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Reducing stress when choosing your course

Clearing hotline – 023 9284 8090

Thousands of students each year get the course they want by applying through clearing. And many find the process stressful.

But it doesn't need to be – follow these tips for beating stress during Clearing.



1. Remember you're not alone

This advice is especially important if you're disappointed with your exam results. In 2022, over 70,000 students successfully applied to uni through Clearing with many applying after missing out on the results needed for their original application.


2. Stay positive

Applying through Clearing can include making a lot of phone calls and having to wait for call backs. With more people applying for university through Clearing each year, phone lines can get busy and this waiting can increase your stress levels if you let it.

Instead, remember that if more than 70,000 students got through Clearing in previous years, the chances are that you will this time around.


3. Be prepared

The best way to avoid stress when applying through Clearing is to have everything you need ready to go. Even if you’re expecting great results, you might change your mind about your course and decide to go through clearing to change it.

Read our guide on how to prepare for clearing to reduce anxiety when waiting for A level results.


4. Get a good night’s sleep

Many schools and colleges open early so you can go and collect your results in person. That means you’re likely to have an early start to your day.

You can't add your Clearing choice to UCAS Hub until 3.00pm the same day. But your time between will be busy, and you may still be making your decision late into the evening.

So make sure that you wake up the morning of A level results day feeling rested and ready to go by going to bed early the night before.


5. Stay hydrated

You might be tempted to reach for energy drinks to get you through Clearing. Our advice is to avoid that and stick to water.

Clearing involves making a lot of decisions such as where you want to study, what course you want to do and where you want to live. When you drink water, you increase blood and oxygen flow to your brain that improves your concentration levels and helps you make those decisions.

Water can also help you balance your moods and emotions better, helping to reduce your stress and anxiety about Clearing.


6. Stay calm

Clearing can seem like a hectic process of phone calls and waiting for call backs after a busy morning of picking up your exam results. So try to slow down and not get caught up in a hectic day.

While there is some urgency to making your Clearing applications, you should remember to take it slow. Deep breathing techniques such as this one recommended by the NHS can really help you focus and relax in times of stress.

  • Stand or sit with both feet flat on the ground and feet hip-width apart
  • Slowly breath in through your nose, counting steadily from 1 to 5 (but don't force yourself if you can't reach 5 on the first try)
  • Gently breath out through your mouth, again counting from 1 to 5
  • Allow your breath to flow as far down into your belly as possible
  • Keep breathing like this for 3 to 5 minutes


7. Listen to music

While you’re making your Clearing phone calls or going through your options, stick some music on in the background.

Certain types of music can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve your general mood and improve your concentration. Listening to your favourite music can also help take your mind off the stresses of the day, even if it’s just for a 5-minute rave in your bedroom. 


8. Stay off social media

Staying in touch with friends and the support network around you is always important when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. But if you need to talk to your friends during Clearing, try to do so over text or by calling them.

Logging into social media on A level results day and seeing everyone’s posts about their results could make you feel worse about your own situation. It’s also likely that your friends will only be posting about their successful uni applications, making you feel like the odd one out for having to apply through Clearing.

So stay offline until you’ve gone through the Clearing process and remember that you’re not alone. 


9. Take a break

You might feel like you can’t step away from your phone until you’ve got a place at uni. But fresh air, exercise, rest and company are all really important ways to help reduce your stress.

Make a cup of non-caffeinated tea and read a chapter of a book or go for a short walk with your dog to stretch your legs. You can still take your phone with you in case you get a call back, but you’re still making time for yourself which is just as important.


10. Ask for help

When you’re feeling stressed and anxious it can really help to ask for extra support from the people who care about you.

Perhaps some friends can join you and help look up your accommodation options while you’re making enquiry calls. Ask one of your parents if they can make your lunch so that you can keep up your energy without resorting to fast food.

We’ve also made a guide to Clearing for parents and guardians that you can send them before the day.