'I hadn’t thought of going up north before’
Stephanie Tritton was forced to hunt for an alternative course after missing the grades she needed to read music at Exeter. She was so impressed with the enthusiasm of staff running a similar degree at the University of Hull that she snapped up a place when they offered her one – even sticking with it when her original first choice changed its mind and accepted her after all.
“Exeter wanted BBC and I got BDE, so my headmaster contacted them and pleaded with them to give me a place,” recalls Stephanie, now 25 and studying for a doctorate in 17th-century English music publishing at Manchester. “It would have been stupid to wait while they thought about it, because places go quickly through Clearing, so I got onto Hull and was put through to someone in the department, who asked me some questions and said I could have a place.
“Within a day Exeter got back and said they would still accept me, but I decided to stick with Hull, mainly because I’d looked on the website and the course sounded really good.
As I hadn’t previously thought about going up north, I hadn’t bothered researching northern universities, but my dad knew something about Hull and told me it was an interesting place.”
Nine years on, Stephanie, from Chichester, still credits her father with steadying her nerves enough to make the right choice: “I couldn’t stop crying, but dad took over and made a list of all the places to phone. He was brilliant.”
‘It’s essential that you get on the phone straight away’
If there’s one tip Tim Siddall would give any university applicant who fails to achieve the Ucas points they need to get onto their first-choice course it would be to check with admissions staff before going elsewhere. A short phone chat with Thames Valley University was all it took to secure his place on its BA honours degree in music technology and radio broadcasting – despite the fact his grades weren’t up to scratch
“I was asked for two decent A-level passes, including a C in music technology, but I got a D in that, a B in drama, and an E in physics,” explains Tim, 21, from Backwell, near Bristol. “I was devastated, but I decided to get on the phone, and do what I could to get the place. When I spoke to the admissions office I explained that, although I’d missed a C, I had a good portfolio and I’d be happy to show it to them. In the end I didn’t need to – they offered me a place.”
Tim, who graduated with a First last year and is now reading an MA in audio technology, adds: “It’s essential you get on the phone straightaway, because you never know how many other people are in the same position. You only need 10 or 20 others to miss their grades, or a few to have done better than expected and gone elsewhere, and there could be a place available for you.”
‘Clearing was so simple that I did everything myself’
When 19-year-old Keshia Simms received a string of B grades instead of the straight As she needed to read law at the University of Kent she was determined to stick to the same institution – even if it meant switching to a different course. After agreeing to move campuses, from Canterbury to Medway, she achieved the best of both worlds, securing a place on a new degree in criminal justice studies which covered much the same ground.
“I got a letter from Ucas which said, ‘These are the options’, but Iwasn’t happy, because I was looking at things like law and Spanish or law and history – which would be even more challenging than straight law,”
says Keshia, from Caterham, Surrey. “Because Clearing was so simple to use, I did everything myself, and got on with it straightaway. I phoned Kent and spoke to a man about criminal justice studies, who made it sound really interesting.”
So inspiring has Keshia found the first year of her degree that – despite having recently been offered the chance to switch to law – she’s staying put. “With law you can only go through the solicitor or barrister routes,” she says, “but with this you can go into the Probation Service or the Prison Service as well. Now, I’m looking to become a probation officer. I had my heart set on becoming a solicitor before, but this course changed my mind.”