We need to talk about Clearing

Chloe Lam draws attention to the important and often overlooked option

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Image Credit: Josethestoryteller

Let’s face it - after two long years of hard work and a summer tinged with anticipation, nobody wants to be told that they are in Clearing when results day finally rolls around. Learning that I had been entered into Clearing this time last year felt like the end of the world. In hindsight, I wish there had been someone there to reassure me that it wasn’t  - not even close.

Despite reading experiences about Clearing from other students online, I found it hard to truly relate to these strangers, all of whom had attended different schools to me and some of whom were several years older. There is, I believe, an over-reliance on such accounts to spread information about Clearing and to reassure students about the process. This, coupled with the rise in online guides to Clearing, allows schools to shirk the responsibility of informing their students about the ins and outs of Clearing, particularly in the lead up to results day. This implied mentality that failure is impossible (until it actually happens, of course) is highly flawed. It teaches students not to prepare for rejection, bubble wrapping them so tightly that when the casing finally bursts, the student has no tools to navigate the process.

There is also little after thought for those pupils who do go through Clearing. How many colleges and sixth forms publicly celebrate the successes of pupils who, in their eyes, have failed, simply because they did not secure a place at either their firm or insurance choice? This very refusal to acknowledge Clearing successes perpetuates the idea that gaining a place through Clearing is something that must be kept quiet, something to be ashamed of.

Having completed my first year at university, I’ve found that those who joined through Clearing can largely be split into two groups: people who are willing to speak openly about the experience, and those who are reluctant to discuss or even admit to that fact. But why is this the case? According to UCAS, the number of pupils gaining a place through Clearing in 2018 reached an all-time high. Evidently, then, Clearing is a reality for many, but a possibility discussed by few.

Students need to know that Clearing isn’t the be all and end all. Standing in the school hall on results day, holding my grades in my hands, I felt like all of my hard work had gone to waste. I had missed every single one of my predicted grades and been rejected from both my firm and insurance universities. I was at a total loss. Clearing for me signalled the end of my academic abilities, and I truly believed that from then on everything in my life would be downhill. How wrong (and overdramatic) I was. One year on, I have completed my first year at a different university in a completely different subject. Although I am proud of what I’ve achieved at university so far, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t still a little part of me that feels embarrassed when I tell people how I got in.

This is why we need to talk more about Clearing. Its current position as an enigmatic concept lingering in the backs of students’ minds needs to change. Educating people about Clearing is not about scaring them, not about making them doubt whether they’ve performed well enough in their exams. It reassures students that they can have a second chance if they find themselves in need of one. Nobody informed about Clearing would be disadvantaged - they might not even have any use for the information come results day. But not educating people about Clearing can be harmful. It allows for inaccurate perceptions both of the Clearing process and the people who go through it to circulate, and that needs to change.

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