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Clearing 2017: how to make your university course decision

It's a frantic time, but even in Clearing, you shouldn't rush or feel pressured into a decision. Here’s how to make one you won't regret (and how we can help)...

When we spoke to students who went through Clearing, around half described Clearing as stressful, 38% said they panicked and nearly half admitted they accepted a place without doing as much research as they wanted.

What is Clearing? Read our ultimate guide to Clearing 2017.

1. Don't just go for your first Clearing offer

Places are filled up quickly, so it’s not surprising that nearly four in ten of students we spoke to who went through Clearing a couple of years back said they felt pressured to take the first offer they received. But while it’s tempting to snap up your first offer, it’s not always wise...
Don't just 'grab' something in a panic. Do some research first and make sure you really want to go to the relevant university and course. Wendy Hodgkiss | Careers Adviser

If you're disappointed with your results, it can be a relief to get an alternative offer and tempting to accept it straight away. But if you know you want to explore more ideas, take your time and explore them. Joanne Boyes | Careers Manager - Oldham Sixth Form College
So before you head to Ucas Track to confirm the first offer you bag, take a moment to step back and consider whether you can really imagine yourself at that university studying that particular course for the next few years.

Are there any other appealing Clearing vacancies you saw as well that are worth following up on?

2. Dig into the course detail 

The course content itself should always be your top priority when choosing where and what to study.

Read and re-read the course description, including the modules on offer over the duration of the course (and note which are compulsory and which ones you can pick). Is there a course that caters to your interests more so than others?

You should also consider whether the teaching and assessment styles suit you. Look up the courses you’re interested in using our course search to see the proportion of time you’ll spend in lectures and seminars, independent study and placements, as well as how you’ll be assessed.

3. Imagine yourself at that university 

The best way to decide if a university is right for you is to go on an open day.

Many universities offer open days specifically for students applying through Clearing (typically in the week after results day) and keep their offers open to you until you’ve had a chance to visit. University environments vary hugely – from self-contained student villages to buildings scattered across a bustling city – so it’s important to factor the type of student experience on offer into your decision.

And if you can't get to an open day in time, it's still worth trying to suss out the general area – could you see yourself living there for the next few years?   
Even if you cannot attend a formal open day, you may still be able to visit a new town to get a feel for it before you move away or try out the journey if you plan to commute daily and live at home. Joanne Boyes | Careers Manager - Oldham Sixth Form College

If you don't have enough time to visit the university  43% of students we spoke to who went through Clearing said they ended up at a university they’d never visited – you could get a glimpse into the student experience by checking out comments from current students. 

Head to the profile of the university you’re interested in here on Which? University to see students’ views on the upsides and downsides of being a student there, as well as what the academic and social facilities, accommodation and everyday living costs are like. 

And if you can't jump on a train to visit, take a tour via our city guides to get a feel for the city's vibe and character, what there is to do for fun and more.

4. Compare course stats 

Student satisfaction scores, graduate employment rates, average graduate salary: there’s lots of official data on courses which you can you give you an idea of how you might find the course and what your prospects could be like after graduating. 

If you hit ‘Shortlist’ on the courses you’re interested in here on Which? University, you can see these stats for each course, side-by-side. We’ve also ranked them as high, medium or low, so you can see how they compare against other universities offering that particular course.

While these figures are useful for sense-checking courses, the student experience is ultimately down to you as an individual, so choosing a course and university where you’ll enjoy the next few years should be your top priority. 

5. Relate the courses back to your original choices

In the rush of Clearing, it can be easy to forget what inspired your original Ucas choices. What is it that you're looking for from your degree? Is it the love of a subject, or the career opportunities it would open up for you? Did you like the tight-knit community feel of a certain campus university, or how close you'll be to home? 

While Clearing will inevitably involve some compromises, it’s worth reminding yourself of what was most important to you when making your initial choices and making sure you’re factoring that into your decision now. See our guide on preparing your Clearing back-up plan for more advice.

Whether you're applying through Clearing, the regular Ucas cycle or even Adjustment, taking the time to do your research before you make a decision is key to picking a course and university you're really happy with.

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    More on our survey: We spoke to 8,053 students attending UK universities, between 8 July and 8 August 2013. Of these, 390 first year students gained their university place through Clearing. Conducted via YouthSight.

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