How clearing became my lucky break

09 Aug 2021
By Sophie M., Student at University of Edinburgh

When you’ve had your heart set on going to your first choice university, to do the course you chose, it can be scary and upsetting when the words 'You are in clearing’ flash up in your UCAS account.

That’s exactly what happened to me on results day.

On results day I knew I wanted to go to university now - no matter what.

It’s easier said than done, but here’s why you don't need to panic if this happens to you.

‘I was completely unprepared for clearing’

Some of my friends prepared for clearing before results day by checking the clearing listings online and writing down which courses were available at which universities, and their contact numbers. I would have felt less stressed if I’d done this too - but I hadn’t.

I’d planned to take a gap year if I didn't get into my first choice university. But on results day I knew I wanted to go to university now - no matter what.

I called my first choice university to check if there were any similar courses with spaces. Once I’d discovered that there weren't, I had to accept that I was going to a different university.

I started looking at clearing places. My priority was to find another politics related course, because I knew that was what I really wanted to do. I’d looked at a few universities during the application process, so I knew which kind of universities I liked and which I didn’t.

‘The person on the phone was so lovely’

Phone any other universities you had offers from - after all, you’d obviously considered going there at some point. My first offer in clearing was from such a university, but it was for a completely different course and I wasn't sure I would enjoy it.

At around 9am on results day, I phoned Edinburgh University and asked about politics courses. The person on the phone was so lovely and offered me a place to study politics there and then. I was unsure at first because, although I’d visited the city, I had never seen the university. After talking it through with my family and phoning a teacher at my school, I decided it was my best option and submitted it to UCAS.

On results day I knew I wanted to go to university now - no matter what.
I couldn't be happier than I am at Edinburgh.

‘Try not to rush the decision’

It might feel like there’s a lot of pressure to confirm your clearing offer as soon as possible, but try not to rush the decision. Most universities will hold your offer open for 24 to 48 hours.

Although I was happy with my decision to go to Edinburgh, I was still far more nervous about starting university than I had been previously because I knew so little about where I was going. If you feel like this, try to visit the university to have a look around before you start, or do some research online.

If you really don't feel comfortable going to the universities or doing the courses you have been offered in clearing, perhaps you could consider taking a gap year and re-applying for next year.

‘I absolutely love my university’

It can be overwhelming when you realise you won’t be going to the university you’d planned to go to. You might feel like going back to bed to cry (or maybe that was just me), but you have to stay rational and think about your next best option.

Missing my grades and going through clearing really knocked my confidence, but your exam grades do not define your intelligence. Once you start university, no one asks about your A-Level grades - and nobody will know you came through clearing if you don't want them to.

I soon realised that going through clearing could only hold me back if I held on to my negative feelings about it. I couldn't be happier than I am at Edinburgh. I absolutely love my course, my university, the city, and my friends.

Heading to a different uni city than planned? You can easily switch cities with Unite Students City Switch. Find out more

I couldn't be happier than I am at Edinburgh.
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Sophie is a University of Edinburgh student studying Politics.