Clearing 2016: What you should say on the phone to universities

Advice from a Director of Admissions explains how to handle telephone calls to universities during your Ucas Clearing process
August 18 2016

Pete Edge, Director of Admissions at The University of Law (ULaw), encourages students to be proactive if they find themselves in Clearing this summer, and provides some tips on how to engage with universities and higher education institutions.

So you’ve collected your results and you’ve not done as well as you’d hoped. Some of your classmates have done well whilst some others will probably be in the same boat as you. What do you do next?

The first thing is to take a deep breath and relax. By the end of August last year more than 50,000 people had found a university through the Clearing process, so you’re not alone.


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It’s how you respond next that counts. Compose yourself and gather up all of your qualifications and personal information so that you have everything to hand that you might need. Grab a pen and paper and then begin looking at institutions that have places available for the course that you want to do.

Universities receive hundreds of emails every day so the best way to engage with them during Clearing is by phone.

They will all have call centres operating to cope with the number of calls they are expecting, and even if you might have to wait in a queue, rest assured this is the quickest way to get the information you need. You might end up speaking to admissions, support staff, a student ambassador, or a tutor and that’s important to keep in mind when you call.

So what should you be saying to institutions when you call them? What do they want to hear and what will ring alarm bells? Here’s my guide:

  • Have your Ucas ID and your personal Clearing Number on hand as this will be the first thing you will be asked when you call. They will also want to know what you want to study and what grades you have, so be prepared and have these with you at all times, including the course code of the programme you are interested in
  • They won’t want to speak to anyone else but you, so parents, teachers or friends can’t do this for you. It has to be you.
  • Make a note of what the institution tells you, and ensure they have written down your email and phone number correctly by getting them to repeat it back to you phonetically. Make a note of who you spoke to as well, just in case.
  • If you meet their requirements most institutions now email you confirmation that they are happy to make you a Clearing offer and will give you a window of time when that offer is live. This doesn’t mean you are obligated to take this offer, so if you have a few different places that you are interested in, make sure that you call all the universities before making your next move.
  • If you have borderline grades for the university you are speaking to, they may want you to be interviewed by an academic before deciding to make an offer. This could happen immediately over the phone or be later that day. Be ready to speak honestly about why you got the grades you did, and about how you intend to ensure that your future studies do not go the same way.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic on the phone regardless of who you are speaking with. Even if you might be in a difficult situation, remember you still need to impress the people you are speaking to. Be polite, calm and positive about your plans and future ambitions.
  • Make sure you have researched each university before you call them. The staff you speak to will want to confirm that you have made an informed decision to study there, and not just chosen them out of desperation.
  • Lastly, if you’ve found your university of choice and have received an offer but you have not been there before, ask if you can visit the campus, have a look around and meet staff and students from your chosen course before accepting. Universities often accommodate these requests and it will help you to know what to expect come the start of term.

Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who have had successful and highly enjoyable university experiences having gone through the Clearing process. You need to put the time in to ensure you get the best possible solution for you. Life is what you make of it, and it’s the same with Clearing. Be positive, be proactive and be ready to speak about yourself. Then once it’s all over you can look forward to the start of an amazing few years of your life.

The Exam Results helpline will be open from 8am on 18 August 2016: 0808 100 8000.

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