Next week A-level students will find out if they have made the grades for their first choice of university, whether they will be taking up their insurance offer or going through clearing. My transition from school to higher education wasn't exactly the smoothest path. But in hindsight sticking to my guns, making my own choices and primarily not going through clearing was the best decision I ever made. But is clearing the right choice for everyone?
For me clearing was never an option, before I even started my UCAS application I had my heart set on only studying History and Politics at Lancaster University. In the end my insurance offer was the same grades as Lancaster, not exactly giving me much insurance. I was also one of the lucky few applying to University in the last year before the tuition fees sky rocketed from £3,000 to £9,000 a year. My course required A B B grades and Lancaster was not open for clearing that year due to the record numbers of students applying.
Unfortunately I got three B's, 6 marks off the A I needed and despite letter writing, constant ringing and getting a paper re-marked, Lancaster was full and I had lost my place. Everyone encouraged me to go through clearing and avoid the higher fees, but despite parental and financial pressure the idea of going to a university in rural Wales to study Media was just not my dream of uni life.
I decided to take a year out, after my January resists I landed a dream internship with United States Senator and spent three months in the US immersed in American politics. I received my exam results and learnt I had made the grades for Lancaster, my hard work and stubbornness had paid off.
When I set out to write this article I was hell-bent on telling soon-to-be students not to be pushed through the clearing process, to do as I had done and pursue their first choice. After speaking to students who gained their university places through this system I have come to realise it can work out positively for many. Though certainly not for everyone, however the risk of not getting a place at all often outweighs pursuing their dream choice.
Tom Scott studied Aerospace Engineering at Sheffield Hallam after securing a place through clearing; he told me "what if I had taken a year out? I could have had the best year and then been in my first choice of Uni or what if I had have got my papers remarked, but it's all overruled by the fact that I could have had nothing."
I also spoke to an Astrophysics graduate from Liverpool, who after not making the grades for his first choice in medicine took a place through clearing, "that few hours of crushing disappointment followed by determination not to dwell on past shortcomings... was by far the greatest lesson I could have learnt from further and higher education."
But the system obviously can't work for everyone, an Open University (OU) student told me about his regrets going through clearing, "I missed both my first choice and insurance and I decided to go through clearing, I ended up going to Leicester for two years before dropping out to continue at the OU. In retrospect I wish that I had just gone traveling instead and applied to universities that better suited me."
Don't be swept up in the pressure and hysteria of results day and the mad rush of I must get a place, make your own choices, take your time and if you don't end up with the results you expected who knows what amazing things you might do along the way until you get there. For some students clearing can obviously be a positive experience often taking them down a completely different path to what they had planned. But from my experience, I believe if you are truly driven enough to get onto that a particular course, or attend that certain University, take the year out and pursue it - don't just settle.