How to avoid making mistakes in Clearing

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The Independent Online

The Clearing process has been set up to be as straightforward as possible and UCAS and the universities will help as much as they can. But there are a few situations you can avoid that will make life easier from your end.

The Clearing process has been set up to be as straightforward as possible and UCAS and the universities will help as much as they can. But there are a few situations you can avoid that will make life easier from your end.

First of all, this isn't a time to be jetting off to the sun. You may feel you richly deserve a break; but put any plans on hold for a few weeks. And this really is something you need to organise for yourself; your mum or your mates can't put your case to universities on your behalf. You may also need to be prepared to do some travelling around, whether for interviews or to visit campuses. "It's important that you deal with your Clearing application yourself. Admissions tutors will want to see you or speak to you in person," says Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS.

It's well worth having a back-up plan, however confident you are. Undergraduate Steve Bloomfield, who went to Liverpool University to study politics via Clearing, says it's reassuring to have a clear idea of what you'll do and where you might go if you don't get one of your first choices. "I didn't do that," he admits. "But I was lucky, because one of the six universities I'd originally applied to still had vacancies."

If you need to use your backup plan, get on with it as soon as you can. "Don't hang about: get on the phone," advises William Callaway, registrar at the University of Hertfordshire. "Most universities these days have a fairly sophisticated Clearing operation, with plenty of lines, so you should get a quick response." This advice applies no matter how disappointed you might be feeling initially. "It's impossible not to feel despondent at first, but you have to pick yourself up and get on the phone as soon as you can," says Steve Bloomfield.

Don't, however, feel you have to do everything all on your own. "There's plenty of help and advice on offer, from your school or college, from UCAS, from the universities and colleges, and from services like BBC One Life, so don't try to go it alone," advises Tony Higgins of UCAS.

And don't make a snap decision. Speed is important, but you do still have time to make a considered choice. "The last thing anyone would want is for you to turn up on the first day and not like it," says William Callaway of the University of Hertfortshire. Apart from academic credentials, he says, the fundamentals still apply; whether you'd like to be city-based or would prefer a campus atmosphere, and so on. Try to visit if at all possible, though time may be tight.

And finally (again) don't panic. Heather Angus, who's studying automotive engineering at Kingston University through Clearing, and is looking forward to a sandwich year in Italy working with the Ferrari Formula One team, says: "Don't worry about it. Everyone will want to help and listen to you. So see where you can go!"

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