Get on the phone early

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With A level results being received in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, Dr Jonathan Kirkup from Cardiff University gives his advice for students about the process of going through clearing

Some advice for anyone receiving A-level results in case you don't get the grades you were hoping for.
 
I've been involved in clearing at Cardiff University for the last seven years and my No.1 tip for those who find themselves in clearing is get on the phone to the university clearing hotlines early - I mean pretty much as soon as you have your grades.
 
The top universities fill their places quickly and once they are full - they are full! They will close to new applicants - after this point they may not even take your call - no matter how lovely you are - and more importantly, they may not talk to you even if you have the grades they are officially asking for on their website.
 
Every year is different and covid-19 may change things - there are fewer A-level students this year (but don’t count on things being that different).
 
Last year, all the courses at the politics department at Cardiff, where I work, were full before midday - that was it - we were full - so those who thought for too long...talked to mum and dad, aunties and uncles...granny...or teachers...and then phoned up - even if they had really good grades, didn’t get in (we only have so many seats in our lecture theatres so there aren’t infinite places). That’s why you need to do your thinking now.


Things to think about

Become familiar with the UCAS clearing system - I know it’s boring reading website guidance but you don’t want to be wasting your time on Thursday reading how it all works. (The system works really well).
 
Assuming you don’t get in to the course you want....
 

  1. There may be a similar course available at your first choice university with slightly lower entry grades. There might be other universities you have visited which you quite liked and which have lower entry grades - these institutions may well be in clearing (if they were in clearing last year they almost certainly will be this - ask a teacher or look on their website). You could try to phone them before Thursday to discuss their courses, they may have someone who can chat to you.
  2. Make a note of the clearing hotline numbers of all the universities you are interested in (if you get the grades you can dump this information) but Thursday morning will be hectic and you need to be ready.

 
Remember: it's not the end of the world if you don't get the grades - there are lots of options - Good luck!