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Clearing 2017: five ways to get a headstart

Already dreading the chaos of results day and – maybe – the rush to find a Clearing course? Here are a few ways to stay one step ahead...

Are you expecting to run around like a headless chicken come results day? If an exam hasn't gone in your favour, this may already be a fate you're contemplating.

Seeing as you'll be on your summer holidays anyway, it makes sense to put this free time to good use, cover your bases and do a little preparation just in case you do have to go down the Clearing route - it could save you valuable time come results day when everyone else is doing the same thing!

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    Here are five things to get on with before results day...

    1. Start looking at possible Clearing courses

    Why wait until results day to see what other courses are out there for you? Making a course choice in Clearing doesn't leave you much time to mull things over - our guide can help you make a quick-but-quality decision.

    While Clearing actually opens before A-level results day, the majority of course vacancies are only added after this; but you can still research and shortlist possible courses or universities beforehand to look out for on the day itself.

    You don't have to begin your search for a course all over again either (phew). Our guide on preparing your back-up plan for Clearing has some tips for finding alternatives, including going back to your original five Ucas choices. Plus, you can use our course search to narrow down the options quickly and browse the key stats, to save some reading-time.

    2. Consider a different path altogether

    Of course, if you had your heart set on a particular course and university, you might now be thinking about a different route entirely…

    Gap year

    A year out could give you time to build up life and work experience and re-think your options. So while that could be (budget allowing) travelling the world and ‘finding yourself’ overseas, it could equally be volunteering or working closer to home. Either way, do make that year count – in particular, think about what might enhance a future uni application.

    Our guide to gap years can help you make the most of yours, plus give some insight into how universities view them.

    Resit your exams

    If you narrowly missed the grades you needed, resits could be an option. You’ll need to arrange to do this the following June (ask your school or college), meaning you’ll also need to start planning for your year ahead while you prepare. 

    You can also appeal your grade if you firmly believe that the grade you received was incorrect.

    Study abroad

    Growing numbers of UK students are looking further afield for higher education options because of lower fees, the increase in English-speaking courses, and the chance to travel while gaining a qualification at the same time. 

    Grab our free guide to studying abroad to learn more about where you can study, what you'll pay and how to get the ball rolling.

    A different qualification path

    Apprenticeships, traineeships and school leavers’ programmes are all legitimate alternatives to university level study, providing real, applicable workplace skills and experience while you study (and earn!). This might even better suit the way you learn, or be more appropriate if you already have a particular career path in mind.

    3. Dig out your personal statement

    It will have been a few months since you last cast your eyes over your personal statement - at the time you were probably happy to never look at it again, having spent weeks writing and rewriting it....
    Now is an excellent opportunity to revisit your statement and reflect on the strengths, skills and experiences you highlighted at the time, so you can communicate this succinctly and effectively when you speak to them. Casting your eye over your statement again should also help you remember what your priorities were then and establish what they are now - perhaps you'll consider different factors when looking for new courses in Clearing? 
    Keep a paper copy close by to help you prepare ahead of calling universities during Clearing. Highlight the most important parts and be prepared to expand on these when asked about them.

    4. Start your mini-interview prep

    When you call a university during Clearing, they may simply wish to confirm your grades before making a decision to accept you or not. However some universities will ask questions to learn more about you before making a decision. It’s well worth planning some answers – or talking points – which you can cover in your responses so you wow that admissions tutor.
    Start thinking about the kind of questions you might be asked – the questions you were asked in any admissions interviews you attended would be a good place to start. Jot these down with some outline answers and you’ll be less likely to lose your train of thought when put on the spot. Practise aloud what you would say, so you feel confident in your response.

    Our guide to Clearing call questions compares good and bad answers to the kind of questions often asked on Clearing calls.

    5. Some final dos and don’ts

    • DON’T book any holidays, breaks or trips which coincide with results period (Results Day 2017 is 17 August 2017)
    • DO discuss your plans with your parents and seek the advice of others…
    • …but DON’T rely on Mum or Dad to phone universities on your behalf – it won’t go down well with admissions tutors! 
    • DO go into school or college on the morning of results day to collect your exact marks and Ucas points (it’s likely the university will ask for them) and seek the advice of teachers and advisers.
    • DO be prepared on the day. You’ll need a notepad, several (working!) pens to make notes as you call universities, plus your phone charger on hand.


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