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.'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album