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Clearing 2021: advice students hoping to secure Plan B

This time of year can be very stressful for students as they await their hotly anticipated exam results. After a much-maligned academic year, this summer, students have the dreaded wait to find out if they have secured their spots at their educational institution of choice. If you’re in this position, the best advice right now is not to forget to have a plan B.

If you don’t get the results you expected for your first choice and don’t want to appeal your exams next year, then Clearing is the way to go. Clearing is used by universities and colleges to fill up the spaces they have left on their courses and helped more than 70,000 students last year. Many of those did not originally apply through the traditional UCAS route, instead deciding to wait until Clearing began. Navigating Clearing can be tricky, so here are some top tips to secure your future.

Exam results day - girl clearing on computer

When is results day? 

Tuesday 10th August will be when most people receive their  Level 3 BTEC and A-Level results. Scottish results will be released on the same day for SQA levels.

Where to start

First things first – don’t panic! Through Clearing you have more time than you think if you don’t get the results you expected. This year, the UCAS Clearing portal will run between 5th July to 19th October, and the option to use Clearing Plus, which matches you to courses you had previously shown an interest in, means it’s never been easier to see course options.

The Clearing process gives you extra time to find a course you want while allowing you to start university in September. During this period, you are able to visit online open days and virtual campus tours, giving you access to explore wider options. This is crunch time, and there is plenty of support available from your school, college, parents, or directly through UCAS.

Searching for a course

It may feel like starting all over again when looking at courses through Clearing but don’t be disheartened! Remember you already picked your favourites, so it might be a good starting point to look back on your original choices.

If you were already interested in these universities and courses, and already applied through UCAS, this will prove your interest when you give them a call to go through the Clearing process.

If these universities don’t have any Clearing places, don’t be discouraged. Allow yourself to think about what was important to you when you first chose these courses. Have your priorities shifted since then? The pressure and stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it mean some students may no longer wish to attend university in September. Others may opt for a course closer to home rather than one at the other end of the country.

You may find that you have a new passion to explore or that moving away is no longer what you want. It is important to answer all these questions when searching to find exactly what course and university will suit you. There will probably be courses you never knew existed that are available, so it’s also good to keep an open mind and not to discount alternative courses – you never know what you might find! It could set you on the path for a career you previously hadn’t looked into.

Consider your alternative options

A really important factor to consider is exactly what you want to get out of your studies. After studying for your A-levels or Level 3 qualification you may have found that the traditional routes aren’t for you after all, or you may need more time to adjust to higher studies or moving away from home.

You may do better to look for institutions that offer a broad curriculum of foundation degrees or more vocational options for study. Many colleges offer higher education options and are still great places to study! They are able to offer more support while also giving the option for work experience alongside your studies and smaller classes for a more personal teaching style. You can still get the perks of studying in a location you want to as well, whether that is close to home or near your ideal city of choice.

Degree apprenticeships are also a great option to get the best of both worlds. You can enter the world of work while also getting paid and achieving your degree without tuition fees. While you can earn as you learn, degree apprenticeships are also a way to give back and apply your learning back in the workplace, entry requirements differ across colleges and employers but there are great opportunities across the UK through a variety of different businesses.

There is no need to stress on results day. There will be disappointment if you don’t get into your first choices, but it’s essential to keep an open mind! Taking that step further into higher education is an exciting new chapter in life, with many memories and friends to make, so don’t let one day change that!

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