A reflection on the UCAS clearing process…

Finding out if someone came to the university through “clearing” is often one of those things you generally don’t ask, along with a woman’s weight and what marks they got in their exams… However, after being accepted at the University of Sheffield, I can honestly say that clearing has been one of the best things that has happened to me. Hopefully, by sharing my experience, it will help others who may find themselves in this situation in August.

  1. Stage One: The broken hearted stage

Year 13 was not a good year for me and with a mixture of unforeseen circumstances I was devastated on results day 2014. My heart had been set on my firm choice university since I was 11. I had the correct predicted grades, I had passed the hurdles of the written application, the law test and the dreaded interview but I had fallen at the last hurdle.

I couldn’t really bring myself round to looking at other universities. It simply felt wrong. I would have been heartbroken if I had to go to my insurance, let alone neither of them. I felt like a failure. Throughout my application I had so much support and belief from my friends and teachers. They believed in me at every stage. Progressing through each stage their belief in me increased until the point at which I received my magical letter of a conditional offer and everyone thought that getting those grades would be a walk in the park for me. The “girl who got the highest GCSE grades at her school”, the “girl who wrote extra essays in her own time to perfect writing technique”.

  1. Stage Two: A life ring in the “clearing pool” 

I was lost. I had a job at the time and gratefully immersed myself fully in the convenient distraction with the vague “I’m not sure yet” reply to any questions about Results Day. Most of my friends had got into some university either through an original offer or through clearing…..clearing….that word filled me with dread. The connotations for me dragged up images of media studies at Anglia Ruskin or hair and beauty diploma at Aberystwyth. Not that there is anything wrong with these courses… I just could not bear to lose the remainder of my dream – Law at a Russell group.

However, with the support of some colleagues, friends and teachers at school, I realised that there were some possibilities in the “clearing pool”. I quickly highlighted some potential universities and began the task of calling up different universities. Whilst the horrendously long amount of time listening to “greensleeves” was enough to make me even more nervous, it quickly dawned on me that this would be no easy task, especially as my A Level grades had not been “fantastic”. Searching through the UCAS website, visiting “the Student Room” website and talking to friends at university definitely helped and once the ball began rolling, it became clear to me that although I wouldn’t be going to the university of my dreams, I would rather go to a comparable university rather than resit the year or take a gap year. After spending days trawling through phone calls and website enquiry forms, my luck turned. The University of Sheffield were willing to offer me a place to study Law with Spanish law. Sheffield became my life ring in the clearing pool, giving me direction on my next move.

  1. Stage Three: The next chapter, “what will be, will be”

My place at Sheffield was officially confirmed two days before I arrived at the university and everything happened very quickly. Once my place had been authorised through UCAS, members of the Sheffield team advised me on the whole process. My student loan was changed to suit my new course, I was invited to an orientation week at Sheffield as I had never visited it before and I was given recommendations on travel etc. One thing which I remember very clearly was accommodation. The first time I called, all the university accommodation had been taken and additional panic began to build as I faced the possibility of having to rent a house in a city I had never visited at such short notice. However, luck had it that when I called the day after for advice on private housing, a room had become available… an en-suite room in a self-catered, mixed sex flat of 10 people around 20 minutes from university, exactly what I had wanted.

Within two weeks of arriving, everything had worked like clockwork. I had won the catalyst scholarship for the year, I had met some of my closest friends and after attending lectures/seminars it was confirmed that I had chosen the correct degree. Now at the end of first year, I am proud to say that I have returned to a high academic level, I won the Bar Society Mooting competition, I was elected on to two society committees, I have been involved with various different events and I have made some amazing friends. I would not be who I am today had I not studied at Sheffield and honestly, I am truly glad about how things worked out. Clearing is not an embarrassing route for “failures”, it is another equally valid route to university for when things didn’t go to plan.

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