Clearing: find a course you click with

Clearing is fast, efficient and online – so finding the right institution is easier than ever, says James Morrison

If there’s one thing that keeps Steven Holdcroft smiling as he hunkers down for his umpteenth Clearing marathon it’s the knowledge that, sooner or later, he’ll have made someone’s day.

His 16 years in university admissions have accustomed him to every type of reaction from students frantically casting around for a place after failing to make the grade for their chosen course. But by far the most rewarding are when their cries of despair turn to delight.

“Every year we get students on the line who have missed their grades, but who we can accept anyway or offer an alternative,” says Holdcroft, head of information, recruitment, and admissions at the University of Kent (Medway). The university takes 15 per cent of its students through Clearing. “When someone is in tears but you calm them down and sort something out, it’s really satisfying.”

Emotions can run high

Clearing fortnight is always an emotional rollercoaster. There are, after all, few sleepless nights to rank alongside the one before you get your hands on that ominous bit of paper showing your A-level results. But if you find yourself facing a column of grades lower than you’d expected, all is not lost: of the 413,000 university applicants given firm places last summer, nearly one in 10 (39,000) secured them through Clearing.

Find your course online

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, finding a last-minute place has never been easier. Whereas applicants would once have spent days trying to secure a berth at university – waiting for individual prospectuses to reach them in the post, then painstakingly wading through in search of viable substitute courses – the internet has revolutionised this process.

Today everything can be sorted out within hours: a visit to the Ucas online Track service will confirm whether you have scraped in, or have indeed lost your place, while the Clearing website offers a handy A-Z of courses looking to fill vacancies.

A few mouse-clicks later you could be reading through a term-by-term breakdown of a degree that, though not your original choice, makes an inspiring fall-back option.

But be warned: all this user-friendly advice comes at a price. With such detailed information available at the tap of a key, applicants now have little excuse to complain if a course is not right for them once they’ve enrolled. By the time you dial an institution’s Clearing hotline and ask to be put through to the relevant faculty, you’ll need to be crystal clear about what questions to ask – and once you accept a place you must be certain it’s right for you.

“Students need to take responsibility,” says Martha Hebblethwaite, student recruitment manager at St George’s, University of London. “Clearing’s a bit like shopping, but students should consider who they phone, and research courses properly before calling. They may be relieved to be offered anything, but they must make sure it’s the right place and course for them.”

Don't panic!

Olivia Ramsbottom, student recruitment manager at the University of Derby, which has a video on its website in which students accepted via Clearing recount their experiences, also says it is vital to stay calm. “Breathe, check your options, and don’t panic,” she says. “Don’t just start ringing people: look at websites first. You must have some idea of where you want to go geographically, and what you want to do. In most areas there will be really valid courses, even if they’re not ones that immediately spring to mind. Maybe you’re set on doing media studies, but what about multimedia, film, or photography?”

Of course, before you reach this stage you’ll need to have summoned the courage to pick up the phone. A common complaint of universities is that many calls they receive are from anxious parents ringing on behalf of their even more worried children. So frustrated have universities become with this trend that some, like St George’s, now refuse to speak to anyone other than the students themselves, on data protection grounds.

This, and a desire to tackle another perennial complaint – that students are often away on holiday, and unavailable to contact Clearing, when their results arrive – has moved Ucas to introduce a new system this year, allowing applicants to use named intermediaries to negotiate their places for them. More than two-thirds have taken advantage this year – the vast majority nominating their parents.

Although you need to be focused and precise in your dealings with Clearing, you’re unlikely to find yourself forced into a decision by most institutions. While universities may be eager to recruit students for under-subscribed degrees, faculties entering Clearing know it’s not in their interest to take late applicants unless convinced they will stay the course.

Jason Morrison, 22, one of a team of trained student advocates who manned the phones for Thames Valley University last year, and an interviewee on The Clearing Show, a chat show designed to dispel nerves about the process that can be downloaded from its website, says: “I think it helps involving students in answering the Clearing lines, because we’re not fulltime university staff, so we’re not blinkered by financial issues, or having to find people to fill specific courses. I don’t want to get a student into a course for the sake of it.”

  • The official Ucas listings will be published in The Independent newspaper and online onThursday.
  • To check if your university place has been confirmed or declined, visit Track on www.ucas.com/students/track before deciding to enter Clearing.
  • For general information on Clearing, visit www.ucas.com/clearing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

FDM Group: Business and Technical IT Consultants – London, Manchester, Glasgow

21,000-24,000: FDM Group: Kick-start your career and join FDM’s award-winning ...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there