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Guest blog: A-level results day – a guide to the UCAS Clearing System

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kemplu Fri 16-Aug-13 13:37:02

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KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 15-Aug-13 11:55:03

Today's the day that, after an agonising wait, A-level students get their results - good luck to everyone who's waiting with bated breath!

If your child's results aren't quite what they'd hoped and it looks as though they won't be taking up their first choice university place, it's likely that they'll be making use of the UCAS clearing system - and today's guest blogs will help you get to grips with what needs to happen next. Firstly David Giles, who's Director of Admissions at the University of East Anglia, explains how Clearing can sometimes be a blessing in disguise - then Fiona Waye of Universities UK offers some practical tips from to help you support your child through their next steps.

Read the blog and tell us what you think - and if you're one of those parents who are biting their nails, do let us know how your DC get on here on the thread.

"Clearing has changed considerably in recent years and there is much more activity around the release of A-Level results than in the past. Where it was once viewed as simply the route for students with lower grades than expected to find places at less highly ranked universities, now it has also become a real opportunity for high-performing students to 'trade-up' to a more desirable university or course and for universities to attract even more well-qualified students to fill remaining spaces.

Ideally, your son or daughter would have had a plan ahead of time of what universities and types of courses they would consider when it comes to clearing, enabling them to have a plan for clearing and avoid making decisions in haste.

If their grades are wildly off from what was predicted and from how they performed relative to their peers, then it may be worth considering a remark. But if they choose to have any papers remarked, it's essential to contact firm and insurance choices as soon as possible and let them know - and also to bear in mind that remarks can go down as well as up.

Don't forget, a gap year is an option and can have a real positive impact on your child's future choices and how they may approach their studies at university.

If your child misses their grades and a place at their firm and/or insurance university, they (and you) are going to feel disappointed and a whole range of other emotions. Advise them not to feel under pressure to accept a place in clearing that might not be at the right university for them. Make sure they choose a related course that they will be interested and motivated in studying. We advise all students to make a very carefully considered decision based on knowledge of the courses, the campus and the strength of the academic, social and cultural experience at UEA.

One of our current Law students, who has just finished his second year, came through clearing and found it was the best option for him. Hoping to come to UEA, both his firm and insurance university choices were maths courses here. In the months leading up to exam results he realised that he might not be as suited to the courses as he had hoped, and when his A-Level results weren't quite what he needed, he took the chance to apply through clearing to study Law, and secured a place. As he prepares to spend his third year abroad in Belgium, he is confident that clearing offered him the chance to be on the right course, making his time at UEA the best it could be. He also shared some suggestions for students applying through clearing:

1. Have someone with you. They can keep you calm while you're trying to get through, and support you if you don't manage to get on the desired course.

2. Have a plan and be organised. If you can't get on to one course, be open to considering others at the same university if your heart is set on going, and know what the course requirements are.

3. Make the most of clearing. It isn't just a back-up option. If you change your mind about what to study or where between applying and results, it's a chance to do what you really want to do.

David Giles is Director of Admissions at the University of East Anglia

Practical tips to get the best out of the Clearing System
Fiona Waye, Universities UK

A record 55,700 people found a place on a variety of courses through Clearing last year and this is now seen as a respected application route through which students can apply with their results in hand. This year UCAS's Clearing search tool makes it easier to see whether a course has vacancies.

Your son or daughter will know if they are in Clearing as their 'Track' status will say 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'. If 'Track' doesn't say either of these yet, it may just be waiting for their results to update. In this case they should get in touch with the universities/colleges as they might still be considering them, even if their results are a bit lower than required.

For those who don't get a place at all there are still a number of options:

* Withdraw and re-apply next year

* Take a year out to work, go on a gap year or 'bridging' year

* Reassess choices - higher education does not just mean doing a full-time degree. UK universities and colleges offer a range of options including part-time study. Don't forget tuition fee loans are now available for those studying part-time and you can research potential courses through UCAS's Course Search facility on their website. Other options include distant learning, a foundation degree or a course such as a Higher Education Diploma.

* Consider vocational learning routes such as apprenticeships - degrees can be incorporated into Higher Apprenticeships.

For those who do better than expected:

The UCAS Adjustment service is an option which gives you a chance for you to reconsider where and what to study. But encourage your son or daughter to talk to their school, college or careers office to help them decide if a move is really right for them - if they do decide to change they must make sure it's a course and university that they like. There are practical considerations to think about, too such as whether accommodation is still available.

For everyone else, here are 5 things to remember!

1. Encourage your son or daughter to approach Clearing in a calm, organised manner - it is vital that they don't rush into making any decisions they may regret later.

2. Encourage them to research courses thoroughly and then to make a list of the available courses they are interested in in order of preference; discuss options with them but let them decide. This is a life decision and it is important that they choose a course that suits them. There is lots of help and support available on the UCAS website, through UCAS' social media channels and by calling their customer contact centre 0871 468 0468.

3. When they call a university or college to discuss the course they are interested in ensure that they have all their details to hand, including their UCAS ID number, and are prepared to explain why they are interested in the course

4. Make sure they call the university or college and not you - it is your child, not you, that the university wants to hear from and first impressions count.

5. Ensure that they have applied for their student loan. The sooner they do this the better! These loans - available for both tuition fees and living costs - come from government and are not the same as taking out a commercial loan. Repayments are based on how much you earn, not how much you owe. See universities own websites, or visit or see Martin Lewis's guides.

Fiona Waye is Policy Adviser to Universities UK

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