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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Not the end of the world
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter

Kim Read
Kim was worried about other students' views on clearing
Despite the headline-grabbing success stories, exam results days are not fun for everyone.

This time last year, Kim Read was one of many thousands of students who did not get the grades she had expected.

She lost a place at her chosen university and did not know what the future held.

Like many others in her position, and those who decide not to apply until after A-levels or Scottish Highers, Kim chose to enter the clearing system.

'Understanding and helpful'

Run by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), it attempts to match students with empty degree course places.

Kim got a place at Bradford University, where she is now studying chemistry with pharmaceutical and forensic sciences.

She said: "At first, I was worried about going through clearing and it felt like the end of the world not achieving the grades I needed.

"However, when I rang up the clearing helpline they were really understanding and helpful.

"I knew I wanted to study forensics, so I discussed it with the person on the helpline and she suggested which course would suit me best."

Toby Cann
I worried quite a lot but it all worked out well in the end
Toby Cann
De Montfort University

Kim, 19, added: "I thought that other students would perceive me as being thick because I had to go through clearing, but I didn't need to worry.

"The people on the helpline put my mind at rest and when I got here it was all forgotten.

"I arrived at university and no one cared what grades I got - it's just great fun."

Ucas had 270,000 hits on its clearing website on the day last year's A-level results were published.

It also dealt with 15,141 phone calls.

'Enjoy it'

Although clearing is a fast-moving system, students are advised not to rush to get a place.

Dan Lloyd, a lecturer at the University of Kent, said: "Be flexible when you're checking out what courses are available but ideally your alternative should have some connection with your studies.

"And don't pick a university somewhere you've never been to.

"In the same way, don't pick a subject just because you've got the required grades. Choose a course you'll enjoy and do well in."

Clearing does not only deal with students who fail to get their expected grades.

Some do better than they had hoped and decide to go for a different course.

Many enter clearing because they did not want to apply to university until after receiving their A-level or Highers results.

Toby Cann, 20, is due to graduate in business and law from De Montfort University - in his home city of Leicester - next year.

'Lots of help'

He said: "I left my decision to choose a university really late so ended up going through clearing.

"I knew I wanted to study locally because it means cheaper living costs.

"I had studied business and law at A-level and was interested in both so chose to combine them and study a joint degree.

"I would advise anyone applying to university not to worry. I worried quite a lot but it all worked out well in the end.

"I had lots of help from my tutors at college and from staff at the university."

Last year 37,197 applicants were accepted onto courses during clearing.

A Ucas spokesman said: "Our experience is that those students who are able and prepared to be flexible are likely to find a course."

The Ucas clearing hotline number is 0870 1122211.

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