Having worked in university admissions for fourteen years, I’ve witnessed almost everything a prospective student can do on A-level results day, and have a good idea of what students do to either help or hinder their chances. For many, 18 August will be an exciting time when all the hard work finally comes to fruition, while, for others, the day will take an unexpected twist and they'll find themselves needing to rethink their plans and make some quick decisions.
The run-up to results day is a nervous time and it’s understandable that students could feel overwhelmed. With a bit of extra preparation, even students who find exams don't go as expected can remember results day for all the right reasons, so here is some advice on what not to do when going through Clearing and Adjustment:
1. Assume you won’t need to do anything
Of course, it’ll probably be okay - most students get into their firm choice. But even if you’re confident of getting the grades you need, it pays to be prepared, so you should make sure that, before results day, you’ve got the helpline numbers for your firm and insurance choices to hand. Have your Ucas ID ready. Get a full charge on your phone. Be prepared to take careful notes about any calls you make. If you’re going to be away, know who to get in touch with at your school or college in case you need advice.
Also, before the big day itself, think about what it is you want from university and what sort of institution you want, and do a bit of research in case you find yourself in Clearing - universities advertise vacancies early these days, so it’s easier than ever to get an idea in advance of what might be available on results day.
2. Get your parents or teachers to do the calling
If you find yourself needing to call universities to talk about your options, make sure you do it yourself. You’re the potential student, and it’s you universities will want to speak to. Don’t worry if you feel emotional or nervous - the people you speak to will be used to dealing with students in a stressful situation and will understand. Do be ready to tell a university why you want to do the course they’re offering; it pays to jot down a few notes about this before you call, as well as any questions you might have, such as whether you get accommodation, or if you’re able to visit the campus.
3. Chase every possible course indiscriminately
If you find yourself without a place at all because you haven’t got into your firm or insurance, you might be tempted to accept anything you can get. While it’s true you need to act pretty quickly to bag the most in-demand courses, there will be thousands of vacancies across the country for longer than you might think, and you can afford to take the time to find the right course for you.
Overall, think about what you want from a course, what sort of university appeals to you, and how far away from home you want to be - all these things still matter when you're applying through Clearing and you should make sure any course you call about ticks your boxes. And don’t say yes to your first offer unless you’re absolutely certain it’s the one for you - it’s fine to ask for time to make your decision.
4. Be pressured into changing your mind
Maybe you’ve had some second thoughts about your choices recently. Maybe you’ve done better than you thought you would and you find you’re eligible for Adjustment. Results day is potentially a time to make changes, but, equally, don’t feel you have to if you don’t want to. If you’ve got your place confirmed, think carefully before looking for alternatives: remember what made you choose your course and university in the first place.
If you’re genuinely not happy with where you’ve ended up - or you think options are now open to you which you really didn’t consider before - then do some research and make some calls, but don’t rush into anything. Remember: you have five days to find an alternative place if you use Adjustment.. And if you’re truly happy and excited about your confirmed choice, enjoy looking forward to it and don’t feel you have to ‘trade up’ just because you can.
Results time can be hugely stressful, especially if you haven’t got what you wanted, but, for the vast majority of people, things will work out. Maybe you’ll end up going somewhere you didn’t anticipate going, but, if you go there with enthusiasm, commitment, and an open mind, it could be the best thing you ever did.
Lynsey Hopkins is the head of admissions at the University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield is allowing prospective students to advance register their interest in a degree course more than two weeks before A-level results are published, from 1 August 2016, getting them ahead of the queue when Clearing begins. Find out more information here.
Anyone who gets a place through this Clearing or Adjustment process will also be offered guaranteed accommodation, to make sure their move to the city is as stress-free as possible.
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