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
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Foundation / Year 1 Teacher - Long Term - Salford

£90 - £130 per day + competitive rates, pension scheme: Randstad Education Man...

SEN Teacher

£120 - £140 per day + ?DOE: Randstad Education Maidstone: SEN Teacher Kent

Year 5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: KS2 Supply Teacher Position avai...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil