I know it’s been a terribly long while since my last post, but I’ll explain all that later. Right now, it’s that time of the year where almost all A-level students are sweating over whether or not they made either their firm or insurance choice. It’s also that time where you can find a mass of clearing advice on social media from present and past students who have previously been through the experience. I went through clearing in 2014 so I saw it fit to share the process I went through while sharing some of my personal key advice. My clearing experience led me to return to sixth form for a year and given how A-Levels are currently changing, some of what I have to say about retaking may become irrelevant however, since it was part of my experience I will share it anyway.
As soon as I found out I missed my offers I applied for clearing and started calling universities. Naturally, clearing places are more available and their entry requirements tend to be slightly lower towards the beginning of the period so by acting quickly, I was able to put myself on the front foot, increasing my chances of getting a good place.
Being Flexible Helps…
Sometimes, places offered through clearing aren’t for the exact same course or are from a different university the applicant wanted initially. This often works out just fine if not even better for some students. Keeping an open mind and being flexible will help when trying to secure a place. Some universities will offer visits to allow you to get a feel for the environment before you make a decision so it may be a good idea to take advantage of this.
…But Know what you Want
I missed my offers for BEng Civil Engineering and received three decent offers through clearing. One was for a BEng but with a foundation year and another was for a BSc degree. The third was for a university I didn’t really want to go to at all. Although I considered the first two much, neither were what I truly wanted and I felt I may have regretted my decision later on. Of course, there has to be some kind of compromise in these situations, but if there is something you’re completely opposed to or simply not comfortable with, then you do not have to force it. Especially given the current cost of university, I strongly feel it’s important to do what you want where you want and put yourself in your ideal situation. Even if this does mean compromising on one or two things, know exactly what these factors are and how much you’re willing to compromise.
Take Time to Think
As much as people say you need to act quickly and although I knew I needed to, I was also aware not to rush anything because I didn’t want to make a decision I would regret. Immediately after receiving my results I was adamant that I wasn’t going to retake. A few hours later I started to consider it and the next day it became an option. By the other side of the weekend I had made the decision to go back to sixth form for a year. All the while I was considering alternatives and trying to secure informal offers to give myself options. Had I not given myself the time to thoroughly think about my next step and had I thrown myself at the first offer I got, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now. (And be studying at a top 5 uni… I had to throw that in I couldn’t help it 😃)
Talk to Someone (but maybe not too many people)
Whether or not you expected to go into clearing, it’s still a shock once you’re there. In between actually dealing with it and deciding what my next step was, there was a lot going through my head. Having my parents and sister to speak to and help weigh up my options helped, although it wasn’t until I spoke to my aunt that I was able to decide what I was going to do. Surprisingly she didn’t advise me at all. I did 95% of the talking in fact, but that one
monologue conversation helped me to think out loud and turn things over in my head. At the same time, talking to too many people can do more harm than good as it can be confusing and distracting so I would say to get what you need from who you need and keep it moving! At the end of the day it will be your decision to make and that decision will influence your future.
Retaking is not a Bad Idea (trust me)
Of course people go into clearing for many different reasons, but in my case my reason was simple. I didn’t work hard enough so I didn’t do as well as I should have and missed my offers. To those of you who may be reading this on your results day and find yourselves in clearing for the same reason I did, I wouldn’t be against at least thinking about going back and improving your grades. If not to open yourself up to better universities, at least for yourself. As well as giving myself another opportunity to go to the university of my choice and putting myself on a stronger foundation, I also wanted to achieve what I knew I could have the first time around. It’s also worth noting that retaking doesn’t necessarily put you at a disadvantage, but do talk to universities and ask how they feel about offering places to retake students.
While clearing may not be the most ideal situation to be in, it’s not the end of the world. Should you find yourself in clearing, the most important thing to do is start the process as early as possible and take time to weigh up your options. Move quickly but don’t rush and certainly don’t panic. Make the decision you’re most comfortable with and most importantly, make sure it’s the decision you want.