Didn’t get the A Level results you wanted? Here’s how to take advantage of clearing

With A-Level results day just around the corner (17 August), now is the time for you to start preparing for opening that letter and, in particular, for what you are going to do if your grades are not what you expected.

Be prepared

Clearing does not have to be scary. All you need is to be prepared and what may seem like a daunting process now can actually be smooth sailing. Having a clearing action pack in place with all your GCSE certificates and any other historical qualifications to hand, your UCAS ID, along with your list of potential target universities and their contact details, is a good start.

Don’t forget a notepad, pen (or if you prefer your computer/ laptop), a list of questions to ask each university and a fully charged phone. You’ll obviously add your newly collected A-level results to the pack when you collect them on Thursday.

Research your options in advance

Universities have been advertising places available in clearing since July so you can already see what places are available now. A good system to assess your potential options is to draw up a small scoring matrix to decide on where might be of interest to you – much like you may have done when choosing your initial five choices. This will give you an order in which to contact your target universities.

Researching institutions and courses is vital, and this includes going to see them. You can start with some desk research by looking at websites, prospectuses and social media. But of course, there’s no substitute for physically having looking around a potential institution to get a feel of the place. So, once you have an idea of your favourite, I really would encourage you to visit your chosen university and meet some of the team that will be delivering the course you have selected. If you can do this before results day, then great.

If not, make sure you have a look around as soon as possible and certainly before you start your course. This will give you a better feel for what the next few years of your life as a university student will be like and help you make such a crucial decision for your future.

Doing some thorough research will help you stay calm on results day and make sure you are ready for clearing.

Be confident and passionate

When it comes to making calls to universities, be confident and prepared to speak about your grades in detail, what you have learned from the experience and any extenuating circumstances. Critically, make sure you convey your passion for the subject and the institution in question. You need to be ready to impress, so have a list of questions ready to ask. Universities want to know that you have made an informed decision and have chosen them for the right reasons.

As much as teachers, parents or friends might want to help with speaking to universities for you, remember that the institutions will actually insist on speaking to you directly. When on the phone with them, it is also good practice to get the member of staff you are speaking with to repeat back your details – such as your phone number and email address – so there are no hiccups.

In some cases you might be required to speak to an academic as part of the clearing process. This varies from institution to institution so don’t read anything into it. Simply use it as an opportunity to impress them, and to ask questions about the course that you want to study in more detail.

These types of calls work both ways: yes, you need to impress the academic, but equally they need to impress you as well, so give a good account of yourself and don’t be shy about keeping them on the line until all your questions are answered.

In the past Clearing has been painted as a negative. Yet, the truth is that it is actually an opportunity. The key thing is that it is an opportunity you should take advantage of and relies on you being prepared and ready to act when the time comes to do so.

Pete Edge is director of admissions at The University of Law