Which Way 99: clearing file: making the calls

going through Clearing means you'll have to spend time on the phone. Here's how to go about it.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You've got your results. They are lower than required for the place you were holding. Get on the phone at once to your university/college to find out whether they might still take you. Ask to speak to the admissions tutor for your course. Be prepared to wait. (You won't be the only caller!) You might be put through to the course director or it may be to another member of staff who is helping out with calls. But whoever it is will either know the answer, or will tell you that no decision has yet been made and that you may have to ring again later. What do you say? Something along the lines of, "Good morning my name is... I have just received my exam results and my grades are not quite what you asked for. I wondered whether you might still take me."

Yes ?

Go out and celebrate!

No ?

So the worst has happened. You have not obtained your place. You know there are places out there. People are nagging at you to get on the phone and find one. Not that easy is it? You are upset. Your confidence has been knocked. And they expect you to ring a total stranger and sell yourself? Unfortunately, that is exactly what you have to do - and the places go to those who (a) act quickly - but see below, and (b) convince admissions tutors of their enthusiasm.

An admissions tutor's advice

Julie Williams is the admissions tutor for law at the University of Glamorgan. She says: "There is no need to be afraid when phoning. We are not ogres. We know how anxious students are and we really want to offer them places.

"But there are ways of making the phone call. Crying down the phone to someone you have never met isn't one of them! It doesn't achieve anything. You should be aiming to establish a relationship with that person. Blurting out, `What grades do you want?' doesn't help either. Take your time and work out what you are going to say first. I'll listen."

What are Julie and her colleagues looking for? "Someone who wants to do my subject at my institution. Not a student who has simply picked us out as a possibility from the Clearing lists and is obviously doing the rounds. The phone call will turn into what is effectively a mini-interview. I'm asking myself: `Do they know why they want to do law? Are they thinking of entering the legal profession? Have they found out anything about training after a degree? Or do they want to study the subject for interest rather than vocational reasons? Have they found out how this course differs from others?'

"I'll need to know why they want to come here - and I'm going to be very careful to establish that they know exactly where we are. There's nothing worse than someone ending a conversation with, `Oh. I didn't realise you were in the middle of the countryside/in a big city/so far north!'

"It is important to ring as soon as possible, but rather than rush for the phone, Clearing list in hand, take time to read prospectuses and find out about the courses first.

"I don't like to make offers blind and I'm sure many other admissions tutors feel the same way. We want students who will be happy with the place they have chosen. So if you are offered the opportunity to visit, take it - even if it means negotiating time off from a summer job.

"One last point. I want to speak to you, not to your mum, dad or teacher. They can't win a place for you. So ring us yourself."

Tips

Your opening sentence could be something like this: "Good morning my name is... I have just received my exam results and I am not holding a place anywhere. I got these grades... and I wondered whether you would be prepared to consider me."

That tells the admissions teacher immediately what they need to know. They can now begin the "interview".

Do: Have all these written down in case you forget them:

(a) The name of your exam board or validating body (eg BTEC)

(b) The name, address and, if possible, phone number of the person at school or college who can be contacted for a reference.

(c) Your UCAS application number or Clearing Entry Form number if you already have it.

(d) Any dates on which you really couldn't attend for an interview/visit/open day.

Don't: This sounds obvious. If your school/college is letting you use their phone, don't forget that you'll have to dial for an outside line. Otherwise you will get through to your own (confused) receptionist. And yes, this does happen!

If anyone is feeling like their bad A-level grades are the end of the world, then listen to David Hamilton, initially from Barnet in North London. He did his A-levels in 1986 and failed to get the grades he needed. He now works in Seattle, USA, as a product manager for Microsoft. He wasn't prepared to divulge his income, but will admit that: "My stock options are worth a few millions!"

"I was horrified to see my A-level grades - CCE when I needed BBB to do a law degree at either Bristol or Birmingham Universities. I simply had not considered that I wouldn't get my grades.

"But this actually turned out to be a blessing for me. I had time to sit down and work out what I really wanted to do. Because I hadn't prepared for Clearing I spent the first couple of days working out how Clearing worked, and when I did start to enter the system I was confused because of my lack of preparation.

"In the end, though, I had the time to work out what was right for me, so I ended up applying for a philosophy and psychology degree at the University of Ulster. I loved my degree and ended up with a first! I went on and took an MSc in experimental psychology at Sussex University, which involved a lot of work with computers. With that I have now moved on to work for Microsoft in Seattle."

FRANCES VAUGHAN, 21

21, from Hyde in Cheshire. "I initially applied to do Computing and Accountancy at Leeds University. They offered me a place with BBC grades at A-level, but I ended up with CDE which I was gutted about.

"I had an insurance offer from Liverpool University, but when I rang them they could not offer me a place either, so I had to go for Clearing.

"I really wanted to study in Leeds as the city has the kind of jobs I was after. There were very few colleges that offered the kind of course I was after, so I went for a straight computing course.

"I rang Leeds Metropolitan which had spaces on its computing course. It took a little while to get through because the switchboard was jammed with other callers, but when I did get through I spoke to the admissions officer. She asked me a few simple questions - what GCSE grades I got, why I wanted to do the course, etc - and she seemed really happy with me. I was basically offered a place there and then."

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