When A level results come out next week, on August 18, around three quarters of students who want to go to university are likely to get into their first choice. But not everyone will get their grades –it doesn’t mean you won’t get a degree if you still want to.
Last year, a record number of students found university places through Clearing – a system which helps universities match students who don’t have a place to courses which still have space.
But this year, because of the pandemic, demand is expected to outstrip supply, some Russell Group universities have actually paid students to defer a year.
What you probably won’t find during Clearing are Oxbridge places or spaces on the most popular courses – medicine or veterinary science for instance – at elite universities.
Last year’s most popular choices in Clearing were business studies, nursing, sciences, creative arts, engineering and law. Many joint subjects still have vacancies, though these courses might be more gruelling than single subjects. And it’s a hectic time – courses are snapped up and students often need to decide swiftly on their futures. Every careers adviser will advise you against making panicked decisions, and some prefer students to defer and reapply the following year.
Some universities advertise course vacancies on their websites from July when Clearing opens while others wait until around A level results. But you can only enter Clearing once you’ve got your results but don’t have a confirmed place. And more than ever now, students are using Clearing to apply to university directly for the first time, submitting a full Ucas application after they’ve completed exams.
While universities won’t accept you through Clearing until you have results to hand, you can do a lot of legwork beforehand if you think you may have missed your grades – and remember your first choice university might still accept you on the day even with slightly lower grades.
You should research courses in the same subject at different institutions, or look at what similar subjects are offered by the same university – Film, Content and Media instead of Film Studies or Media Studies for instance.
Universities advise students to write a list of potential courses – with bullet points and important details. You can even phone some universities in advance and register your interest and details with them, which will save time on results day – you’ll already be on their system. When you call a university in clearing, they might offer a course straight away, or want to know more – fundamentally “why this university, why this course?”
On the day itself, you can check Ucas Track first thing to see if you’ve been accepted, or if you’re in Clearing. If you are, remember it’s fine to feel emotional and that admission staff are friendly and used to calming tearful students. Many people on the end of the phone are student volunteers who’ve gone through the whole process themselves.
“All universities will have a minimum grade threshold,” says Dr Johnston. “But even if your grades aren’t as good as you’d hoped, you can still get a place if you’re able to express why your grades weren’t as you’d expected, and your enthusiasm for the subject shines through.”
Exams were sat for the first time in two years this year and A-level results are out August 18th. So, if you’ve left it until now to think about university, we’ve got some top tips.
Many people think that university clearing is only open on A-level results day and for a few weeks afterwards – it’s not the case!
This year, clearing opened on the 8th July, and universities are already advertising courses available through Clearing.
What is Clearing?
Clearing is the process that students use to access university AFTER they’ve received their A-level level results (or A-level equivalents).
Is it just for those who didn’t get their expected grades?
No, COVID-19 has really affected the way people are thinking about university. Last year’s results were affected by the pandemic, but that didn’t put young people off from going to university. The number of students accepting a place outstripped the previous year’s record, with 435,000 students finding spots within a day of receiving their A-level results, an increase of 5,000 on 2020, according to data from the University and College Admissions Service (Ucas).
Last year, 149,000 students were still hunting for places in clearing the day after A-level results, a 15% rise on 2020. A further 11,000 had already found places, including those who applied directly to clearing.
What if my grades are higher than I expected?
It probably won’t make a difference this year because the trade-up system called ‘Adjustment’ isn’t running.
HELP! I’m getting my A-level results next week – I’ve put off deciding whether to go to university but… what can I do now?
Here are Dr Lisette’s 6 top tips
the sooner you apply the better! Some courses cap the number of students they will take, so apply early and that way you are more likely to get a conditional offer, which is better than missing the boat if you leave it to phone on results day.
- Be informed
Don’t wait until results day to investigate universities, get online and start researching now!
- What do you really want?
If you haven’t got the grades you expected, you might not get into your first choice, but that doesn’t mean going through Clearing to get in just anywhere. If staying at home is important to you, find out what the options are available locally. If you are passionate about a specific topic, find out where the next best place on the list is and what grades they expect currently. It’s also acceptable to ask how many people they took through Clearing last year. They might not be able to tell you on a course-by-course basis, but you should be able to get a breakdown across the university.
- Be realistic.
Decide what is a priority for you. If you haven’t got the results you expected, what is more important – the course, the location, or a degree in general? The last thing you want is to get on a course and find out it’s not what you want. And don’t just go somewhere ‘cos all your mates are going there!
- Be open minded.
Within a university there are often opportunities to transfer courses to take electives more closely linked to your original choices. See who offers this. Also Clearing gives a chance to go to a place you might not have thought about before.
- Remember, you’re not stuck
– if you start at a university and you realise it’s the wrong course or the wrong place – you can change! At MetFilm School we had students who came through Clearing last year, some after the course started; they’re actually much happier than they were with their original choice.