Get yourself in the clear

Speaking to an admissions tutor is an important part of clearing, so it pays to be prepared... and to know what you want from your course
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The Independent Online

When you speak to an admissions tutor, you are bound to be nervous. What ogre is waiting at the end of the line to interrogate you, make you feel small or grab you for a course? Reality isn't like that, but it's not so simple as giving your grades and being offered a place. When you talk to an admissions tutor, expect some questions! And have some answers ready.

When you speak to an admissions tutor, you are bound to be nervous. What ogre is waiting at the end of the line to interrogate you, make you feel small or grab you for a course? Reality isn't like that, but it's not so simple as giving your grades and being offered a place. When you talk to an admissions tutor, expect some questions! And have some answers ready.

The obvious queries are "Why this course?" "And why here?" - the sort of things you were asked if you had an interview earlier in the year.

Dr Stuart Ashenden in Greenwich University's School of Engineering regards Clearing as a time for counselling as much as selecting. "I do need to talk to the student in person - not their parents - and I need to know that they have thought seriously about engineering. For a trouble-free ride through university or college they need to know what they are letting themselves in for."

When you ring an admissions tutor to discuss a vacancy during Clearing, they need to know from you that you are motivated to do the subject you are calling about and not just looking at the first thing on the vacancy list.

"Nothing should be done in a hurry," says Stuart Ashenden. "I always tell applicants that they still have some time to think things over and I invite students who seem genuinely interested to come in for a one-to-one discussion."

That way, they can decide together whether the student is making the right decision, he says. "If I feel they are not heading in the right direction, I suggest alternatives. Their A-levels might suggest that engineering might be more suitable - or have they considered alternatives like computing or geology?"

HOW CLEARING WORKED FOR ME

Safia Maqsood, 19, has just finished the first year of a BSc in information management at Manchester Metropolitan University

I was disappointed when I got my A-level results last year - information technology C, human biology D, economics C and sociology C. It wasn't enough for my place to do sociology with criminology at the University of Central England.

I was advised to try Clearing. It was really well organised. There was a room set aside with lots of phones, all the reference books, the Clearing lists - and teachers and careers advisers to help us.

I decided that I would try now for a place nearer home and looked through Manchester Metropolitan's prospectus. I rang but found that the grades for my course were high there too. I then said that IT was my second best A-level and that I had debated whether to apply for that originally. I was put through to an admissions tutor. He was very nice and asked me a few questions. It was obvious I knew what would be involved, so he told me more, then invited me in. I was offered a place and have enjoyed my first year.

Christopher Verrall, 19, has just completed a foundation year in computer systems and software engineering at Greenwich University

In the sixth form at Howard School, Gillingham I applied through UCAS for software engineering. I then had second thoughts and decided that I would rather earn a living!

But I found it wasn't as easy to get a job with A-levels as I had thought. I wasn't confident I could get a degree but I talked to my head of sixth form who encouraged me and said that I could do it. I decided to wait for my results.

When I got them they were just good enough. I had a D and an E - but the results of some modules I had retaken weren't on the certificate. I rang Greenwich which had been my original first choice. I explained that I wasn't quite sure which course I should apply for and was put through an admissions tutor. He said I could go on the degree course, but that I could also think about a four-year degree including a foundation year.

My maths and science were weak, so my head of sixth form suggested the extra year. I accepted a place - and will now move on to the three-year BEng course.

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