Waiting for my A-Level results was the single most excrutiating period of my time so far. Since then, I’ve had to wait to find out which city I’d be living in on my year abroad, I’ve had to wait for my degree results, I’ve even had to wait to find out if I’d got a particular teaching job. None of those experiences even compared to the stress I felt waiting to find out if I’d got onto my dream course, at my dream university. As it turned out, on the morning of A Level exam results day all those years ago in 2012 – I was disappointed. That’s where Clearing came into the mix, and my goodness, I am so glad it did.
First, a little backstory.
I’ve never been a particularly decisive person- I always want to do everything at once. I am an overworker, I push myself to the absolute limits in everything I do and I thrive on feeling stressed. I’m not saying it’s a good thing at all, it’s just how I am. When choosing my A-levels in 2010, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, becoming a pharmacist was my main goal so I took A Levels in Chemistry and Biology. I decided to even the Sciences out a little with a few arts subjects- English Literature and French being my end choices. I finished my AS year (because I was doing my A-Levels in the time when we did them over two years as opposed to at the end of the final year) with grades AABB across my four subjects and decided to drop Biology. I absolutely hated Biology, I scraped that B with every ounce of my being. My other B was in French – I had had a particularly harrowing oral exam experience and intended on resitting the oral exam in January (I got an A in the resit. Take that, WJEC).
After establishing quite early on in my A-Level year that studying to become a pharmacist probably involved actually liking Biology, I sat down and reassessed my options. Surprisingly, I actually found myself preferring French over my other two options. I umm-ed and ahh-ed over Chemistry and French for what felt like a lifetime. I compared universities – I even looked into the universities that combined Chemistry with French (at the time, only two offered it and one of them was Cambridge so that was a big fat no). As it happened, I ended up applying to all five of my choices on UCAS – 4 French and English joint honours courses and then one single Chemistry choice. Indecisive, me? I put French and English Joint Honours as my Firm Choice, needing grades of ABB and then Chemistry at a different university as my Insurance Choice, with grades of BBB required of me. No sweat it.
Fast forward again to results day – I found myself looking at UCAS, with the loading congratulating me on being accepted onto BSc Chemistry at my Insurance University. This loading page completely unaware of the fact that at this stage, I wanted nothing less than to be studying Chemistry.
At this point, I hadn’t been to college to pick up my results so I had absolutely no idea what might have happened. Getting to college, I found myself opening up results of BBB. Perfectly adequate results, but not really what I had anticipated walking into the exams with AS results of AAB under my belt. I’m quite an emotional person so honestly, my first response was to blub like a baby and imagine that my entire life was over. Realistically? That wasn’t the case at all and that’s where entering into the Clearing Process helped me out.
My French teacher mentioned to me that if I was dead set against doing Chemistry, I could ask for the university that I had a confirmed place at to release my application and go through the Clearing Process. In 2012, this involved calling the university up and telling them ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ They then did all sorts of magic behind the scenes (I imagine it actually just involved them clicking a button, but never mind) and released my confirmed place to somebody else. That then left me in a position where I had neither a Firm or Insurance choice on my UCAS Track and I was free to enter into Clearing.
Being the perpetual worrier that I was, I had actually already considered what I would do if I hadn’t been accepted onto my Firm choice. I knew that the course was highly competitive and the university were unlikely to accept reduced grades for it. I also knew that I had grades that would get me onto single honours French with absolutely no qualms, so with this in mind, I rang up my firm university, put on my best ‘Please let me come’ voice and sweet talked them into taking me in. Which they did, with barely any sweet talking needed at all.
What should I do if I find myself in a similar position?
1. Firstly, don’t panic. There will be the perfect course for you at a university somewhere and you will have the time of your life. It was meant to be; trust me.
2. Speak to someone at your school or college about your options. They know you the best and are best qualified to give you the advice you need.
3. Research what kinds of courses are suitable for you. There is an official vacancy list on the UCAS website – they are the only courses that will accept a Clearing Application. They’ll give you information on grade requirements and the universities that are offering the courses you’re interested in.
4. Once you’ve found courses that match your profile, call up the university themselves and give them your Clearing number. This information is available to you on TRACK and just means that the universities can look at your grades, personal statement and so on. They’re then able to make an informed decision on whether you’re suitable for the course you’re inquiring about. If they choose to accept you, great. Problem solved.
5. There isn’t a limit to how many universities you talk to in Clearing. The choice doesn’t register as your decision until you actively insert the choice on TRACK. You should only do this once you have had permission from the university itself and they have to confirm the choice once it has been added. Only one choice can be added at any one time but if your choice doesn’t accept, you can go back and add another choice.
6. Done! Dusted. You’re in. Enjoy your time at University – you definitely have Clearing to thank!
Most universities have options available in Clearing – including the University of Hull. Their website is particularly easy to navigate, making finding the right course for you as easy as 1, 2, 3. The University of Hull guarantees all students who get onto one of their courses through Clearing accommodation – eliminating the stress of having to find somewhere to live. They also have opportunities to visit the campus once your place has been confirmed – introducing you to the department you’re about to enter into and getting to know some of the lay of the land before you get there. If you don’t have time to visit before joining the university, then they also offer a virtual online tour – meaning you won’t go in completely blind.
Clearing was the right choice for me – perhaps taking advantage of Clearing yourself and checking out the University of Hull might open up doorways for you that you had never imagined?
That’s my Clearing Story – what’s yours?
(This post was kindly sponsored by the University of Hull – but all facts are true and words are my own.)