UCAS Clearing – A Parent’s View

It has been a few years since our MD, Joe Makepeace, experienced the UCAS clearing system while his son was trying to get his place at University. With A-Level results being published today in one of the strangest results days in recent memory, we thought we would share Joe’s experience of the day.

To follow is Joe’s attempt to put into words the whole results day and UCAS clearing experience.

The Build Up

Myself and my wife, our brothers and sisters, our parents and grandparents had all never attended University. We are all pretty well-educated individuals and have all been successful in our careers to date but for whatever reason, University was something that other families did.

However, following a set of excellent GCSE results in 2013, our son decided to continue his studies at Sixth Form in the form of A Levels, ultimately leading to a possible University entrance in Autumn 2015.

UCAS Applications, personal statements, predicted grades and University Open Days all came and went in late 2014 / early 2015 and our son received conditional offers from all five of his chosen Universities, eventually deciding on a ‘preferred’ first choice and ‘insurance’ choice. Both of these Universities had made conditional offers and the grades that they required were at the very top end of what our son was expected to achieve (in reality they were probably beyond what was possible, but there is nothing wrong with setting the bar high!) and he was fine with this – he wanted to set himself a challenge.

Results day, August the 13th 2015, loomed large on the horizon and we eventually found out that students were able to access their UCAS account before getting their actual results from School and could therefore see if either of their conditional offers had been accepted.

They hadn’t…

What Happened Next?

Plans were made to get to School and see what his actual results were. Once he knew he could spend some time talking to his Tutors who have been through this process many times and could hopefully provide our son with some pearls of wisdom. His tutors re-emphasised to him that he had achieved a very good set of A Level results and that he need not worry – there would be plenty of Universities that would make him an offer through clearing……lovely to hear, but would they?

He initially spoke to the two Universities where he had not made the grade and was told that at this time there was nothing that they could do for him but wished him luck in his quest…

His next step was to identify the Universities who offered the particular degree he was looking for and had it available through clearing….there were seventeen of them, with typical offers ranging from Bristol (AAA) to Derby (240 UMS Points) and everything in between; step two was to identify the Universities for which his grades could potentially get him an offer and this whittled the list down to thirteen; step three involved reviewing all the stats about those remaining universities and identify the ones where future employability, ranking, student satisfaction and the distance between any University and the University his girlfriend would be attending (in reality this was the number 1 priority) and this process reduced the list to just five.

Let Clearing Commence

We were sat around the kitchen table, a list of University phone numbers and our son had all of his UCAS and grade information to hand and started making the calls; as you would expect, the phone lines were very busy and lots of patience was required (at one point all three of us were calling a number until one of us got through!). What happened over the next 90 minutes was a bit of a blur but during this process I can honestly say that our son came of age. He had taken everything so far with a pinch of salt and after a slightly hesitant first call, grew in confidence, and by half past ten in the morning he had had five verbal offers of a place to study his degree of choice!

In every case, the Academic staff he spoke with at all of the Universities were calm, empathetic, considered, polite, and knowledgeable and explained all of the options to our son in great detail (even providing answers to questions he had not asked!). Whilst I appreciate that they all had a vested interest in filling their courses, their conduct and helpfulness on the phone was somewhat unexpected and ultimately turned what I had thought would be a dreadful and anxious day into something much more pleasant and rewarding. Dealing with thousands of teenagers in various states of anxiousness cannot be easy and I doff my cap to them all.

Space

Students are unable to accept a place through clearing until 5pm on results day and this gave our son the ‘space’ to research those establishments, the town and cities they were in and get a better feel for which would be the correct choice for him and where he would spend the next three or four years. By 1pm he had completed his research, spoken with various people and members of staff and had made his choice. He had spoken with Student Finance England, University Accommodation Providers, Student Unions etc and everything was in place for him to go online at 5pm and accept the offer that he had received to study for a BSc(Hons) in Geology and Petroleum Geology at The University of Aberdeen!

..and Relax

Only experience can prepare you for this day and our support network didn’t have any!! However, our son ultimately ended up with a place to study an excellent degree at an excellent and historic University after ‘failing’ to attain the required grades (he did not fail) and the Academic staff we all encountered on the day were nothing short of brilliant and they fully deserve the thanks and praise they receive. Our son was able to relax and enjoy his results night party with his friends, safe in the knowledge that a plan for the next four years of his life was in place.

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