Posted Wednesday 29 July 2015
Students eagerly anticipating A-level results this week are being urged to plan ahead in case their grades aren't quite what they expected. Clearing hotlines are predicted to be as busy as ever this year but the advice from Kingston University staff is clear - students have an opportunity to stand out if they are thoroughly prepared and armed with a Clearing action plan.
Studying for an undergraduate degree has never been more popular - more than 500,000 first year students enrolled on undergraduate degree programmes at UK universities in 2014. However, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) also show that the number of students using Clearing to secure a degree place is at an all-time high, with a record-breaking 61,300 students finding a spot at university through this route last year.
Kingston University's Deputy Director of Student Administration, Dr Andy Homer, who is overseeing its annual Clearing operation, said the University was receiving more and more calls every year and not just from students who had missed out on their target grades. "We are hearing from students who didn't apply for their course through the traditional UCAS route," he said. "We are also being contacted by others who have changed their minds about their original UCAS choices - including students who have achieved better grades than predicted and want to rethink their options through Clearing."
With increasing numbers of high-calibre students looking to secure a university place through Clearing, Dr Homer said it was critical to have a plan firmed up in advance of picking up that envelope on 13 August. "Thinking through some contingency options before results day will put you in a much stronger position because we know that decisions made when stressed and in a hurry often result in poor choices," he explained. Identifying and saving hotline telephone numbers for favourite universities was important too, Dr Homer said. "Scrambling about on A-level results day will only add to the pressure and it's important to get through to universities, quickly," he warned.
Someone who understands Clearing inside-out is Kingston University's Dr Hannah Moir who - as well as being a senior lecturer in health and exercise physiology - is also an admissions tutor. Dr Moir's university career only started when she secured a degree place through Clearing so she understands more than most how people will be feeling on results day. "Discovering you haven't got the grades you need is nerve-wracking but our specially-trained Clearing hotline staff, many of whom are current Kingston students so can really empathise with how our prospective students feel, are there to assist," she said. "You need to help them support you by making sure you have all the critical information to hand." This meant all exam grades - including GCSE or BTEC results - UCAS application numbers and the subject they wanted to study, she said. Students should also remember that offers couldn't be made to parents or friends.
If students felt they might be nervous on the phone, it would help them to have a list of questions prepared, Dr Moir added. "Showing they are ready for Clearing is an important way for students to demonstrate their commitment," she said. "Admissions tutors want to see evidence that students have really thought about studying a particular subject and that this is an opportunity they would be grabbing with both hands."
Resilient students who have the ability to bounce back from disappointment were very often the applicants who went on to do extremely well, she said. Dr Moir is adamant that Clearing can be character-building and an educational process in itself. "Life can bring setbacks and it's how we deal with disappointment that matters," she said. "Clearing helped me develop what I needed for academic success - determination, planning and persistence. That's stuck with me ever since and I am grateful for the valuable lessons I learnt going through the process."
Course vacancy lists will be published on the UCAS website and in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on results day. Students applying through UCAS will be able to check their application status on the Track page. Kingston University's Clearing hotline will open from 8.30am on 13 August and trained staff will help match callers to the remaining places for courses starting this Autumn. Callers who fulfil the minimum grade requirements for available courses will be transferred to academic staff to discuss their options.