Course Vacancies: Fine art of persuasion - Karen Gold says confidence is vital in plotting out your course of action

BE POLITE, be positive, be prepared. Those are the watchwords for anyone embarking on the marathon of telephone persuasion involved in Clearing. And when the admissions tutor you want finally comes to the phone, stand up.

Research has shown that people speak more confidently when they are standing up than when slumped in a chair, says Andrew Colman, psychologist and admissions tutor in psychology at Leicester University. Clearing candidates take note:

'Clearing people tend to present themselves very badly,' he says. 'I know they are demoralised and they might have already phoned several other universities. But the message that comes across is: 'You haven't got a place for me, have you?'

Some have so little confidence that they get parents or teachers to phone on their behalf. This is counter-productive, says Dr Colman. 'It creates the impression that either the candidate is incapable of doing this themselves, or they aren't motivated.'

Confidence depends on believing in what you are saying. If you are uncomfortably aware that you don't know what you are talking about, then you are unlikely to sound confident. You are also likely to be found out.

'People don't have to swot up the subject: tutors aren't going to give them an exam]' says Dr Colman. 'But we don't like to think someone has picked us out at random. We like to think they know about the place and the courses.'

The answer is to do your research before making phone calls. That applies particularly as you comb through vacancy lists looking for alternatives to your original choices of subject and college.

Every year the pattern of course availability is similar: business, humanities and social science courses attract masses of Clearing interest; engineering and science much less. Take advantage of that if your A levels permit it: a business and chemistry degree, for example, will be much more hopeful than straight business studies.

Look at modular degree courses which let you do your favourite subject together with bits of several others. You may discover surprising new interests. Don't forget about new courses, which may have more vacancies because they were not ready to recruit last autumn. You will find lists of these in material sent by UCCA and PCAS.

Keep an eye open for new routes into what you want to do. Reading University, for example, runs a revision course starting on 7 September for students who want to do physics and electronics but do not have the right grades. The three-week course brings you up to standard for the first year, and guarantees a degree place.

The University of Northumbria at Newcastle (formerly Newcastle Poly) has an 'extended degree programme', involving an extra foundation year whichcan guarantee a place on its computing, chemistry, maths and engineering degrees.

As you work through course details, bear in mind what you want. Do you want to specialise early or late? What kind of teaching and assessment suit you? Do you want a year abroad or a sandwich placement? Note down your ideas and add them to the notes which should be in front of you whenever you pick up the phone. 'Don't ramble on' urges Dr Colman. 'Bear in mind that the person on the other end of the phone is probably extremely hassled.

'Ask if it's convenient to talk; then make the points you have written down to explain why the tutor should take you. Tell them about good results in mocks; that you're very motivated, that you've shadowed a psychologist at work. 'I had a student once who rang from a call box. I initially said I was pretty well full up, but she was very persuasive without being rude. She said she was extremely keen and this was what she had always wanted to do and would be an excellent student.

'I was turning people away, but she seemed so keen that I took her for two reasons. One is that someone that keen is likely to be a good bet. The other is because it breaks your heart to turn someone that keen away.

'Of course, if someone is rude or rambling on the phone, or extra persuasive, that ought not to make a difference. But we are all influenced by our impressions. Admissions tutors are only human.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower