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Here’s how to choose a Clearing course you won’t regret this results day

With A-level results out tomorrow, what should you look for in a Plan B - in case things don't go as expected?

Which? University has found that around a third of students who found a place through Clearing regretted their course or university choice.

Our student survey found 32% of Clearing students regretted the course they chose, compared with 9% of non-Clearing students.

Similarly, 34% said the same of their university choice, compared with 10% of non-Clearing students.

The poll of 2,137 undergraduates was conducted by Youthsight on behalf of Which? and included 277 students who went through Clearing – the scheme that matches students seeking a place with universities that have availability on their courses.

What is Clearing? Read our ultimate survival guide

Making the right uni decision

Last year, 12% of all university acceptances were filled via Clearing – that’s just under 65,000 students using Ucas’ official system to grab a last-minute spot on an undergraduate course.

With Clearing activity peaking on A-level results day, and most places gone by the first week, there’s a great deal of urgency to secure a plan B that you’re happy with.

More than half of the Clearing students we spoke to wished they had done more research into their choice of course and university.

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: ‘Whether you’re now looking ahead to taking up your place at university, changing your study choices or working out a whole new plan, there are options open to you.’

We’ve got five key tips to make the most of your time researching a university course in Clearing.

How to get set for Clearing

1. Prepare beforehand

While we hope you’ve used the summer holidays to relax, use your free time wisely if you suspect you may be going down the Clearing route and get a head-start.

You don’t want to be kicking yourself on results day for not doing some legwork beforehand.

Even if you spend the day before familiarising yourself with the Clearing process, or drawing together a shortlist of possible courses and universities to keep an eye out for, this could save crucial time.

2. Don’t go back to square one

You don’t have to start your search for a plan B all over again. The nature of the Ucas application process means you’ll probably have a few possibilities up your sleeve already.

These could be universities that made you offers that you rejected, or those which didn’t make your top five, or final two, choices. If you shortlisted any courses beforehand, use these to get back into a researching mindset.

On Which? University you can look up courses based on your grade achievements.

Search and compare university courses quickly

3. Preparing for ‘The Call’

Gather together things you might need when speaking to universities: a charged-up phone, pen and paper, your personal statement (it’s worth rereading this, in case you’re asked a question about it), plus your Ucas Clearing number.

The conversation on the day might simply involve a confirmation of your grades and that there’s a place available that you can take. Or it could be a mini-interview, where you’re asked questions to test out your suitability for the course.

4. Make a trip

Universities often hold special open days on the weekend following results day for those students holding a Clearing offer from them.

We’d recommend visiting a university in person before applying – and it’s no different for Clearing students, if feasible.

This way, you can get up close with what may be a university you know very little about, talk to staff and ask any burning questions.

5. Take a digital tour

Alternatively, get a taste of a university without jumping on a train, through video tours, following a university on social media and live Q&As. This approach can help if you’re pretty much set on a university, but can’t visit at such short notice.

Meanwhile Which? University’s city guides can give you an idea of student life in 15 of the UK’s most popular cities. These include local nightlife highlights and average rent and transport costs.

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