Digital ambassador Alix

Clearing: my experience

by Alix Leonard

Hi, I’m Alix, a final-year English Literature student here at Lancaster. As part of my clearing blog series, I thought I would share with you a bit about my experience going through the process.

Going through clearing was really difficult for me at the time, as I had to come to terms with not going to the University or doing the course I originally wanted to do – and essentially decided to start from scratch, based on my own interests, hobbies, and passion in general.

Unfortunately, I know quite a lot of students go through this experience; but I know now that while it is not particularly pleasant at the time, it is a key part of the whole university experience and one that makes your Higher Education all the more special and exciting!

Due to mental health reasons, I didn’t do as well as I was predicted to do in my exams and ended up not meeting the requirements for my original choice. This was a really difficult time for me personally, and I know that a lot of students around the world go through a similar experience when they get their results.

While it was hard to accept at the time, in hindsight, I realise that this was the best outcome that could’ve happened for me. I ended up completely re-evaluating my interests, and rethinking where I wanted to go with my studies.

Students relaxing in Pendle Bar

When I first started looking at my clearing options, I was really lost and didn’t really know how to proceed. I was really lucky to have a strong support system at hand, however – from my parents to my Higher Education counsellor at school – who helped me think through this huge change.

I’d previously been interested in studying English back in Year 11, before settling on Biology – so I thought this would be a good place to start.

If you’re also going through this, I’d recommend you think back to what it is you enjoyed when you were younger. What were your hobbies? What did you want to do as a job? And most importantly, what have you done throughout the years that can support your application?

These were all questions I asked myself when thinking about reapplying and something that made me sure that English was what I wanted to do.

Students by the Margaret Fell lecture theatre

I started by looking at the available options on the UCAS clearing search tool, where I was shown a range of courses based on my choice of courses.

I had two windows open on my browser; one with the league tables, ranking Universities by my subject of choice, and the clearing page.

I went through the long list over a few days, looking carefully at each option and judging whether or not I could meet the requirements based on my results.

Then, I researched the Universities individually, going to their websites, searching for groups on Facebook, reading articles on The Student Room, and really trying to find out as much as I could about them. This took quite a while and was a bit overwhelming at first, but I soon got excited about applying again, which made the process a lot easier!

By the time I’d shortlisted the Universities I was interested in, I’d gone back to the UK with my family and we decided to organise a little tour around the country to visit my top 3.

I contacted each University individually, letting them know my situation, and had what can be counted as a ‘mini interview’ over the phone with them. I booked a campus tour online for each of my choices (one of them was a self-guided tour) and was able to see the facilities in person, as well as really get a feel for the different places. This was really key as it allowed me to walk around and picture myself living there.

My shortlist got down to two Universities, and I received an offer for both within the next few days. Because I loved both places, it all came down to their course ranking and overall student satisfaction – which brought me to study in Lancaster!

Students in Williamson Park

Another thing that was important for me was to find out about the different counselling and mental health services available at the Universities you choose. Getting my results, losing my place at my original University, and having to start again through clearing brought me to really struggle with my mental health.

This isn’t often the case, but if you find yourself struggling, remember that you’re not alone – a lot of us have gone through the same thing! I reached out to my college counsellor and enquired about the support that was available for me. Knowing that this was an option was really key to helping me settle in and come to terms with what had happened.

Final thoughts

The first few months of University can be really hard for everyone, especially if it wasn’t your ‘original plan’. But in my experience, clearing was the best way for me to really confront what I truly wanted to do and to find a place I would never have expected to study. By sticking to it, and meeting a range of people from different backgrounds, you will grow to love the place you ended up finding yourself in!