I’ve just finished my final year at Cardiff University, but what you may not know is I got into Cardiff through UCAS clearing. Having finished my degree I feel I have a good perspective on the clearing process all the way from in the moment on results day, to what it actually means once you’re at university.
My clearing experience on results day was traumatic to say the least. So let’s go back to 2016 and start the story there.
A Level Results Day:
Results day is a funny one. At my school we went into school well after UCAS had our results, meaning most universities had already let us know their decisions for whether we had got in or not.
Personally, the university I had put as my first choice had relatively low grade offers compared to other universities offering the same course. So even though I was expecting my Biology grade to not be as high as the grade offer, I was still expecting to get in. But I was wrong, I logged into UCAS on results day morning and saw that I had been rejected from my top choice uni. At this point I hadn’t been to pick up my results yet so I had NO idea where I had messed up.
For some odd reason, I’m guessing stress was the cause, as soon as I read this email I had a HUGE nose bleed. I’m talking blood pouring from my nose (gross I know)! But once it had stopped and I’d managed to get cleared up, my mum grabbed everything she thought we would need to go through the clearing process: laptops, phones, chargers, notepads, and pens. (If you’re going into school knowing you’re going through clearing definitely take all these with you)!
I was meant to be meeting my friends to go into school to collect my results but I was too distraught to do this, so instead, my parents and I showed up before the school was even open to get my results and figure out what to do next. I’m pretty sure I was the first person in my year to get my results. I actually got grades I was happy within the two subjects I was taking forward to uni, English Literature and Philosophy, but my Biology grade was not good. But my take on that grade is do I really need it to do English and Philosophy? Well, no. So I thought maybe my first choice uni would feel the same if I could speak to them.
I don’t even remember talking to any of my teachers on results day. I think at some point I spoke to my head of sixth form who hadn’t had me on his clearing list from UCAS. But being first to school meant first choice of rooms. My school had independent study rooms that were basically like meeting rooms with a desk and chairs for six people and power sockets. My parents and I got set up in one of those with laptops and phones at the ready.
I called through to my first choice uni (I’m purposely not naming them, as I think my bad experience with them ultimately came down to one rude member of staff and don’t think it’s fair on the whole uni to bad mouth them) and finally got through to them. I’m not sure anyone has ever been so rude to me on the phone as the woman who spoke to me was. The woman I spoke to was completely dismissive of me and kept reminding me that I ‘didn’t get the grades,’ which was true but I was actually only one grade out from my offer and it was in a subject I wasn’t taking any further. I was eventually told that the uni would be going through everyone who hadn’t reached their grade and that I would be told soon whether they would actually accept me or not. I expected this to only be a few hours and before the end of the day.
Whilst I was waiting for this phone call to come through, I began looking at what other universities had clearing spaces for my course and began calling them. I started by calling my back up uni as their grades were a lot higher and I knew I wouldn’t get in so it was a good place to practice what I was going to say.
I then called a university I’d been to see previously (I really didn’t like it but Mum thought they’d offer me a place and I needed to know I could go somewhere at this point) and they were really nice and offered me a place.
I can’t really remember if I called any other unis myself but I had a call from one university who had chosen me off the clearing list they’d been given and offered me a place. Again this was somewhere I didn’t want to go.
But that leads us on to Cardiff, which was by far my most positive experience with a clearing phone call. Cardiff had higher grades than my previous first choice uni but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. The lady was really quick to say that they would love to accept me but that she just needed to check something, a few seconds later she came back and told me that they couldn’t offer me a place that year (2016) but that they could offer me a deferred place for (2017). My plan was definitely not to take a gap year, it really wasn’t something I wanted to do but so far this was my best offer.
After many hours at school, I finally went home. Still no call back from my first choice uni. So I called them multiple times over the next day. I also took to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing the same thing as me, being left waiting closer and closer to the deadline for a decision. It’s fair to say, this uni had not planned their clearing hotlines very well and did not have enough resource.
At some point (possibly the next day – I can’t quite remember), my parents and I decided I needed to accept one of the other offers before I lost them (they have a time limit on). By this time I think I was starting to come round to the idea of a gap year so I accepted Cardiff’s offer.
Where I Ended Up at University:
Clearly, I wasn’t accepted into my first choice university and I ended up going to Cardiff. On clearing day, someone told me ‘everything happens for a reason’ and at the time I was really angry at them for saying that, it wasn’t the time or place to be saying that to an 18 year old girl who was in floods of tears because their future had suddenly become uncertain. I still stand by that not being a nice or thoughtful thing to say to someone in that state, but after finishing at Cardiff I guess it was kind of true.
In fact, so many people I came across at Cardiff had also been accepted through clearing. This obviously made me feel better about my own clearing experience and knowing I wasn’t the only one who had got in through this method.
Although going through clearing was horrific, I’m glad my journey to university ended that way. Without it, I wouldn’t have ended up at Cardiff. I hadn’t even applied to CU in the first place and it forced my hand. I’ve loved studying at Cardiff and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine my life without the people I’ve met at Cardiff and it opened a world of possibilities to me. Thanks to Cardiff I can now say I’ve lived and studied in three countries: England, Wales, and America. I’ve had opportunities to explore my passions such as running social media for a society. And I’ve come to love a city that I’d never been to before accepting my clearing place.
What to Expect from Clearing:
- Don’t expect clearing to be a pleasant experience. Your future has just been massively shaken up, it’s okay to feel upset by it.
- Be prepared for rude people on the phone. Some members of university staff will never understand how hard you’ve worked for it, even if you didn’t get the grades.
- Be ready with the clearing website (I think there’s an app this year too – UCAS is clearly bringing itself into the modern day), a phone, pens, and paper to see what you have on offer to you and start making those phone calls to get yourself a place.
- Don’t worry if you’re feeling jealous, angry, or annoyed at your friends if they got into their first choice uni. It’s normal to feel disappointed, especially in relation to our peers. I’d actually suggest staying away from social media feeds during clearing so you’re not bombarded with posts of people boasting about their grades and acceptances.
- But do keep an eye on universities you’re interested in social media channels. They may post clearing updates here.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you in this post is that although clearing is a horrible thing to have to go through, it can work out. And if it doesn’t you can always switch universities later down the line (I have friends who went to their first choice uni but ended up hating it and changing to another uni).
If you’re going through clearing this year, or any future years, I hope it involves fewer nose bleeds than mine, and that you end up being accepted into a university you love – even if it’s not one you expected to go to.
Thanks for reading about my clearing experience! Leave me any questions in the comment – I’d be happy to answer! Check out my other university blog posts too!