Clearing and summer applications

Clearing and summer applications August is fast approaching and results day will be here before you know it. Are you prepared for that brown envelope? Every year thousands of students get the grades that their first choice universities asked for, but thousands miss out. It's a dreadful moment of shock for those that haven't quite made the grade but it doesn't mean the end. If you've already applied to university through UCAS, then clearing is designed to help you achieve a confirmed place at university.

Universities want every place on every course to be filled. On results day they know how many spaces they have left to fill and students who weren't successful, either because their results didn't go to plan or because they applied late, can use clearing to find themselves a place.

It's a stressful time, but it's worth keeping your head and doing some research otherwise you could end up unhappy in a course or city that you don't enjoy and packing it all in before your first year is up.

First, you need to check which courses still have places available ' check the UCAS website. It might be that you need to think of options that are different to your original choice, for example potential medics might want to consider biomedical sciences. Some language courses have higher offers than others; could you see yourself learning Russian rather than German?

It's also important to look at the university that's offering the course and you may need to be flexible in your choice of location. Is there really any difference between being 1 and 2 hours away from home? Book in advance and fares are cheap; add in a young person's railcard and you might even be tempted to go first class!

Now that you've found a course you'd like to apply to, it's worth taking the time to draw up a list of the reasons why you want to study the subject and to go over the key points of your personal statement. This is because the next step is to ring up the university and convince them that you deserve the place. It's tempting to leave this up to your parents but don't ' universities can only offer a place to you, the prospective student, and they're not going to be impressed if you delegate this important task. You can find the number you need to call from the list here.

It might take a while, but equally it could take 10 minutes to get an informal offer. Universities normally give you some time to consider so use it wisely and go for a visit to check it out. Then, if you decide to accept the offer, all you need to do is update your UCAS. Before you know it, September will be here and your new life as an undergrad beckons.

Good luck ' just don't give up and don't panic!