Here at the University of Salford we want to tell the world that clearing isn’t something to be scared or worried about. It’s simply another opportunity to apply to university if you didn’t earlier in the year. Zoology student Becky came through clearing and we spoke to her about her experience…

Hi Becky! Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Becky Emmerson, I’m 21 and I’m from Doncaster, a town in South Yorkshire.

What did you study at Salford?

I studied BSc (Hons) Zoology.

What degree did you originally apply for, and where?

I originally applied for Zoology, but at different universities. My first choice was Newcastle University and my second choice was the University of Reading.

What circumstances led you to apply to university through Clearing?

I didn’t get the grades needed for my first and second choice universities, so I called up the University of Salford and they offered me a place. I wasn’t very good at exams. I really struggled with exams but I was great at coursework and did really well in that. I did really well in one of my A-Levels (English), didn’t do so well in Biology and Chemistry and that’s what led me to looking for other places to go. The University of Salford were great! They offered me a place and I was really happy with it. 

Did you do any research or preparation before results day?

I did for the main universities I chose. I quite heavily looked at all of my choices. I went to the visit days and everything. Obviously, A-Level results day came by and I didn’t do so great. On results day I started looking at my other choices. There was another university, Bangor University, that was one of my original five choices and they offered me a place as well as the University of Salford. I’d been looking into everything using different university comparison sites. I liked the location of the University of Salford, and the degree sounded good. I was interested in the trip in the final year, which was to Costa Rica. I went on the Clearing applicant visit day and made my choice from there really.

Who helped you go through Clearing?

It was my head of sixth form, mainly. She sat down with me and said “right, do you still want to go to university” and I was like “yes, definitely, I can’t imagine anything else,” and she just talked me through what I’d need to do, what was happening, who I’d need to call, and we both called different universities and saw what they were offering. So I got quite a bit of help with that. And my mum helped me out as well.

How did you find out what courses were available?

I called up and asked to find out what courses were available. I knew I was interested in Zoology but I was willing to go for anything Biology and Zoology-based. So I called up and said, “this is my primary interest, do you have that” and they said “yes, are there any other things you’d be interested in”, so I asked about Biology, I looked on the website and saw that they did Wildlife too so I asked about that, but I still had my heart set on Zoology.

What was the main reason for choosing the course you did?

I’ve always been interested in animals. I’ve always loved that side of science. I was originally going to go for Vetinary Science, but I got my AS-Level results and that was out of the picture from there – they weren’t great. So I looked into different things and went to UCAS fairs. I saw that Zoology was offered at quite a few different places, I spoke to a few people and that was what prompted me towards that course. And then on results day it was just: “I know I want to do Zoology, I’ve got to ask about it.”

Did you find a place to live easily?

Finding accommodation was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. On the train back from the Clearing Open Day I put down my deposit.

How has your time at university been? Did you enjoy your course?

I loved my course. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t expect to come here but I couldn’t imagine myself going anywhere else now. The course itself was wonderful. The lecturers were fantastic – really supportive and approachable. I loved every part of my degree and I’m hoping to continue onto a master’s next year. I really liked student life here. The University of Salford is located in a really great place. We went out in Manchester a lot. I had a great time. The Students’ Union had a really good vibe. I enjoyed going there in our first year because it was right next to my halls. And then in our second and third years we moved further away but would still go into Manchester, and it was great. I had a fantastic time.

How did you find the process of applying for a course through Clearing?

Not at all complicated. I just called up, asked them if they had the course – they did. And then they asked me if I’d like to apply, and it was just a few questions over the phone. I’d already got my A-Level results in front of me, so I just had to tell them the grades, tell them some personal details, speak to one of the tutors and that was it. It was really easy. It took about 10 to 15 minutes. The first part when I was asked for all the details took a couple of minutes, and then I had a quick chat with the tutor from the course and they offered me a place.

How did you feel when you were on the call?

I felt really nervous on the call because I hadn’t got another offer at this point, so for me, this was it, if they weren’t going to offer me a place here, I wasn’t going to go to university. So I was terrified, but the people on the other end of the phone made me feel a lot better about it. They were really kind, they were really supportive of me – and they were just trying to stop me stressing out! I was nervous, but they helped a lot.

Did the Clearing process surprise you?

The process surprised me. I thought it was going to be a lot more complex, but it really wasn’t, it was really simple. I was really worried that they would judge me for how badly I did in my A-Levels, but they didn’t, not at all. They were really supportive about it. They asked me how I was doing too, which was something that other universities didn’t. 

The student guide on the Clearing Applicant Visit Day was really good to talk to, she was telling us about the different buildings but she was adding in little personal details, which I really liked. The campus felt lovely, I was really happy with the visit day. I was happy I got to see the accommodation as well, because that helped me feel more at home. It was nice to be able to see it in person and speak to somebody who had the experience. I just found that really helped.

You went on a Clearing Visit Day. Was that a valuable experience?

I found the Clearing Open Day at Salford really useful. I liked being able to talk to the students who were leading the tours. I liked looking round the accommodation – that really helped in my decision making because I felt I could be quite at home there. It was mainly being able to talk to a student, because they could give me the best idea of what studying at the University of Salford was really going to be like. Coming to the visit day cemented my decision, 100%. It was just the atmosphere of the campus. It was smaller, it was altogether, and it just felt quite welcoming. I’d been to quite a few other university open days and they just didn’t have the same feel. It felt more like home here.

What would be your top tip for students in the lead up to results day?

Consider all your options. Have a look into places that do your course that are still good. Don’t just go by what the leaderboards say – have a look at all of the factors. Some of the universities I was looking at, they were great in the leaderboards but their student experience scores weren’t great. Their student support scores weren’t wonderful. The location for them maybe wasn’t what I was looking for. So make sure you go down a checklist and check off everything, so if you want a city university, look at city universities, if you want something in the countryside, go for that. Look at the student experience, I think that’s the best way to go into it!

Any recommendations in terms of how people might be feeling?

You will be stressed. The best thing to think is that, if university is really for you, just keep making the calls. Go and visit the university because you need to check that the place is right for you before you make a decision. Before I called, I just sat and took a deep breath and collected myself. Try and calm yourself as best as you can. Make sure you’ve got all of your information in front of you.

Looking back, was the process as bad as you thought it would be?

Looking back, the process was definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be twenty questions from an academic that was really going to push me and to be really specific. And it wasn’t like that at all. They just wanted to talk to me and get to know me as a person, and I really appreciated that because I was terrified that they were going to ask me in-depth questions about the course and they didn’t – they just wanted to know whether I was going to be the right person for it.