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A guide to Clearing for parents

As a parent or guardian, we understand that you may be wondering about how you can help prepare your son or daughter for university.

At Northumbria University, Newcastle we are committed to providing the best possible support for all of our students. We also recognise the vital role you play in advising, reassuring and supporting your son or daughter during their time preparing for, and then experiencing, university life.

To help you do this we have prepared a guide designed to answer any questions you may have about university in the run-up to A Level results day.

We carried out interviews with Northumbria’s experts in accommodation, student support and wellbeing, finance and psychology, who have shared their advice and top tips when it comes to starting university.

And with recent research by Northumbria showing only around half of students understand the Clearing process, we explain just how Clearing works and what your son or daughter needs to do if they decide to apply for a place at university via the Clearing process come A Level results day.

For more information about the services and support we can offer your son or daughter at Northumbria, please visit the dedicated Parents Information Page on our website –www.northumbria.ac.uk/study-at-northumbria/coming-to-northumbria/parent-page/

Applying to university – the Clearing process

A Level results day can be a stressful time, for students and parents/guardians, but one of the best ways to keep calm is by being prepared for all outcomes. As results day approaches, Helen Bower, Assistant Marketing Director (Undergraduate) from Northumbria University, Newcastle answers some questions on the Clearing process.


  1. How does your son/daughter apply for a place using clearing?

If your son/daughter has found they are in clearing, it’s vital for them not to panic. They can go to the UCAS website where they will be able to view the full list of vacancies available through Clearing at all universities. If there is a particular university they’re interested in, they can go direct to their website to see their available courses. After doing a bit of research, they should start drawing up a shortlist of universities and courses they might be interested in.

The next step is calling the universities they’re interested in to find out if they would be willing to make them an offer. It’s usually a first come first served basis so they need to be organised and have all the relevant information to hand to help make the process as streamlined as possible. This includes their UCAS personal ID number, details of qualifications (including GCSEs) and it’s also important for them to be ready to explain why they want to go to that university and why they want to study that course. Universities need to speak directly to students – not to parents or teachers.


  1. Does your son/daughter have to look for the same subject they originally applied to? Could they be accepted on to a different course through clearing?

They don’t have to look for the same subject. Clearing is a great opportunity for them to find a place on another course – it could be a chance to go for something they might not have considered when they were originally applying for university.


  1. How long do they have to decide whether to accept a place offered through clearing?

At Northumbria, if they’re offered a place through Clearing, we will confirm this by email. The offer will then be held open for 48 hours to allow students time to consider their options before making a final decision.


  1. Your son/daughter got better results than they expected — can they use clearing to find a different course?

Yes. If they have done better than expected, they have the option to apply to another course or university with their higher points through the Adjustment process.

If they’ve met and exceeded the terms of their conditional firm offer and have been accepted on that course, UCAS Adjustment allows them the opportunity to look for a different course at a different institution while still holding their confirmed place. Therefore, if they register for UCAS Adjustment, but don’t find anything, they’ll still keep the course they gained on results day.

Students are only eligible for Adjustment from the day they are confirmed at their firm choice. They then have five calendar days to make an adjustment choice and their place is held for that time.


  1. Your son/daughter is taking a gap year but haven’t got the place they wanted for the following year, can they still use clearing to get a place for after they finish their gap year?

Yes, they can look for a deferred university place through Clearing – although it is at the university’s discretion as to whether they make them a deferred offer for the following academic year.


  1. Your son/daughter has met the conditions of one of their offers, but want to see if they can find something better through clearing. Do they have to accept their offer straight away, or can they try to get a place on a different course through clearing while keeping hold of the offer they’ve got?

They can only apply through Clearing if they have no other offers so they need to ask the university that has confirmed their place to release them into Clearing, however this will be at their discretion. They might want to make sure they have a verbal offer somewhere else before they do this.

Many universities will ask them to confirm the request in writing before they release them so be patient, it’s a very busy time but most will try to reply as quickly as possible.


  1. Why do universities offer places through clearing?

The Clearing process can be beneficial to both students and universities alike. Clearing allows universities to match up vacancies on its courses with students who, unfortunately, haven’t got into their first or second choice universities.

Northumbria University has a limited number of places available for high quality students through Clearing this summer. For more information, visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/clearing or call the Clearing Hotline on 0800 085 1085.


A Level results day – keep calm and carry on 

The build-up to A Level results day is notoriously one of the most anxiety-inducing times in a young person’s life. With so much work going into their exams, it can feel like everything rests on getting the grades.

Here, Northumbria University psychologist Dr Sandy Wolfson offers some handy hints and tips for parents on how to keep your son or daughter calm and stay positive, whatever the outcome.

That final hug before the off!

We recognise that going to university is an emotional time for everyone and all parents are susceptible to empty nest syndrome. Rest assured you aren’t alone in your feelings as a parent because having a son or daughter go off to university completely changes the family dynamic. It’s OK to feel down at times during this period of adjustment, but one of the easiest ways of coping is to keep in touch with your son or daughter via text or online communication.

It’s OK to be nervous

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before A Level results day. Young people put a lot of hard work into their exam preparation and it can feel like there’s a lot resting on what happens on the day. But your son or daughter should remember that everyone is in the same boat and nerves are a normal part of key times in our lives. It’s worth trying to keep those nerves in check and trying not to think worst case scenarios before you know the outcome.

Try and stay positive no matter what

I always say to people that whatever the situation, there are always options. You should try and remind your children that they needn’t be pessimistic if things don’t go as well as they were hoping. I’ve met people who haven’t got the grades they were expecting but who have gone on to do a course they were better suited to and ended up feeling like it was the best thing that could have happened to them.

There are always alternatives

It’s important to try not to think things are cut and dry. There are always alternatives and I try and remind people not to place such magnitude on this time. While undoubtedly if your son or daughter doesn’t get the grades needed to get onto the course of their choice, they may feel disappointed, they need to see it as an opportunity to think creatively about their options. For a start, they may get onto the course anyway. But if not, they need to look carefully and with a clear head at what other options are out there.

A foundation year can be a great alternative for people who don’t quite get the grades, but still want to progress in that subject. It still offers the full university experience, while also giving even more grounding in a subject, which can also help students decide whether it’s the right option for them.

Calling clearing may just open up a door your son or daughter was never even expecting and can lead to an exciting opportunity in a location or on a course they hadn’t previously considered.

Most of all, it’s important not to catastrophize and to keep an open mind. So many young people go through this situation and your child will get the best outcome if they stay calm, be proactive and look at all the options.

Encourage relaxation techniques

When faced with these sorts of situations, there are a number of positive steps students can take to enhance their mood, including eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, chatting things through with their friends and also practicing meditation, which can help with stressful situations.

A simple exercise I often suggest to students is to close their eyes and imagine themselves somewhere pleasant, then to consciously tense all the muscles in your body then let them all relax. If they repeat this a few times, they become aware of the difference between the feeling of tension and relaxation.

I also suggest a self-talking technique which is about encouraging positivity. Instead of using negative thoughts like “if only I’d done this”, encourage them to replace with things like, “I really worked hard on that.” It’ll help them put things into perspective and realise everything isn’t so bad.

Do some research

Be as prepared as possible – if your son or daughter has got a university offer waiting, do some research on the clearing system, so you know their options if they don’t make the grades they were hoping for. Go to the UCAS website where you can view the full list of vacancies available through clearing at all universities.

Reinforce the positive talk

Being aware when your son and daughter is anxious and spotting the signs means you can best deal with the issues. I think parents can really help by talking positively with their children and distracting them by going to places or enjoying happy times together. Try not to focus too much on exam results before the day. If things don’t go to plan, be there to talk through the different options and reinforce all the positive things they have done. There are so many options out there for them.

