Today I’m going to talk about clearing, as I worked for the university during clearing this past week and it’s something I wasn’t aware of while applying to UK universities (or until last week really, I was very confused when I got the email requesting people to work during clearing since I associate that word with sales at stores not with university applications). Unfortunately all of my experience with clearing is from the university’s side of things rather than the applicant’s side but I thought it would still be helpful to write about since international students wanting to study here might not be aware that it’s an option available to them and it’s also something you could end up doing if you end up becoming a student ambassador here.

The day before clearing started we attended an hour long training session where we were taught how to use the phones, transfer calls etc as well as being told the basics of how to deal with callers and given an info pack with some qualifications and a flowchart to figure out what to tell people depending on their circumstances.

The first day of clearing we had to make it to the university at 6:45 and started taking phone calls at 7:00. As soon as it was 7:00am we got a form with a list of majors and we could see which ones had spaces and what the entry requirements for them were. Then our job involved asking students calling about their qualifications and either tell them that we couldn’t consider them for a place because their qualifications weren’t sufficient or transfer them over to the faculty so that they could talk about their case in more detail and hopefully get an offer to study at the university. I gather clearing always starts the day A level results come out (they’re the UK equivalent of high school) so that students that got grades different from the ones they expected (either higher or lower) can have the chance to apply to universities they hadn’t applied for originally and potentially get offers at other universities as a result. From the student’s end if they were offered a place after talking to the faculty they received an email with the next steps. If they had been accepted to either their firm choice or their insurance choice and they didn’t want to attend those universities then they had to call them to be released and once they had done that they could self refer on UCAS to study at Surrey for the course they were given a place in.

The setup was very similar to a call center, each of us had a phone with a headset and the phone was set to auto answer. Before getting a call we would hear a beep or two on the headset. After ending a call we would have a 10 second timer so that we could drink water and take a breadth and the calls went to the least busy operator (ie the person who had been off the phone for longest). During non busy periods that sometimes meant we had 10-20 min in between calls but other times the 10 second timer was all I got. There were several people there to help and honestly out of the over 150 calls I answered there was only a couple of difficult callers, everyone else was super nice!

Overall it was a good experience and I was really happy to finally have a job, if only for 2 days. I did answer quite a bit of calls from international students and we had some international qualifications on our packs for us to be able to deal with them plus there were people advising us and helping us out with students who had qualifications that weren’t in the pack so I think clearing is a great opportunity for international and home students alike and I’d love it for more international students to be able to make use of it (again, I wasn’t aware of it being an option at all until now) and it’s something I’d definitely recommend future student ambassadors to take part in.