University clearing: advice to parents of prospective students

A guest blog by Elizabeth Pate

Clearing is notorious as a bit of a free-for-all; a stressful time for those students desperate to secure a university place in time for September. It can be difficult for parents to know the best way in which to support their child, even before UCAS rules and regulations are considered.

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I work as the Student Recruitment Team Leader at Buckinghamshire New University, and the lead-up to and aftermath of results day is always a busy time for us. It’s surprising how many parents ring up on behalf of their children trying to get them a place, or even just to ask advice. Having this behind the scenes knowledge for the past few years has enabled me to come up with what I think are the key things to remember for parents during this time with regards to supporting your child and helping them to make the right decision.

One of the most important things for prospective students to have to hand with regards to clearing is their UCAS ID number. This is a number unique to them which will allow them to access the UCAS Track website. Universities will also ask for this number. Clearing actually starts before results day in July, and remains open until the 30th September, so perhaps tell your child to keep a note of their ID number on their phone so they can access it easily. Copying your child’s exam certificates is also useful, so that they can be sent off quickly at a university’s request.

With your child stressing out about their results, the temptation of going into panic-mode yourself may be strong – but resist! It’s not the end of the world if they don’t meet the requirements of their first offer, and there may still be an opportunity to go to the same university but study a different course. Advise them to get on the phone to their first choice and have a conversation with the admissions team to discuss their options.

This is also a good time to begin researching alternatives. If your son or daughter is determined to go to university, but is having no luck with their first choice, it’s time to start broadening your horizons. The UCAS Track website will list all the institutions with spaces remaining on their courses as well as providing contact information. Try to get them to remain calm and consider the pros and cons of each option, such as location, facilities and whether the university is campus or city based, rather than immediately going for the first one that offers them a place.

It’s wise to contact a range of institutions if going through clearing, but remember to keep a list of the ones your child has spoken to with all the relevant details. This will ensure that you can compare and contrast universities and courses with them in an impartial way. And try to let them do the contacting! It can be tempting to pick up the phone yourself, but remember that universities will need to speak directly with the applicant when making an offer due to data protection laws. Make sure your child is around for the duration of the clearing period!

When your child has narrowed his or her choices down to one, or a couple, now is the time to enquire about the possibility of visiting. Don’t let them be rushed or pressured into accepting an offer just because it’s there; most universities will hold an offer for seven days. It’s important to ensure that they’ll be happy at the institution otherwise there’s a greater risk of them dropping out. Universities will often happily accommodate a quick campus tour, and it’s also a great opportunity to ask further questions that may have slipped you or your child’s mind when on the phone. Often it’s difficult for prospective students to get a feel for a university and how they might fit in there until they’ve visited, so I’d really advise on having a look around where possible.

My last piece of advice would be to try your best to take a positive outlook on the whole clearing experience. For many students it ends up being a blessing in disguise, and offers them the opportunity to go to a university that is better for them, but that they may not have otherwise considered. Do your best to support your child and help them to think rationally about what they want to do next, and where they might enjoy studying. Most admissions teams are goldmines of untapped advice and information, so don’t be afraid to ask us questions and voice your concerns.

Good luck!

Elizabeth Pate is Student Recruitment Team Leader at Bucks New University.


Here are some of our advice articles you might also find useful:

Advice on university finances
Getting ready for university
Thinking about a gap year
Deciding whether to go to university or not
Empty nest syndrome

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