A level results day: a vice-chancellor's guide to clearing

Mike Thomas urges students to keep calm and take advantage of the clearing process if they miss out on their expected exam results

August 16 2017
University application form

For many of you awaiting A level results, this week will be one of the most important of your lives. Come tomorrow morning, you will be waiting at your computers and tapping on your phones to see whether you’ve secured your chosen university place. For many, this will be a positive and exciting experience. But if you don’t get the grades you’re expecting and can’t confirm your university place, it can feel extremely daunting. 

The clearing process is there to help you if you’re unsure about what to do next. It is open from July until September and has been created specifically for applicants who have received their results, but haven’t secured a university place, those who missed the initial application deadline for university, or students who changed their minds last minute and would now like to go into higher education – or even think again about which university they would like to attend.


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Although the prospect of going through clearing can leave some feeling unsettled, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Last year over 64,900 students used the Ucas online system for clearing – this means that one in eight people accepted into university last year went through the process. In some respects it is now just another normal way to get into university.  

Clearing is no longer seen as a last resort for students who missed out on their first choice. In fact, the service clearing provides can be extremely positive for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it gives you access to specialist careers advisors and time to chat through your options. Everyone you speak to is dedicated to helping you find the best solution. Lecturers and course leaders will work with you to discuss the different options available and ensure you are able to make an informed decision about your chosen course. In our experience, the clearing process often opens up exciting new avenues and opportunities for those who use it. 

Clearing also gives you the chance to rethink your course choice. Many university applicants chose their degree course based on what they have enjoyed previously, or the grades they expect to achieve. But sometimes students don’t spend the time to find out about what other courses entail. Interests can also change with time, and after months of hard work and hours of exams, you might be unsure about the choice you made months ago.

University acts as the doorway to your future, so it’s important to choose a course and subject you are passionate about, and one that will assist you on your chosen career path. Clearing is a great tool for ensuring you are on the right track and understand exactly what your course will involve in terms of its structure and the topics it will cover. 

At the University of Central Lancashire, we’ve seen huge numbers of students come through clearing and go on to pursue successful careers in areas including business, law, engineering and pharmacy. 

It’s really important to make the right decision when it comes to the degree you choose and the university at which you’ll study. Your decision is going to shape your "home from home" for the next few years. And these years should be the ones you remember for the rest of your life. The application process to university can feel pressured for many students, and it’s understandable if you feel unsure about where to go and what to study for the next few years. So, here are a few top tips on how to negotiate the clearing process: 

1.Once you receive your results, there will be call centres set up in universities across the country ready to take your calls. To make this as easy as possible, list all of the names and numbers of the universities that interest you. 

2. While you’re on the phone, you’ll be asked for a number of details, including your personal information and your grades. This will help the team identify the best option for you, so ensure you have these details to hand.

3. Finally, don’t panic! The best advice we can give to any student going through clearing is not to rush your decision. Although you may be driven by the adrenaline on the day, don’t feel you have to accept the first offer that comes your way. Take some time after your calls, and really think about whether this is the course and the university for you. 

For many of you, clearing will be a positive opportunity and will no doubt open up a wide range of opportunities for your personal and career development. The decision of where and what to study often map out your future career, so making an informed decision is important. Luckily, UCLan and other universities across the country are doing everything in their power to make the clearing process as smooth as possible for you. 

Professor Mike Thomas is vice-chancellor at the University of Central Lancashire.

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