Gathering all the necessary information and making informed decisions is crucial during the clearing process. This includes asking the right questions to ensure you clearly understand the course, the university, and the overall student experience. Asking the right questions can help you evaluate your options effectively and make the right choice.
What to expect on the Clearing call
Generally, it’s best to treat a Clearing call as though it were a university interview. You will be asked questions about yourself and your grades on this call. However, you will also have the chance to ask a few questions of your own.
Clearing calls are essentially a way to introduce yourself to the university and vice versa. The call's main purpose is for both parties to determine whether the other is a good fit for them. Remember, all universities want students to study with them, but they also want to know what you are like as a person.
Not all universities will offer sandwich courses.
The questions you should ask will largely be similar to the questions you should ask on an open day. Don’t feel pressured or scared to ask things that you feel you should already know the answers to. There are no stupid questions.
How do I prepare for the call?
It is relatively easy to prepare for a Clearing call. Generally, it’s best to have a checklist for Clearing that you can rely on, with your questions written out, as well as all the equipment you need to make note-taking a bit easier.
Make sure you have your UCAS ID to hand as well as your grades. Most universities will likely have access to them already. However, it is always better to have them on hand in case they are queried or the university doesn’t have access.
What questions should I ask during a Clearing call?
Think of the questions you want answered. As we said above, there is no such thing as a stupid question and it’s better to be well-informed than be left guessing.
We have a selection of questions below that would help students on a Clearing call. Not all of these will necessarily be relevant to you and your course, but they will serve as a template for any other questions you may have.
1.) Can the university help Clearing students with finding accommodation in September?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask. As you will be going through Clearing, accommodation spots will be taken up pretty quickly, so you need to know what accommodation the university still has open for you afterwards.
Generally, it’s best to treat a Clearing call as though it were a university interview.
You also need to know what to do to move this along. Is this something that sits with the university to sort out, or do you need to do something to help? Do you need to fill out forms or visit the accommodation beforehand etc.?
2.) What are my chances of getting a place in student halls?
This is connected to the first question. Student halls tend to operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is a good way of seeing what alternative accommodation the university will have for you if you are unable to find a place in student halls.
3.) How is the course assessed?
This is very important when speaking about your course. Though universities will all offer the same courses, they may be assessed in different ways. University A may assess your course through traditional coursework and examinations, while University B may assess the course based on practical demonstrations and end-of-year assessments.
4.) How is the course taught?
Teaching is vital. Some courses may be taught one-to-one, while others may require large-scale lectures.
Knowing how much one-to-one time you will get with your lecturer is also important. Some universities will offer none at all, while others may prioritise it.
The teaching method of the course will also depend on the size of the course. A course with more students will likely cut down on the amount of one-to-one time and may limit your access to course-specific equipment.
5.) Is the course still taught the same in the second and third year?
Teaching methods may vary. You want to know how you will be taught throughout the course, not just for the first year. Some universities will keep the same teaching framework throughout the course, while others may have a very in-depth method for the first year, leaving you to your own devices in the second and/or third.
Think of the questions you want answered.
6.) What financial support does the university offer?
This is perhaps the most important question to ask. Not all universities will necessarily offer bursaries, grants or scholarships that are relevant to you, but you can bet that all universities will have financial support of some kind.
The university will be able to point you in the right direction. Speak to the university, find out what, if any, you qualify for and how to apply for them. The university will be glad to help.
7.) What do students who have graduated from the course go on to do?
This is important to ask because this information is, likely, not readily available. Do students who study this course go on to carve a path for themselves in this area? What sort of salary do they earn? Do they still have a connection to the university? Did the university help them to find a job? All of these are valid questions to ask about the career pathway after the course has finished.
8.) Which qualifications and combinations of qualifications do they accept/prefer?
This is typically more relevant for international students than UK students, but may still be relevant. Some universities prefer that students have studied similar A-Levels to their GCSE subjects, so having different combinations may be a disadvantage.
9.) Does the university have any connections to employers in this area?
This may not feel relevant, but it can be very useful. Connections to local employers may mean you find more apprenticeships, work experience or even placements for your course.
This may also be useful for those looking for part-time work. Not all work will necessarily be relevant to your degree, so having a connection to an employer who can offer you part-time work to supplement your income would be greatly appreciated.
The teaching method of the course will also depend on the size of the course.
10.) Is there an opportunity to take a placement? Does the university organise this?
Not all universities will offer sandwich courses. Those that do may organise these placements themselves, while others may require you, the student, to organise it yourself.
Some courses may not be advertised as having a placement year initially. A placement may be an option choice later on for you to explore.
11.) How is this subject taught at a postgraduate level?
This is especially important if you already know what you want to do at postgraduate level. Not all students want to go on to postgraduate study, but many may do so.
The teaching of the course will likely change at postgraduate level. Does the traditionally smaller number of students mean that the teaching will change? Do you have more of an opportunity to find work placements? Do you receive more coursework? Do you have examinations at postgraduate level or do they do away with them entirely? Can this course be studied as a conversion course or as an MRes?
12.) What mental health services does the university offer?
Your mental health is the most important thing you have to think about at university. Being away from your friends and family back home can be tough, as can the pressures of university, so knowing how the university provides support for students going through a tough time is essential to find out.