How To Survive Clearing!

Sixth Form Careers

As a parent who will be personally involved for the first time in the potential highs and lows of A Level results day this coming Thursday, Head of Careers Mr Mark Woodward offers some advice for Clearing, should the outcome be worse or better than expected.

Firstly let’s just say that a set of results does not define you. We are very proud of all our students and my experience from keeping in contact with so many former pupils is that they all have skills and character that future lecturers and employers will be delighted to develop. A piece of paper cannot replace everything achieved beforehand.

While I have seen all emotions on Results Day, my overriding memories are of students who have made positive decisions on the day and never looked back. Most students and even the parents affected move from shock and upset to total joy and relief, so if you know Clearing is in play, please do not lose heart.


So what is the advice for 2015?!


1. Do not give up hope!

  • You will definitely find a very positive alternative option – it may be a different university or course; it may even involve plans for an exciting and career-enhancing gap year.

  • You are definitely not alone – as well as family support, school will be open on Results Day and beyond. A lot of your tutors will also be available – in person or by email. 

  • The feeling this year especially is that, with the limit on places lifted, the ‘market’ is going to be favourable for students.


2. Be prepared!

  • Start early… the night before or even earlier! Look at what is available using the Daily Telegraph 'Clearing' app, and university websites and Twitter feeds. Universities are able to advertise courses available, from 6pm on Wednesday 12th.

  • Check you will have access to a PC or fully-charged tablet and mobile, with enough data to allow surfing. Don’t forget the 'old skool' pen and paper too!

  • Make sure you note down the Clearing hotline number of your firm and insurance choices, plus any numbers of universities you could be interested in. It is particularly helpful to have the numbers or email addresses of the specific departments as these forms of communication often prove far more helpful.

  • Have your UCAS number ready and check Track regularly.

  • You are going to have to sell yourself on the phone. Know what you want to study and why a new university should take you. Write a Twitter style profile statement to use with admissions tutors. First impressions are vital!

  • Have your original Personal Statement to hand. So much has happened since you wrote it that it’s more than likely you will be able to update it by adding some notes to it.

  • The early bird definitely can catch the dream course. It’s entirely natural to feel numbed if the results are less than you expected, but if you can bounce back, it does pay off.

  • You may need a remark- speak to Dr Archer. Relevant Heads of Department will know where you may have slipped up.

  • There were 61,000 people placed in Clearing in 2014, so remember to stand out!

  • Show initiative! Be confident enough to sell yourself. Offer to come and be interviewed. Don’t necessarily accept a ‘no’ from anyone other than a specific representative from a faculty or department. An email to the course admissions tutor may well impress as a last resort for a course you are desperate to enrol on.

  • Check your phone for calls and emails regularly!

  • Remember that it also looks far more impressive if a university deals directly with you rather than a parent. There are some factors parents can be involved with, but the hard sell must come from the potential customer!


3. Don’t Panic!

  • If your grades are lower than expected, be sure to check Track. Updated decisions do not always show immediately, so you may find you need to contact the original choices by phone for peace of mind.

  • Don’t jump at the first course offered. Remember how closely you researched your original choices! Ask the same questions: e.g. does the new course and university work for you and your interests; what is the accommodation like; how plentiful is part-time work; do facilities suit your needs? Many universities will be holding mini Open Days on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th.

  • Choose your passion first, not your profession.

  • Do have a look at courses at your firm or insurance choices that are close to your original selection. It is no guarantee, but often there is crossover or a chance to convert back to the original course later, once you have proved yourself.

  • Consider your other 3 original choices (outside firm and insurance) who most likely gave you offers beforehand. They know you better than new options.


4. Be composed and patient!

  • It will be a very stressful day, but persevere and you will get through it. Will Hine, who went through Clearing in 2013, says: 'I can admit myself that I was considering giving up before I rang up Manchester, however I persisted and am now attending the same course in the same year as I had originally planned, just at a better university!'

  • Act calmly, but decisively. If you need support, don’t hesitate about seeking advice from school to help you make a decision.