Having friends around can be a good distraction

I think having their friends around them can really help during a stressful time, particularly because they’re all in the same boat and going through similar experiences. It helps them realise that they’re not the only one in the situation and they can also provide a good distraction for each other.

Being proactive and positive can lead to the most successful outcome

Clearing could turn into the best thing that happens in your son or daughter’s life, especially if they get onto a course and city they love. It’s important to take every opportunity as it comes. It might feel like a daunting and stressful time, but it’s also an exciting one. The key is to stay positive, proactive and relaxed. It’s definitely not a time for them to be comparing themselves with others.

Ask the right questions

Before they even enter the clearing process, students need to ask themselves what is it they want to do and what matters to them, for example what type of course they want to embark on and why, and where they want to live. This will help them decide what types of questions to ask universities during the clearing process. Other suggestions are whether there are any opportunities for work experience or placements, what type of jobs graduates in those subjects are getting, whether there is accommodation available and of the type they want as well as what life is like in general as a student at that university.

There is no question too big or too small that you shouldn’t ask – this is a big decision and if there is something you want to know about you should take the opportunity to ask. Parents can really help advise on this too. The person on the phone may not be able to answer everything, but they will be able to put you in touch with someone who can help you.

Further information can be found on the university’s website www.northumbria.ac.uk/clearing

Students can also take a look at the free meditation app we use – www.headspace.com


Student living – accommodation and preparing to leave home

Choosing where to live while studying is a big decision, so it’s important your son/daughter takes time to find out what’s available. We want them to get the most out of their time at Northumbria University, Newcastle and will help find the accommodation that suits them best.

At Northumbria we guarantee accommodation for all our first year students, including those who obtain a place through Clearing. Once a student accepts a clearing offer from us through UCAS they can book their accommodation within 24 working hours, and often even quicker. We offer a wide range of accommodation options, most of which is on, or a very short walk from, our city-centre campus.

We understand leaving home for the first time is a big step for everyone concerned and it’s natural for parents to worry. We spoke to Alastair Reekie, Accommodation Manager at Northumbria University, to find out more about the accommodation on offer and how Northumbria works to ensure the safety of our students while living and studying with us.

What accommodation does Northumbria University have?

At Northumbria we have over 5,000 high quality rooms across a wide variety of accommodation options, including en-suite, non en-suite, catered and self-contained studios, all within walking distance of the university and great value for money. Importantly, we can absolutely guarantee all our new students with accommodation.

How do new students secure accommodation at Northumbria?

The process of securing a room at Northumbria is really quick and easy. Once a student has accepted their offer through UCAS they will be sent a user name and password for our online booking system. This allows them to tell us what kind of accommodation they are looking for. Their application then comes to us and one of our team will be in touch within 24 hours with an offer.

Can students view their accommodation in advance?

We know that some students coming through clearing may not have been to Northumbria University before, so we have a variety of ways for students to view our accommodation options before they start their course. We have Open House events held on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of clearing week, during which students can view some of our rooms. And for those who can’t attend in person we have online 360 degree virtual tours of all our residences on our website at www.northumbria.ac.uk/clearing.

What do students need to bring with them?

It can be easy for students to over pack but we have produced a series of videos which are available to view on our student welcome portal which cover exactly what is and isn’t provided in our residences. Facebook groups are also set up meaning students can chat to their new housemates in advance and work out who is bringing what. This is a great way to ensure you don’t end up with multiple plates, pots and pans and is also a great way to save money.

How do you ensure students’ safety?

Safety on campus is a huge priority for us and we work closely with our security team and student support and wellbeing service to ensure students have the freedom they require but also the support they need. All our halls of residence are covered by 24-hour security and we also encourage our students to use the SafeZone app. This allows them to get help quickly in case of an emergency, check in if they are alone so their location is known to our security team and receive notifications so they know what to do in an emergency. One of the advantages of booking accommodation through Northumbria University is that you will have access to all our services and support, 24-hours a day. If you need us, we are there for you.

