send your clearing form to them for consideration.

But remember your form can only be sent to one institution at a time and photocopies will not be accepted, so be sure the course is the one for you.

Once your place has been agreed, you will receive an AS18 letter from UCAS which will officially confirm your place.

UCAS Head of Operations Paul McClure said: "The most important thing to do during Clearing is to be available. Some applicants ask their parents or teachers to do some work on their behalf, perhaps because they are on holiday.

This is not a good idea. Admissions tutors are not impressed when they cannot speak to or even see the applicant themselves.

Anne-Marie Trainor, 27, from London, is one of the thousands of students who have successfully found a place through the clearing system.

She needed A-Level grades A,B,C to study theatre studies at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London, but was turned down when she got four A-levels grades C,C,D,E.

She said: "I was disappointed and just kept thinking but my dad was really behind me and helped me get through the clearing system.

"We looked in the papers every day for the sort of course I wanted to do. I got into a few colleges and went for interviews and then I just chose one of them.

"In the end I got accepted to study English Literature and Sociology at St Mary's College, Twickenham."