5. What happens in Clearing once you have found a course to take you?

  • You usually receive a verbal offer 'yes' along with two codes - the course code and the university code - which will then be used later on in the day to apply via the UCAS Clearing website (usually around 5pm).

  • Once you’ve entered all the details and applied on the Clearing website, just sit back, relax and wait! They won’t accept your offer straightaway, but don’t fret, imagine the number of applications they must have to process. As long as you have received a verbal offer on the phone and entered the correct details, you will be offered a place.

  • Your new university will prep you well for the Clearing administration.


6. What if Clearing options don’t excite you?

  • Quite naturally, the vibe of new arrangements may not feel right. The benefits of a gap year (or even two) are very firmly promoted by Bablake's Careers department as we never want students to settle for second best.

  • A gap year definitely can help choose the best employer, best course or best university to suit you!


7. Further advice online?

There is a bewildering amount of Clearing advice online, but the following resources offer a measured view of how to approach Clearing:

UCAS Clearing - official guide to Clearing and a useful ‘Search tool’ of vacancies. 
Which University - superb 'A Survivor's Guide' that includes tips from admissions tutors.
I Could - useful advice on how to approach Clearing. 
Not Going To Uni - sensible alternative options: e.g. apprenticeships and sponsored degrees. - perfect place to assess the excellent opportunities in the UK and abroad for a purposeful gap year.
The Guardian - positive, clear advice.
The Daily Telegraph - official listings; advice and news of a useful free app that will have Clearing vacancies listed. We will have copies of the Daily Telegraph’s 'Clearing' supplement to refer to on 13th.


There are some additional questions we are always asked:


a) Am I eligible for Clearing, if I no longer want to take up my firm or insurance choice?

  • Those who have had a change of heart and wish to apply for a new course and university may enter Clearing.

  • Like Adjustment, how and when to reject the original choices needs careful attention unless you are totally sure the current options being held are now unsuitable.

  • For anyone wavering over this option, it may be best to find a new course first before declining the previous options, but it is courteous to do this then as soon as possible, if only to allow the Clearing process to kick in.


b) What about if you have done better than you originally hoped?! How does Adjustment work?

  • Adjustment is a five day period that starts once you register via Track, if results have gone better than planned and you have exceeded your original offer. 

  • Your original 'UF' choice will be safe while you're looking for another- you'll only lose it, if you confirm you'd like to go elsewhere and the new university or college adds itself to your application.

  • Adjustment does allow pupils to upgrade their aspirations, but needs very careful thought and guidance.


c) Do I choose the course or the university?

  • This question will run and run as it is so individual.

  • Whether you choose a course or university for its reputation, the crucial factor is the student. As with the 'contact hours' debate, what matters most is how you use your opportunities.

  • If you are proactive about your future, seek placements, network well and test out companies and professions, you are far more likely to succeed. Bablake students are very active in this regard and fulfilling future outcomes are more likely as a result.


We hope the day runs smoothly for all of our pupils but, as always, should parents and pupils need assistance, there will be a very strong team of support available in school on 13th (from 8am), Friday 14th (from 9am) and early next week. It is always worth ringing 024-7627-1200  to make an appointment for a specific time with Headmaster Mr John Watson or Mrs Alison Tumber (Head of 6th Form).



  • Results for our A2 pupils will be distributed from 8am in the Main Hall, while the AS candidates are able to collect them from 10am. Any pupil who cannot collect results on the day will have them posted after lunch.

  • This year, Sheffield University is allowing students to register in advance for Clearing. A new trend and well worth considering. Mr Woodward advises students to ask other universities if they are considering this, but asserts that students must have a clear 'sales plan' to give to the new university. 

  • L6th students should email Mr Alistair Hopkins (Director of Studies) with any questions about their A2 choices. Likewise, school will endeavour to contact pupils direct if there are any concerns about choices.

  • Will Hine's full description of his Clearing experience in 2013 formed part of our advice last year. To read this, please click here

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