To find out more about the accommodation available at Northumbria University visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/study-at-northumbria/accommodation/

Student support and wellbeing

Sometimes managing day-to-day life can be tough – especially if it’s your son/daughter’s first time away from home. At Northumbria, our student support offers young people invaluable specialist advice and support about issues surrounding relationships, health, money, chaplaincy and faith advice alongside information about courses and study.

The services that we provide complement those provided within your child’s academic faculty. Their faculty is a very important source of advice and information about their course and studies. However, for many types of support – around disability issues, faith issues, counselling and mental health support, finance, welfare issues and international student support – the University has also set up a range of central professionals with the right expertise.

Sue Broadbent, Acting Head of Student Support and Wellbeing at Northumbria, gives her top tips and advice for parents and students come results day.

What is your experience of clearing?

Clearing is a very stressful time – students are making last minute decisions about where to live and study and they need to accept that the stress and anxiety they are feeling is perfectly normal. It is really important that students eat and sleep properly and try to remain as calm as possible.

Clearing can be just as stressful for parents – their young person may not have got the grades they needed and may be looking at changing course or university. Parents will want to ensure their child is getting the best advice possible. It’s important that parents provide a listening ear and try to ensure their child doesn’t make any rash decisions. Be supportive but be prepared to bite your tongue too if necessary.

Advice for students

Try to ensure your child doesn’t make any knee jerk reactions. They may be thinking of a career change following their results, and while Clearing is an excellent opportunity to do this, make sure they take their time and don’t just react. Most universities will have excellent support and advice on offer so encourage them to take this up and talk through their options. They will be able to help your son or daughter find the course that matches their career aspirations and exam results.

Advice for students living away from home for the first time

It’s important that students try to familiarise themselves with the university they are attending and course they are studying, as well as the campus and city they will be living in. It is important they engage in the induction activities taking place The university induction will ensure they understand the expectation of the course and the attendance required, as well as the support available. There will also be a range of Students’ Union inductions which will cover the activities available when they’re not studying. They also need to make sure their finances are sorted and that they are registered with a GP. It is not unusual to suffer from homesickness when students first start university but knowing who to talk and where to go if they have a problem will help.

What advice would you give to parents whose child is starting university

Parents sometimes grieve when their young person leaves home, however, it’s important to give your child time to settle into university life. Don’t call them every day, but let them know you are there for support if they need it. Be there to ensure they have the practical things sorted, such as registering with a GP and organising their finances. It may also help you to know who you can speak to at the university of you are worried about your child.

What support services are available to students starting university?

There will be a wide range of support services available at any university. There will be academic support, primarily based around the course of study, which will be provided by the programme team the student will see on a day-to-day basis. Universities will also offer professional support services outside of the academic programme. This could range from financial support, personal support or help with a learning difficulty. Here at Northumbria University we have an award winning range of support services, including counselling and mental health, welfare, help with accommodation and finance. New students should try and find out where these services are and engage with them quickly.

Financial support

Starting university may be the first time many students have had to manage their own money and we understand it can seem daunting at first. At Northumbria we provide a variety of help and support, from setting a budget to identifying additional funding available.

We do not want financial difficulties to get in the way of our students achieving the academic success they deserve. Our Student Support and Wellbeing team work hard to ensure students have the support they need and Northumbria is now ranked 7th in the UK for student progress, reflecting the impact this has on students completing their degrees.

Students coming to Northumbria will find they get more for their money, with the cost of living in Newcastle lower than most major cities in the UK. But for those who need advice, our team is always on hand.

We spoke to Michael McTeague, Welfare, Immigration and Funding Adviser at Northumbria, to find out more about the support on offer and how clearing may impact on student finance.

What impact does clearing have on student finance?

If you are attending university this September you will probably have already applied for student finance, giving details of your first choice course and university. If this changes and you obtain a place at a different University or on a different course through clearing, you have to amend your student finance application. This can be done by students themselves online, via their student finance online account, up until 31 August. From 1 September onwards it is the responsibility of the university you are attending to update the Student Loan Company of any changes to your original application.

