Clearing is an immensely stressful time and can get the better of many potential students – the pain of not getting the grades you’d hoped for, coupled with the mad and desperate dash to the phone, and call after call not going through can frustrate anyone; and that’s where most people get clearing wrong. The important thing to do when going through the process is to make sure you stay calm! Not just so you don’t sound like a raving lunatic on the phone but also so you can have everything you need in front of you and seem prepared.
The first thing you’re going to need to do in clearing is decide where (and what) to apply to. There are loads of ways to get all of the clearing data and to find out what places have the right spots, but by far the best (and the traditional) way of getting the information is to buy the Telegraph; it’ll have all of the spaces and courses that will be open to clearing students in the UK. Buy it as soon as you get up in the morning! You can also find up to date clearing information on the UCAS website.
What You Should Have In Front Of You
The clearing system is far from perfect, and can be very informal at times. This means that the person on the other end of the phone may be asking some questions that you honestly aren’t too sure about – things like your GCSE grades, for example.
Try to itemise every accolade, exam result and qualification you’ve ever had into a list and keep that in front of you when you pick up the phone. It’ll help immensely and save you the embarrassment of rifling through old draws and asking your mum to find a long-forgotten document whilst you’re on the phone.
If it helps, your school or college will have all of this data on you already so it may be sensible to just ask them to produce a list of all your qualifications instead of trying to find everything. Remember to ask for this well in advance – it won’t be their priority and the summer holidays aren’t the best time to ask a school for something.
Also remember to have a pen and paper in front of you. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people end up having to muck around finding one whilst the person on the other end (who ultimately decides whether you deserve to be at university, remember) sighs and loses interest. Make sure to have it to hand before you need it! The same goes for your UCAS information such as the UCAS tracking number.
Where you are is just as important as what’s in front of you. Set up an office somewhere for a day and make sure it’s as quiet as it can be. And if someone “needs” to hoover, they’ll just have to wait until you get into university. You’re almost certainly going to need internet access, too, so make sure that’s all ready before you start making phone calls.
After you’ve sorted out all of the above you need to choose what you want to do and pick up the phone. That, frankly, was the easy bit. This phone call is an important one, so take a moment to calm down and make sure you don’t gabble on the phone. Nobody likes a “gabbler”.
The best advice anyone can give you here is to relax, take a deep breath, and ease yourself into a conversation – listen to what the person on the other end is saying and try to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about. Often it helps to smile whilst you’re on the phone; people can hear it in your voice and it always makes every phone conversation go a little better. Well, almost every time. It’s probably not the best idea when you’re delivering bad news. But that’s beside the point.
The first call when you’re contacting a university about clearing isn’t an official application – you’re just letting them know you’re interested in a place and after they talk to you for a while they’ll decide whether or not to accept your application. This doesn’t mean the phone call isn’t important – it is, and you should treat it with due respect.
The person on the other end will ask questions generally along the lines of “so, why do you want to study here?”. This can be a painful one, as being in clearing means you actually wanted to study elsewhere and are now going for second best. Whatever you do, don’t tell them that! It’s best to have a quick Google of the university department and look into what research it’s done recently. Be quick and to the point, but you’ll be doing better than most if you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Other questions will be about your grades (you should have them in front of you), and your extra-curricular studies (think back to your personal statement and use that as a basis). Try not to go into too much detail or it’ll sound like you’re waffling, and make sure to sound relaxed throughout the phone call. The call-taker will have been listening to stressed out students all morning, and they really will appreciate someone who’s been a bit more prepared.
Finally, you’ll get a chance to ask some questions of your own. Don’t have nothing – this is a great chance to express your interest in the course properly and prove that you deserve to be studying there. Ask about your course (is there a Masters option, are there industrial placements available, etc.) and about the university – this is your moment to get across your genuine interest in the university and will stick with the person on the other end.
Finally – and this is so important we’re going to say it again – stay calm and relax! It’s the best advice anyone can give you. Good luck!