Of course it's easy for me to sit here and tell you not to panic. For many students, when they open the results letter and find that they haven't quite got the grades they needed, it can be a desperate feeling.
But your path to higher education is easy. You just need to know where to start, and to feel confident that you can make it. There are literally thousands of people around the country to help you find a course; in universities and colleges, your school, and at dedicated organisations such as UCAS, `The Independent' and the BBC.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what you should do from here. You may first want to know how the Clearing process will work for you. The best place for you is UCAS, the administration hub of the university and college network. They have a dedicated enquiry team who will answer your application queries, whether by phone, e-mail or letter, such as how to fill in your Clearing Entry Form (CEF). Be patient though. Last year they fielded 85,000 calls during August alone.
Please note though, the UCAS enquiry team cannot provide you with course vacancy enquiries. They are there simply to help you understand the process of Clearing.
Get on the Web!
Once you have worked out how the system works, there is no stopping you from finding the college and course that is right for you. You could try starting with the `Alternative Guide To British Universities - 2000', (Virgin, pounds 14.99). This is, so the advert goes, the only guide written by students for students, presenting an honest portrait of what each university is "really" like. If you want to know which bar in the student union serves the cheapest pint, this is the book for you.
But of course, before you make any choices, you need to make the most important decision: which course will you do?
Get yourself on the Internet. It was made for people like you! The most popular is the UCAS website at www.ucas.ac.uk. This has THE MOST up-to- date course vacancy listings. Not only does this site provide the course vacancies at every higher education institution in the country, there are also links to information pages on every institution, and to their own home pages.
Making use of the Internet could be invaluable, and is likely to become the first medium for prospective students seeking to get into university in the future. Virginia Isaac, general manager of UCAS Enterprises, says: "1998 was the first time that use of the Internet has been really significant for Clearing and we expect many more people to use it this year."
UCAS also expects to see many students and personal tutors at their schools and colleges using the Internet to search for vacancies as soon as the results are through. If you haven't got the grades you wanted, the sooner you get down to looking for the place at college you deserve, the better.
All the universities have highly-developed websites giving you an idea of the institution you may want to apply to. But remember, by the time you have decided on a course, you should be speaking to admissions officers directly. They will want to find out about you and why you want to do one of their courses, requiring the `personal' touch of a phone call.
BBC Student Choice '99 also gives you the information you need via TV, Radio, Ceefax and the Internet. Plus a free helpline for independent advice on entering university or college supported by UCAS, as well as the DfEE, The Careers Service, The Scottish Careers Service and The Scottish Office of Education and Industry Department. Mike Greenwood, Commissioning Executive for BBC Education, said: "Anyone who has sat exams knows the stomach-churning feeling of waiting for results to arrive. The campaign aims to help students and parents take difficult decisions with information on air in a range of programmes, a website and through a helpline."
Student Choice Helpline: Freephone 0800 101 901 - lines are open from 6th-27th August 10am-6pm - Extended services are provided for: Scottish Higher results 6-7th August 8am-8pm - A-level results 19-20th August 8am- 8pm BBC Television: Sunday 22nd August, 12-1pm on BBC2. Jayne Middlemiss presents Student Choice 99, bringing you all the information you need on making the most of your grades. Including advice on clearing procedures, student fees and loans, re-sits, taking a year out and university life. BBC Radio: Including Radio 1's `Exam Slam', Radio Scotland's `Making The Grade' and Radio 5 Live's Ian Payne Show. Ceefax: BBC2 page 700 - Ceefax provides full daily listing of all course vacancies. Internet: www.bbc.co.uk/education/choice - The Student Choice 99 website is full of information and advice.
In the Clearing
For the ninth year running, the only broadsheet paper in Britain to publish the official UCAS Clearing listings, up-dated daily, will be `The Independent' and `The Independent On Sunday', as well as on our website...
In our daily Clearing supplements, we will be producing special focus articles on some of the vast number of courses available; from chemistry on Wednesday 25 August to business and finance on Thursday 16 September.Reuse content