When I first applied to university through UCAS, I had no intention of using Clearing. In fact, when I started receiving email after email about making my ‘back-up plan’, I made passing jokes about how I just wouldn’t go to university if I didn’t get into my top choice.

Fast forward to August, and after not getting into my first choice, I suddenly felt suffocated by the prospect of studying at my insurance university that was in my home town. I knew that it was a safe option, but in reviewing it, I felt an urge to travel away and go somewhere completely new. My results were a shock, to say the least, so coming home and going through brand new university websites and calling Clearing hotline numbers instead of going out and celebrating with friends was not what I expected.

For a lot of people, Clearing doesn’t seem like a feasible option until Results Day, when panic sets in about where you’ll be going. I’m going to outline some advice that I wish I had gotten on that day. So, read on if you’re an applicant, even if you’re confident about your results as you never know what may happen on the day:

Don't Panic

It’s fairly cliché, and it’s hard not to panic in the moment. In my head, this was an unbearably big decision to make after getting hit with the bombshell that was my results. Don’t get me wrong – it is a big decision to make but panicking does nothing to help you! Take a deep breath, remember that everything will sort itself out, and feel reassured that no matter what happens, there will be a university that you’ll love that has a place for you. More students come through Clearing than you may think, as you’ll soon find that out when meeting other students.

Do some research beforehand

Ideally, if you’re reading this before results day, you still have time to look at some back-up options, even if it’s only briefly. Look at the course you’re interested in on different university websites. Check out what they cover and the entry grades, look at pictures of the campus and get a feel for it (virtual tours and YouTube videos often come in handy). Not all universities release which courses will have a place in clearing and the grades you’ll need to get in, but Leeds Beckett do so they’re definitely worth checking. Be prepared for things to change during clearing though as everything happens really quickly. For example, I was originally placed in Kirkstall Brewery accommodation. I then moved to Sugarwell Court, as it was closer to my campus. I was given a ground-floor flat equipped for a disabled student, but since nobody had needed those facilities I was free to move in.

All of this prior preparation will come in handy on the day if your results are not as you expected. It will mean you already have an idea in mind, and may relieve some of the stress on the day.

Ensure you're making the right decision for you

On the day, if you find yourself having to go through Clearing, sit down with a laptop or PC in front of you, a phone and a pad of paper with a pen, and prepare your best phone voice. Write down a brief list of all the Clearing contenders you’ve found – the name of the university, the amount of UCAS points needed to get in (although this can change depending on how many spaces are left), the course specifications (if needed – I was looking for a specific English course). Then, call the Clearing number and state your UCAS ID – you’ll soon memorise it after a few calls! After that, you’ll probably speak to a number of universities and probably get a few offers, then it’s up to you to start making your mind up about where you’d like to go. In my experience though, it doesn’t have to end there – don’t settle for a choice which you’re not 100% happy with.

So I decided to accept a place at a university that had the type of course I wanted. I arranged to go visit with my family shortly after. When visiting, I realised that the university was a lot smaller than anticipated, and the only accommodation left was… questionable (it didn’t have a kitchen but it did have a bath?). I tried to reassure myself, but after a few days, I told my family that I was worried about studying there, and they told me that if I was really unsure, I should go back into Clearing.

So, with that I looked at Leeds Beckett and arranged a meeting with them for the next day. I was instantly impressed by the large city campus and how modern the buildings were. I had no idea that there was an applicant day on, but when we arrived, we were greeted by friendly faces and offers of support. All of the staff reassured me that I would have a place there, and that although accommodation would be limited, it definitely would have a kitchen!

After a tour of campus and a chat about which accommodation options were still available, an ambassador took us for free hot chocolate. We chatted about my course, my hobbies, and she answered any questions I had before writing her name and contact number on the back of my prospectus in case I had any concerns in the future! I’d never had such a friendly experience with university staff. I was so reassured, and all the worry I had about how complicated Clearing had been melted away. I went home feeling so relieved and like I’d found a real home in Leeds.

The moral of the story is - don’t panic! No matter what happens on results day (or after!) there will always be a university which is right for you who can accept you. I’m so glad I happened to come across Leeds Beckett, or I would have ended up at a university that wasn’t right for me, living in a flat with no kitchen, studying a course I’d merely settled for.

So, my advice is to go for it – I’m sure it’ll pay off.

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