I wrote this post for A Level results day last year. If anything, the 2022 results carry even more uncertainty. For students, parents and teachers. We had a return to exams in school, but for a cohort that had not sat exams for GCSEs, had coped with lockdown, and then coped with A level study under pandemic conditions. Add to that Ofqual’s move to a ‘midway point’ for grades and record competition for university places, and it’s a tense time for all concerned.
I hope this checklist will be helpful for anyone using the UCAS Clearing system to find a university place this year.
The 2020-21 school year was different from any that went before but one constant is the UCAS Clearing process for university grades. Here’s my checklist for those using this system:
- Wait until you have your grades. While UCAS open clearing early in July, universities can’t make an offer to you unless you know your grades.
- Make sure you know how clearing works. UCAS explain it here: What is clearing?
- Have your personal statement to hand as well as your grades and UCAS ID. You’ll need to be able to speak about yourself, not just your grades.
- Do some research on colleges. You may want to go for an alternative course at a university that made you an offer, alternatively you may be phoning a uni you didn’t originally apply to. Either way, you will need to give a positive reason why you want a place there.
- Similarly, research the courses on offer. You should be able to give a positive reason for doing that course and be able to say why it interests you.
- Avoid reasons that will set alarm bells ringing for tutors. Examples are ‘My friend is going there’ or ‘My Dad thinks it’s a good idea’.
- Be ready to explain why you got lower grades than you expected. Was it down to a particular topic? Did something happen that affected your performance? Show that you have reflected on this and remain positive about your subjects. Be ready to talk about what went well and areas of study you enjoy.
- You need to make the call yourself. The university want to hear from you and learn about you, not your teacher or your mum!
- Don’t worry about being nervous when you call, the tutor you speak to will be used to this, but do be prepared to speak clearly. Write out a sheet with key points and have this in front of you when you call.
- If you get an offer, don’t forget to add this as a clearing choice in UCAS track. Only do this when the university give you permission.
You may want to take some time to think about if this is the right time to go to university. Your friends or family may be encouraging you to go but it’s a decision you need to make for yourself. Retaking exams might be the right decision, or employment might provide additional experience for a future application. Whatever you decide, best wishes for your chosen future!