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Ten pieces of advice on clearing from an admissions tutor

There are blue skies at the end of Clearing. Man and laptop via Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

You’ve got your A Level results and things are not how you imagined they would be. Maybe you didn’t do as well as you thought you would. Or maybe you didn’t think you wanted to go to university but now you’ve got results which make that a real possibility. The chances are that you haven’t given Plan B much consideration.

Never fear, you are about to enter the realm of clearing, where courses with places available are on the lookout for keen, bright students to fill them. Read up about the clearing process on the UCAS website and then …


  1. Involve your parents (or a favourite teacher, they’ll still want the best for you and can offer good advice) in a calm discussion about all the options open to you. All of them. Even not going to university this year. It may feel like a crisis if you didn’t get the grades you needed but it’s not the end of the world. Show this list to your parents, you are not the only person in this situation and it’s by no means a disaster.

  2. Consider and research courses with slightly different titles related to your interests. There are some great courses out there. University helplines can really help if you tell them about your interests and grades. Start with the university you originally applied to if you’re short of the right grades.

  3. Before you phone a course to discuss a place do the research – read the course information on their website – all of it! Why didn’t you apply there in the first place? What contribution will you make to the course? They’ll want to know that you’re keen, interested and likely to turn up and work hard. Be ready to ask some questions of them, about the course or subject, it will show you’re interested.

  4. Be honest and be yourself on the phone. Most staff will want a chat to find out about you, they will want you to succeed and be an asset to their course and contribute to the life of the university. Tell them about your interests outside your academic subject. Think of it as having a conversation or a friendly chat.

  5. Find a quiet place to make the call, without interruption from well-meaning family. Make notes during the conversation. If you’re phoning around you’ll forget who said what from which university. Ask how to spell the name of the person you’re talking to, and a contact number or email so you can get back in touch.


  1. Tempting though it may be don’t get your mum (or dad) to make the phone call for you, don’t. If you’re at work make the call during a break or lunchtime and agree a time to call back.

  2. Don’t commit to a university course if it’s more important to your parents than it is to you. If you didn’t work hard enough in school, will you be able to sustain interest in further study and be self-motivated? You’ll have to have a pretty strong idea of what else you’ll do, and be prepared to pay your way if you want to live at home. But there are other opportunities out there. Once you’ve been out in the real world you might have a better idea of an area of study you really want to pursue. Most universities value life experience as well as grades.

  3. Don’t be restricted by prejudice. If you didn’t get the grades for the university you wanted, take a look at ones you overlooked, check out what people who study there say about their course on social media. Ask the staff member you talk to whether there are any current students you could talk to or talk to the student’s union in that university.

  4. Don’t rush into it. Talk to a few courses and sleep on it. Nobody’s going to ask you to make a big decision instantly. There’s plenty of time. Check out accommodation options, who else you know in the area and even visit if it’s somewhere unfamiliar.

  5. Don’t panic. Lots of successful people have had unexpected twists and turns in their lives. In years to come this period will be part of your life story, and life is what you make of it. Good luck!

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