Tomorrow's the day students get their A level results. It's also the day that clearing lines open at Universities up and down the country.
Clearing is the system that matches people without University places (perhaps because they've not got the results they needed) with places on courses.
It can be a really stressful time, for the potential students and their families, but also for the course teams at Universities.
I teach at Edge Hill and have been one of the voices on the end of the clearing line for a few years. So I thought I'd note down my tips for students making that call.
1. Under no account get your parents to make the call for you (this does happen). We need to make judgements based on talking to you and if mum or dad calls then I am already making a judgement about your initiative and determination.
2. Have all your details to hand. At the very least you need your UCAS number and details of your exam results, including some of your GCSEs. If you are not yet in the UCAS system, say so.
3. Often the person you are talking to will be making decisions about a range of courses. I sometimes take calls for media courses ranging from advertising to TV production management. You may be interested in more than one course but try not to come across as vague. "Any media course" is not a good answer to "what are you interested in?"
4. Think about what might be important to the course you are calling about. If you have failed to make the grades for your offer, wherever that offer was, you need to find other things to persuade us. I usually ask something like "why are you interested in the subject?" which is a good chance to highlight any non exam experience. For example, I teach Public Relations which includes a lot of writing. If you love writing and have written for a school magazine, this will impress someone like me. Students often under sell themselves at this stage. If you do voluntary work, like organising events for charities, big it up!
5. Ask questions. This shows interest in the course and also helps you make a decision. Key things to ask for a more practically based degree would include class sizes, available equipment, any hidden costs (for example will you need to buy equipment). Some courses have a lot of exams. Others are entirely course work based. If you are really exam phobic, it is worth asking about the split. Questions are also another way of you selling yourself to us as what we are looking for are students who really want to study our course with us. Good questions include "what sort of jobs are your recent graduates in now?" and "If I do this course, is there any reading or preparation I should be doing now?"
6. In most cases, the tutor you are speaking to will decide whether to make you an offer of a place and tell you. This may then be followed up by e mail and/or mail which you have to reply to quickly. Offers will lapse after a certain period of time so you absolutely need to check your e mail for the follow up and then act on it. You don't need to accept this offer, so think carefully about it.
7. Think about where you will live. Because you are effectively applying late, some of the halls of residence will be full. Some Universities deal with this by block booking other rooms for late entrants. Edge Hill for example has block booked rooms in a Liverpool based private student building which, with a travel bursary, makes it possible for new students to still find somewhere to live. If you are applying at this stage, you won't have had long to research the area and the University may be one in a town you've not thought of before. This means asking about accommodation is a really important part of your decision making.
8. Visit if you can. Many Universities make it possible for potential students to visit the campus around this time. Edge Hill for example has an open day on Saturday. Any opportunity to look around and speak to teaching staff needs to be taken. This is a big decision and you need to feel happy that you have made the right decision for you.
I am not on the phones tomorrow, but good luck to everyone seeking that last minute place on what could be a life changing course!