How to survive clearing 2015

‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly’

61,000 students went through clearing last year. 

A recent survey found only nine per cent of those who went through clearing felt they’d been given adequate information on the process prior to their results.

You’ll be spending the next hours/days/weeks on the phone to admissions departments begging to get on a course similar to the one you originally applied for. But there’s other things you need to know.

But we had a deal?!


Don’t panic

Anna Dourountakis, The Head of Sixth Form at St George’s School, Ascot advises “Whilst adjustment would be the preferable position, should you find yourself in clearing, the most important thing is not to panic. Your teachers will support you and there may be very good reasons you are in this position. Take control of your future and your decisions.

“It is easy to feel pressured into making a hasty decision, but remember every year thousands of students find themselves in similar situations and go on to secure a place at very respectable universities.

“You will be spending at least three years reading for a degree so it is crucial the university and the course chosen are right for you. There is life after results day and clearing.” 

You’re allowed to fail

So there’s a gap between your expectations and the realisation of them. It’s not as big a deal as it feels like, honest.’s Richard McMunn says “some of the UK’s most successful business people – like Sir Richard Branson or Sir Alan Sugar- didn’t go to university, or failed most of their exams, so there is an argument for not placing so much emphasis on exam results when they come round. Success, after all, comes in many different forms.”


This badass didn’t even go to uni

Top psychotherapist Robert Stewart has this advice for dealing with disappointment: “Failing at anything does not have to reflect on you as a whole, we are much more than the results or outcomes we have in life. Reflect on the situation, so as to learn and apply different strategies next time, but stay clear of self-criticism and self-defeat.”

Create a playlist

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The chances are you’ll feel all of them at once – well, maybe not acceptance – it’s been a year and I still haven’t got to that stage yet.

I found creating a playlist full of songs to match my mood helped me get through it all.

I could really relate to Ed Sheeran’s “I’m A Mess” and I’d also recommend “I Don’t Fuck With You” by Big Sean. Try occasionally replacing the word “you” with the name of the university which rejected you can really help to release all the anger.

Yeah Durham, ya lil’ stupid ass bitch I ain’t fucking with yooooou

Look at your personal statement, not Facebook

I didn’t get into the university of my choice but everyone else in the entire world did. How do I know? They confirmed it on Facebook because they’re all reeeeeally fucking happy.

Anyone going through clearing should avoid jealousy by staying away from social media as a whole and focus on the phone conversations.

When you’re not on Facebook you can do something productive. Dig out the personal statement you wrote a few months ago and read it before you start calling universities. It’ll help you remember what your priorities are and what you want to get out of this process.


Soooooooooooo happy for you.

Get on the phone and be positive

First year Cardiff student Lucy Sedgwick, who went through clearing last year says “it’s really not as bad as it sounds. It sounds like the end of the world but it’s not, you’ll probably end up somewhere better suited to your academic standards anyway.

“Remember there are a lot of amazing unis that have spaces and you’ll have fun no matter where you go”

And she’s right, however even if you are genuinely happy with your post-clearing situation, conversations with patronising family members and friends will drain all the excitement from you.

Oh and “it’s still a fantastic university” is a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot. Learn how to fake a smile.

Smiling won’t hurt when you’re on the phone to a uni. If you’re smiling (even if its fake) your positivity should be apparent to the admissions tutor on the other end of the phone. Be prepared to endure a mini phone interview with them as well. It’s worth planning out answers to the questions they might ask you and having them to hand.

Matthew Leeke, Admissions Tutor at the University of Warwick said: “The most important thing I would ever ask a student is “why do you want to study my subject, and why do you want to do it at my university?” Regardless of whether they’re coming through clearing or the regular cycle, it’s really the students who can best answer this that will stand out the most.”

Tired of having this conversation again

Exhausted from all of this bullshit

Stay calm

Another survivor of clearing 2k14, University of London fresher Pipi McGregor advises “Try not to freak out because making those phone calls is not going to be any easier when you’re crying your eyes out about your grades. Take some time to digest then get on the phone and start dialling.

“Do your research – it sounds simple but look up the university and the course specs before you call. You’ll look pretty stupid when you’re begging for a place and you don’t know what the full name of the course is.

“And most importantly always have a large glass (or bottle) of your favourite alcoholic beverage on hand. It helps calm the nerves. But do not get trashed while calling for a place! It’s never a good look.”

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If you can’t face your overachieving friends then just get drunk on your own

Be subtle

If you, as a young naive offer holder made the fatal error of joining the the university facebook group, make sure you make a swift exit. I know it’s not your fault, it seemed like a great idea at the time but maybe if you’d spent less time stalking the members in the group and more time revising for your exams you’d actually get the chance to meet them.

Once a firmer, always a firmer

Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice

Anyone going through clearing has a stressful few days ahead. To cope, you just need to blame everyone else. I mean everyone: teachers, parents, UCAS, invigilators, the shitty friend who lent you a shitty pen you used in the exam you failed and, of course, the examiners with their stupidly unrealistic grade boundaries.

At the end of the day, it’s all their fault. And you can still take a gap year.

My view – Christina Feng, Law at Birmingham & BNOC winner

11012461_468555559984602_3343362018178871912_nOriginally I was supposed to study Law at Bristol, but on results day I didn’t make the grades for them to confirm my place. I remember being so stressed out on that day over what to do once I ended up in clearing.

I applied to Birmingham and Newcastle through clearing and got offers to study Law there. The next day I decided to accept Birmingham because I had previously lived there for a couple of years and went to school there so I was already familiar with the city. Now I think it was probably better than going to Bristol since I got to see some old friends again (both on campus and visiting old school) as well as knowing my way around, so there wasn’t much of a problem with homesickness.

I had a great first year at Birmingham both studying Law and meeting some amazing people. It would have been interesting to know what my first year would be had I got into Bristol, but who knows?

You can search for clearing vacancies right here.