Starting this year, students will be able to see a selection of courses that they might be interested in, says Durant. The new service, Clearing Plus, suggests courses that undergraduates might find appealing, based on those previously chosen. Also, as of last year, students could release themselves from their confirmed place into clearing to see what courses they match. Around 30,000 people did this last year, with almost 99 per cent of those who reapplied successfully placed.
Be able to explain why you’ve changed your mind
“Make sure you have your UCAS personal ID number ready to hand and that you know the courses that you might be interested in – and are ready to talk about yourself,” says Durant. “Prepare as much as possible so you can make the best impression.”
Stephen Spriggs, founder of William Clarence Education, which helps students and parents deal with the move to higher education, says the head of admissions may want to interview the student, particularly for competitive courses. “The aim is to establish why they didn’t apply to that university in the first place,” says Spriggs, “or that course – and to find out why they did so much better than expected.
“The personal statement will stand out the most and as long as it is tailored to the course, not necessarily to the university, it should still demonstrate a passion for the course, and for learning at a higher level. They will look at work experience in this field and other non-academic activities which can be related to the subject at hand.”
Take time out
You could defer and buy some breathing space – but you will need to speak with the university that you are holding a place with, advises Durant. “And, similarly, if you don’t want to start your course in September, you just need to speak to the university and see what options they have available for you. Some universities do offer a January start date.”
Bear in mind, though, that deferrals may not be the best option for some subject areas. Justham, who is a senior lecturer at Loughborough’s school of mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineering, warns that Covid-19 has affected the amount of face-to-face practical learning possible.
“Another facet of engineering,” she says, “is that a deferred entry will often translate to work experience or travel opportunities in that deferral year. However, this will not be as possible or likely given these unprecedented times, so anyone thinking about deferring, I would advise you to think carefully about the decision and don’t rush into anything.”