The How To – Survive Clearing


For the English readers of this blog, you’ll be aware (probably!) that A-Level results are coming out soon. For those of other nationalities this won’t make much sense, so apologies in advance!

I’m sure many of you will have heard, and perhaps gone through clearing yourself. Clearing is what happens when you miss the grade requirements for your first and second choice university.

I feel like there is a massive stigma around clearing, and certainly one that I felt before I had to go through it myself, so I wanted to write this post in case anyone was stressing about their results and panicking about not getting in to their top choices!

Firstly, going through clearing does NOT equate to failure. Clearing is there for a reason – because we all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes can happen at really rubbish times. I know that your A-Levels are one of the biggest parts of any English teenagers life, and so the idea of messing that up is of course terrifying.

Things can go wrong for a multitude of reasons, especially if you’re taking humanities subjects, which I did. You can misinterpret the question, run out of time, the stress could get to you and you could just blank, you could have learnt the material in the wrong way to answer the exam questions, and on, and on, and on. For exams which seem to be so essential, there are many ways of messing them up which can have no bearing on how hard you worked, or on how clever you are. Also, you really could just have not worked enough. It’s easy to do, especially as revising for GCSE’s and revising for A-Levels are 2 totally different things. It’s also not shameful to admit to this, and use it to spur you on to work harder the next time!

What I’m trying to say is, if you feel like things aren’t going to go your way, don’t feel ashamed, or like you can’t talk to anyone. If you think clearing could be a possibility, then there are ways to make it slightly easier.

Firstly – do your research. Speak to your 6th form advisor or look up on the internet what clearing entails. The year that I got my results, there were several newspaper articles about increased clearing spaces, with some information about universities that were offering spaces. The Telegraph’s guide to clearing is really good, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out here:

Secondly – think about if you want this. If you were just going to uni because it’s the ‘done’ thing, maybe this is a good sign it’s not for you. Alternatively, it could prove to you how much you want to go. It all depends on you, and whatever you’re feeling talk to your parents about it. Try not to let to panic of ‘I’m going to fail so I’m going to pretend I didn’t care about it anyway’ put you off making an informed decision. You could also stay and retake, and take a gap year. Personally, I knew I wanted to go to university whatever the outcome, and I got very lucky – Newcastle was one of my 5 choices anyway, so I knew that I liked the uni, although I’m aware that this is very rare! If you do want to retake, take a gap year, or go straight into work, try and get a reasonable idea of what it would be like now. For a lot of people who take gap years it’s fun whilst travelling but not so much when you have to earn the money first. Similarly, most post-sixth form training courses have been filled by now, so get a realistic picture of what your year would entail before making a snap decision!

And lastly – make a plan of action for the day. Get up early, pick up your results and if they aren’t what you needed then get on the phone! A lot of the places are first come first served, so head in to your school and quickly discuss with your staff and parents a plan, then go for it!

I know it is so devastating when you don’t achieve what you had hoped. I feel like more and more academic pressure is being put on our generation because everything seems to be more competitive, especially if you are in a high pressure environment, whether that’s your friends, parents, or school. Everyone has to ‘fail’ at some point in order to succeed, and it’s corny as hell but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. If things don’t go to plan try and hold onto that!

For myself, dealing with these perceived ideas of ‘failure’ wasn’t easy. I had never messed anything up before so I genuinely had no way of dealing with things when they went wrong. The repercussions of this ended with an eating disorder which nearly ruined my first year of university. I am fully recovered now, but if you feel like what has happened to you is manifesting itself in a damaging way, speak to someone. Tell someone you trust and love, and if you really feel lonely, or would just prefer to talk to someone you don’t know personally, leave me a comment or email me, I’ll be more than happy to talk to any of you! I know it can help to chat to someone who has been through what you’re going through.

I know this is a bit of a departure from my usual style but hopefully this is a comfort to at least one person!

Best of luck with all the results, and as always, much love


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