When can a student expect to receive their student loan?

If you are attending the same university but on a different course, your student funding will already be in place. Once you have completed your registration, your university will communicate your new course to the Student Loan Company and there should not be much of a delay to your first payment.

If you have changed university there will be no previous communication between your new university and the Student Loan Company. If you accept a place after 1 September it will be the responsibility of your new university to contact the Student Loan Company and inform them. This will probably cause a slight delay to your first loan instalment, although your payments will be fully backdated so you will still receive the same amount.

Is this is the case, most universities, including Northumbria, will recognise the situation you are in and will not require you to pay tuition fees or rent for your accommodation until your finance has come through. If your loan takes longer than expected, you can also come to speak to someone like myself who can look at other options while you are waiting. It is always a good idea to have some money saved up in advance to see you through the first few weeks should there be any delay with your first student loan payment.

Something which is very important to note is that you will not receive any money from the Student Loan Company until you sign and return the one-page signature declaration form, included with your award letter. You will have to complete a signature declaration form once a year.

Student bank accounts

Most new students will already have a bank account and you can stay with your current bank if you like. However, during the summer you will probably be bombarded with adverts from banks promoting their student bank accounts. Many offer freebies such as a Young Person’s Railcard so it is worth shopping around to find the best deal for you. If you do set up a new student bank account it’s important to remember to amend your student finance application online and, if your first payment is imminent, it is better to wait until that has been paid before changing bank accounts to ensure there are no delays.

What is your advice to students hoping to work while studying?

While you are a student you may choose to take paid employment, whether that be in the evenings or during weekends or bank holidays (although it is important to ensure this does not impact negatively on your studies). Many employers like taking on students as it fits around their employment needs. It is a myth that students don’t pay tax – everyone pays tax but students are unlikely to earn above the tax free allowance (currently £11,500). If you tell your employer that you are a full time student, you should not get taxed at source and will get paid gross. If your employer does deduct tax you are entitled to claim this back by applying for a tax rebate at end of the tax year. Many universities, including Northumbria, run a ‘job shop’ which advertises student jobs.

What advice would you give about managing a budget?

It is important that students make a budget – look at how much your first loan instalment is for, take your rent off that and divide what is left by the number of weeks you have until your next instalment. Write that amount on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere you will see it everyday so you are aware of what you have to spend. Remember, if you overspend you’ll have less the following week. Or vice versa, if you spend less you could build up a safety net of savings. There are some useful budgeting tools available online, for example via the National Union of Students website or Northumbria’s Student Support and Wellbeing website.

If students get into financial difficulty what support is on offer?

The important thing is to seek help early. At most universities there are staff like myself who can ensure students are claiming the support they are entitled to. Every year we identify students who are missing out on support, whether because of a change in circumstances or not being aware they are entitled to help. We then look at the options available, such as our discretionary hardship fund. Every year Northumbria sets aside money to support students on an individual basis if they find themselves in financial difficulty. We are always available to offer advice and guidance and your Students’ Union may also be able to help.

How can parents help?

I would advise parents to sit down with their son or daughter before they start university to talk about managing money. If you can, try and help them work out a budget and encourage them to stick to it. If your child is living away from home, stay in touch regularly to make sure they are managing. If you are able to help financially try and put small amounts of money aside for them now and again – at the end of the term when their loan is running out, £20 in their account could buy a weekly food shop.


Useful websites:

•           Bank accounts: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/Student-bank-account , http://www.savethestudent.org/money/student-banking/student-bank-accounts.html

•           Budgeting/money-saving tips: http://www.savethestudent.org/save-money , https://www.nus.org.uk/en/advice/money-and-funding/http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-guide

•           General student-funding advice and resources: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/content.php?r=5659-Student-Finance

•           Make Money Online: https://www.carefulcents.com/earn-money-online/


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