If you’ve applied through UCAS and are very worried, or even absolutely certain that your exams did not go well at all, you might be looking into Clearing right now. It seems extremely uncertain and daunting, but what you can always do is call the universities you’re interested in attending and ask if you could talk to someone to discuss options with you. After you’ve received your results and are either unhappy with your options or haven’t received the grades needed for them, you’ll be going through Clearing.
This year, Clearing begins on the 5th of July, coinciding with IB results. On the day, vacancies will be announced: on the UCAS website, in national newspapers, and on university websites. You can see Exeter’s Clearing vacancies and pre-register for advance information on their website: www.exeter.ac.uk/clearing. UCAS also has a guide on their website.
If you already went through the UCAS process and were unfortunately not eligible for your choices, the email welcoming you to Track should contain your Clearing number. If you haven’t, you should register and apply first. You are in Clearing once your Track status says so. If you didn’t achieve your grades but are not yet in Clearing, your choices might still be considering you. At this point, UCAS advises you to get in contact with those choices to inquire.
If you are in Clearing, the first thing you should do is go through the vacancies on the UCAS website and make note of all the places you’re interested in. Give yourself a little time and refresh the page frequently, as better options may crop up later on. Don’t bypass places that have rejected you previously: if it’s in Clearing, you have a chance. Consider everything you looked at when choosing your original options: cost of living, rent, location, accessibility, student-staff ratio… You’ll have less time to do it, but try nonetheless and make sure you don’t go somewhere that will make you regret not having done more research. Once you have a few ideas of where you’d like to go, call the universities and ask for their grade requirements. Places go quickly, so there is a balance between taking the time to find and research the best options and not letting them be taken up; if you can, ask your relatives to help call the universities as well. You don’t need to worry if you get several verbal offers, as ultimately you will be the one to choose which university you want to go to, no matter how many offers you received.
On the phone, you will need to give your Clearing number and personal ID number. Also ask the university whether they have a clearing weekend event. My own campus offers this, which I attended (though I didn’t go through clearing, but got an alternative offer). They might offer you a place in accommodation for a night, a chance to talk to ambassadors and lecturers from your course, and more. This is worth attending, if you are able to. It gives you a feel for the place you might be living in soon. Although places on the Clearing vacancy list go quickly, if you go to a Clearing event and dislike one campus, you are likely to still be able to find somewhere else you will love with engaging staff, an interesting course and a beautiful location suited to your preferences and needs. Do not settle out of fear that you won’t be able to go anywhere.
You might get a verbal offer over the phone, or you might have to go through a few steps such as filling in and signing forms or confirming by email. Always remember to ask the name of the person you are speaking to and to record the details of whatever you need to write into Track or application forms. If you can’t do that immediately, make sure to have some paper and pens before you begin calling so that you can take note of the next thing you need to do. You can even call the university again later to have someone talk you through any application forms. After you’ve had an offer you’re happy with, you’ll need to add your clearing choice into Track – please note you can only do this if you have permission from the university to do it (the verbal offer over the phone). Click on “add clearing choice” and fill in the details to do this.
Last but not least, examine your other options. It might be worth trying again a year later; re-examining your course choices, perhaps re-sitting an exam you really believe you can do better on. This might even give you an opportunity to save up for your first year and take more time to visit universities over the next few months. This may seem like an extremely rushed time where every decision must be a snap decision and you fear being left behind, but not everyone moves at the same pace and often, better opportunities come along by surprise. I’ve met people who stayed at their parents’ house for three years and held down a job the whole time to finance their studies, and others who just couldn’t wait to leave, and most of them have no regrets. University really is what you make it, whether you go now or in your own time, when you can go where you most want to go.
Above all, do your research and don’t panic. Good luck!