Coventry University Group Clearing expert Rob McGowan shares his five top tips for students

Rob McGowan

Coventry University Group Director of UK Student Recruitment and Admissions Rob McGowan

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Thursday 13 August 2020

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Coventry University’s Clearing expert has shared his top tips for students who are thinking of using the process with the clear message that it doesn’t have to be a compromise.

Coventry University Group Director of UK Student Recruitment and Admissions Rob McGowan is a Coventry native. As the university Clearing hotlines flooded with future students on A-level results day he shared his expertise in a bid to help ease any anxiety.

1. Don’t fear Clearing

Don’t panic. Think of this as a fantastic opportunity to secure your place at a university that is right for you. 

The day might have started with disappointment or surprise but it can finish with celebration.In terms of reassurance, universities do this every year. Over 70,000 students in the UK secured their place through Clearing last year. The first thing to settle that anxiety is that even though for the individual student it can be like your whole world is flipped upside down in a day, they can be reassured that universities do this every year and you are in good company. There is an association sometimes with Clearing that it means failure – that is not the case.

We are trying to change that narrative at Coventry University. An enormous number of students use Clearing to secure their place at university and many students choose to use Clearing.

Students can and do change their minds. Perhaps they achieved higher grades than expected or their circumstances have changed. This might be even more prevalent this year with the impact of COVID-19. A student may choose to enter Clearing to study closer to home or because they have changed their mind over the career they want – for example, we have seen a surge in interest in Nursing courses during the pandemic.

2. Do your research

If students did not get into their first-choice institution then it is time for Plan B and the biggest tip I can give you is to do the research.

There is still time to research and the more you can do now to narrow down what your options are the better.

Whereabouts in the country do you want to study? What type of course would you want to do? Start looking further into that and get a list of alternative courses to the one that you had already applied for. Then you can get in touch with those universities and start those conversations. At Coventry, our Clearing hotline is open and has been open for a month.

3. Remember the process is a two-way street: you have control

Students need to take the first step and speak to universities.
I can only speak for Coventry University or CU but once you make a phone call or contact us on live chat then really you hand over the responsibility to us. I’m sure other universities will offer a similar service to help take the pressure off.

At Coventry we support students through that process, we explain exactly what needs to take place. There is no obligation to accept the first offer. We will provide an offer to that student and then the student can go ahead and accept, or they can contact other universities.It is a bit like an interview process. You have a candidate and you have an employer. It is an opportunity for both to see if it is the right fit.

What we expect this year is that there will be more places available in Clearing than ever before. Students could be overwhelmed by that because it is an infinite choice, but they should feel empowered because they are in a position of strength.

In terms of choice, it is a ‘buyers' market’. That is the best way of explaining it and that should give students reassurance to consider their options and make the right choice for them. We know we offer a really good service to students during the process, not just students but parents and other advisors. It is a time of anxiety and it is our job as a university to remove that and take control of the situation.

4. Remember that your safety is our priority

We have guaranteed that students on most courses will have a minimum of five hours of face-to-face learning. We are making sure that we prepare the campus and arrange our timetable in such a way that students will have a campus experience and that will be as close to how it is originally designed as possible while keeping at the forefront the safety of staff and students.

5. Use our new Live Chat function if you do not want to pick up the phone

It is nerve-wracking to pick up the phone. It is becoming less and less prevalent in terms of a primary communication channel. We are aware of that and as a result have launched live chat because we know that some students, particularly undergraduate students and school leavers, might be more familiar with instant messaging platforms and might feel more comfortable making that first enquiry through live chat before picking up the phone.

I would say if students are comfortable enough to do so then pick up that phone. They might feel they want to contact us through live chat first and you can, that is staffed, and you will get a really quick response by our agents. The same agents that are on the phones are answering enquiries through live chat too. It can be used on mobile, tablet or computer.

We’ve had a really good response rate to it so far, we are getting hundreds of chats a day. We expect that to build over Clearing. We have as many agents as we have had before, and we expect waiting times to be at an absolute minimum.