Course Guidance: A long wait followed by a big rush to sign up

Candidate: Emma Jell, 19, Hartest, Suffolk

Needed: BBB for French and Russian at St Andrews

Results: BCD in Politics, French, History

Now: First-year BA French Studies at Goldsmiths' College, London University

'IT TOOK a couple of days for St Andrews and my second choice, Newcastle, to reject me. It was quite horrible. I started phoning universities from first thing in the morning, and I'd get through about two o'clock in the afternoon. Sometimes no one would answer; sometimes it would be engaged.

'It was confusing as well. Often I would be transferred from department to department and nobody knew quite who I should talk to. Or I would end up with a secretary taking my name because she couldn't think of anything else to do. That went on for about two weeks. Every morning I was making really long lists of universities, what they'd said, when I had to get back to them, just so I knew what I was doing.

'Then I started phoning polys as well. They seemed much more optimistic about me getting on a course. They seemed more helpful and organised: you were referred straightaway to the tutor, who was interested in you not just your grades.

'I waited so long to hear from the universities I put on my clearing form that I rang them, and they said they couldn't give me a place. So then I filled in another form saying UCCA could give my name to any university that had vacancies in French.

'One day the French tutor from Goldsmiths' rang up. I hadn't applied there because I wasn't too keen on being in London. She said, 'Would you like to come down and visit tomorrow?' I was a bit gobsmacked; I'd done nothing but wait around and suddenly it was a big rush.

'There were three of us visiting, and the tutor tried to get us to sign up for the course straightaway. The other two did, but I said I wanted to go home and think about it. She said the course was just about full, and she wanted an answer the next day.

'In the end I accepted. The school advised us to take any offer we got, because we could always pull out later. I still wonder whether a poly course that had more politics might have suited me better. I think I was swayed by Goldsmiths' being part of London University: it just seemed a bit more prestigious.'

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