On the 13th August 2015 A-Level results will be released to students in England. For many of you this will be a simple process as you will have achieved the grades you require to be accepted by your first choice university. In this event, the UCAS tracking website will inform you that your application has been successful. A letter will be sent out to you confirming this and, depending on the university, you may have to confirm you'll be attending and/or confirm your first year accommodation.
However, if you miss out on your first choice the process can be slightly trickier. The key is not to panic and know all your options before you make any decision on higher education. You are likely to be studying at university for at least the next three years, so decisions should not be rushed at this stage! Here is our advice and top tips for results day.
I'VE MISSED THE GRADES FOR MY FIRST CHOICE
In this event, check the UCAS tracking website because despite not achieving the required grades, you may have been accepted for your first choice preference anyway. Since the rise in tuition fees in 2012, demand for university places has decreased and even top universities have accepted students with lower grades to fill places.
If you haven't been accepted by your first choice but you are still keen to go there, it is worth calling the university directly to see if there is any negotiation possible. Most universities have a Clearing contact number but, if not, call the admissions department. There is only a small chance of a university changing its decision, but it is definitely worth a try, especially if there are mitigating circumstances that may have affected your performance during A-Levels.
If you have managed to achieve the grades for your second choice, UCAS Tracking will inform you that you have been accepted and you will receive a confirmation letter in the post during the following few days.
I'VE MISSED THE GRADES FOR BOTH MY CHOICES
If you haven't been accepted by either of your choices you will enter the Clearing process. This offers students the opportunity to secure a university place after A-Level results are released. Clearing vacancies go live on the UCAS website the day before A-Level results day, 12th August 2015, and you’ll have until 30thSeptember 2015 to find and accept a university place. There is a perception that the Clearing process is complex and stressful but with the right advice and information it is much easier to navigate and find the right course for you. The key is to act quickly but not rush yourself and make uninformed decisions. Your school/college should have members of staff to advise you as well as there being many online guides such as this one to help you. Here is our step-by-step guide:
- Firstly, check you are eligible for Clearing - this will show up on your UCAS Tracking page if you haven't met the requirements for your chosen universities. The option to 'add Clearing choice' will appear and you will be able to access your Clearing Number (you will need this when contacting universities, so they can access your original UCAS application). You should be eligible for Clearing if you applied to UCAS before 30th June, and you either did not receive any offers from universities or you missed out on the grades required for your two final choices. If you did not, then you are still able register and apply through UCAS until the 21st September 2015 but cannot enter choices in your application - you will have to contact universities directly to get a place.
- From midnight (on the night before results are announced) UCAS will have a list of available courses through Clearing which you can browse and see if anything appeals to you. The Telegraph also has a full list of Clearing places available.
- In Clearing, you need to contact institutions directly - either their Clearing team or the admissions department - to discuss possible courses available and whether they will consider your application.
- There is no limit to the number of universities you can contact. If you receive offers, you won't need to accept them straight away, so it worth considering your options and taking your time when making your final decision.
- When you have made your decision, enter the course code and institution code on the Tracking website (the university will give you these when you are offered a place). This function becomes available at approximately 5pm on results day on the UCAS website.
- You are only permitted to enter one course on the 'add Clearing choice' option - it is only worth doing this when the university has informally offered you a place and have asked you to apply through Clearing.
Always remember that it is not essential that you go to university this year. If you are not happy with the options you have it is worth considering taking a year out to re-assess what to do next and if appropriate re-apply the following year.
I'VE CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT MY FIRM OR INSURANCE CHOICE
If you have been accepted onto a course via UCAS but no longer wish to go to your firm or insurance choice, the best thing to do is to call the university and ask them to release you. They will probably ask your reasoning for the change of mind, but then will process your request. This can take a couple of weeks so it is best to inform them as soon as you make the decision (preferably before you get your results and therefore before Clearing starts).
Once your release has been processed, you will be able to access your Clearing Number on UCAS and start the Clearing process as set out above.
Note that if you have changed your mind on university all together or want to defer for a year, you still need to inform the university you have successfully applied to.
CHOOSING YOUR COURSE IN CLEARING
Prospective students often spend months researching which course and which institution would suit them best, allowing them to make a well informed and calculated decision. In Clearing you often do not have that sort of luxury as it moves very quickly. Therefore, using online resources to compare courses is the best way to weigh up which would be best for you. There are plenty of resources which give facts and figures about universities on everything from cost of living to the nightlife. More importantly though, many allow you to directly compare the statistics for two or more courses at different universities; for example which has more contact hours or how different courses will be assessed. Plus, you can often find independent course reviews from current students which is the best way to get a full flavour of the courses you may be interested in.
It is important to remember that if you have missed the grades for your original choices, there are likely to be a wide range of courses available which are very similar. If your heart is set on a particular university, but you weren't accepted onto your chosen course, it is worth enquiring whether similar courses are offered at that university, through Clearing, with lower grade requirements. However, if this is not possible it may be worth rethinking what you want to do at university and looking for a completely different course. Again, it is vital that you research all the different options before making a big decision like that.
There is lots of information on results day and Clearing to take in and it is difficult to provide all the advice and information for each specific case. However, these tips will help you through the process and ensure you have thought of every possibility before results day.
- Don't make rushed decisions - call as many universities as possible if you think you may be interested in one of their courses.
- Prepare for Clearing phone calls - some universities will treat this as an interview for places, so make sure you've thought about what they may ask you and come up with some strong answers.
- Be in the country - trying to seek advice and call universities is a whole lot harder if you are on a beach in Magaluf with no signal reception!
- Keep your school/college in the loop - they handle this every year and most importantly they know you, so will be best placed to offer support and advice.
- Be realistic - if you are a long way off the required grades for a particular course, it may not be worth contacting them. It may be best to explore more realistic options first.
- Don't commit until you are absolutely sure - universities will not force you to make a decision there and then, so make sure you've thought everything through before making a final decision.
- If you are offered a place through Clearing, make sure you find out about accommodation. Many universities guarantee first years students accommodation, even those who have been accepted through Clearing, but if they don't they will have lists of approved landlords and suitable private accommodation.
- Visiting the university - even though Clearing is a busy process and the courses start very soon, universities will often offer you the chance to go to an open day before you start. If not, it is definitely worth having a look around the university on your own to make sure you have made the right choice.
NEW ADDITIONAL CLEARING SERVICE FOR 2015
This year, UCAS has introduced an additional aspect to Clearing which makes it possible for universities to directly contact you about their available Clearing spaces. If you are eligible you will be sent a link via email asking you to sign up. If you do, then up to five universities and colleges may ring you from 13:00 on 13th August - 4th September if they have a relevant course you may be interested in. Even if you decide to use this service it's a good idea to still check out what places are available through Clearing as usual, as the perfect place for you may not decide to ring you. If you are offered a position this way, remember that you don't have to make a decision on the spot! Take time after the conversation to research the course and what other options are available to make sure this is where you want to spend the next three years.
We hope this guide has helped. If you do become stuck or just want to find out more information there is plenty of advice out there, including UCAS's own helpline. We wish you all the best for results day.