Students rushed by Clearing process

Today’s article is based on something I don’t have experience of personally. For those who aren’t aware, Clearing is the process for which students who may not have a place at university either due to being rejected or haven’t applied to uni, can apply for spare places on University courses after they have received their A level results.

A poll by consumer group, Which, found more than one in four of 390 first-year students who got a university place through clearing felt unprepared. Thousands of teenagers will enter the annual clearing process on Thursday.

But admissions service Ucas said 94% of those placed through clearing last year were confident with their choice.

Which surveyed 390 first-year university students and found that 20% who gained their place through clearing felt unsupported and on their own during the process, while 27% felt unprepared and 38% felt panicked. Almost half, 48%, describe their experience of clearing as stressful. Some other statistics are just as distressing on the eyes;

37% said they felt pressured into taking the first offer they got through clearing, while 45% rushed into making a decision about where to go

40% said there was a lack of information and advice available for those going into clearing

46% felt prepared when contacting universities about available courses and 73% were not sure what to expect when they called them.

13% of clearing students were not satisfied with their university compared to 6% of other students.

10% of clearing students were dissatisfied with their choice of course compared to 6% of other students.

In some respects I suppose you could say that this may be expected because there is a lot less time available to make a fully informed choice of both which university and which course to attend, so there is a bit of a mad dash to grab a place before the opportunity is gone. The worrying part for me is the 40% feeling that there was a lack of information available for those entering the clearing process. I can only imagine that after the stress of perhaps not meeting the best grades at A level you could have achieved or making a late decision to move to university that adding this on top of it is quite a daunting prospect.

This ‘rush’ to get to university for me doesn’t start at A level though. This choice element occurs right from the beginning of GCSEs, where children in their early teens have to make choices as to which GCSE subjects to take. It is at that point where children are expected to make choices which could affect their careers. In my experience, I had no idea what I would even consider myself to be at that age, so to make informed choices of my career seemed impossible.

Once GCSEs are over, it’s a mad dash to get on A level courses, where choices have to be made which could affect your interests or careers. Choosing the wrong A level subjects for your course could mean that University is out of the question until you take the correct A levels, or you end up in the clearing process to do a separate degree course leading to a different career. These children are 16 at the point of making these A level choices. Even at this age it is difficult to decide what you want to do with your life for some people.

From my experience, secondary school is a buildup of stress that starts right after the first couple of years in, where all the big decisions need to be made, not just A levels. I would like to see this element of choice made a lot clearer for students who may not have the same confidence or idea about what they want to be, and allow them to make more informed decisions, rather than simply rush them in for the sake of government statistics and risk being in the 10% of clearing students not liking their course or 13% not liking their university.

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