Sheffield Hallam University turns to social media to help A-Level students through the clearing process

Sheffield Hallam University's clearing suite
Sheffield Hallam University's clearing suite
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The phones will be ringing off the hook at Sheffield Hallam University on Thursday as teenagers try to match their A-Level results with available courses.

Around 200 operators will be taking calls from anxious potential students at the university's clearing suite - many of whom have been through the process themselves.

Sheffield Hallam University's clearing suite

Sheffield Hallam University's clearing suite

This year the phones will not be the only way students can get in contact.

Following a successful pilot last year, students will be able to get in touch via the university's official Facebook and Twitter pages and be offered a place on the course best suited to them.

Carol Castle, joint head of UK student recruitment at Sheffield Hallam University, said the process, known as clearing, is a busy time at the university with around 400 people - half taking calls - involved.

Last year the university received around 10,000 calls.

Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University

Carol said: "It's a massive day, an important one for many people across our region making big decisions about their future, and there is a team at Sheffield Hallam on hand to help.

"Trained operators are waiting to take phone calls and guide callers through the process of applying to Sheffield Hallam.

"We understand it can be a pressured time and are here to help and answer questions as fully and quickly as possible to help find the right course.

"Although we still encourage people to use the phone to contact us we decided to ensure students could contact us via social media as well.

Sheffield Hallam University student Ellie Wright

Sheffield Hallam University student Ellie Wright

"What we realised was that these days a lot of people feel more comfortable using social media to communicate, rather than picking up the phone.

"We are using direct messaging on Facebook and Twitter to start conversations with students and provide the same guidance through the application process as an individual would receive over the phone.

"We really encourage all students to then have a follow-up conversation with a member of academic staff who will be able to talk to them more thoroughly about the course and what will be involved so make sure they are comfortable with their choices and can ask any further questions."

Phone lines will be open from 6.30am to 7pm on Thursday, August 17 and 7am to 7pm on August 18, 10am to 4pm on August 19 and 9am to 5pm from August 21 onwards,

Carol said the negative perception that clearing is only used by students who have not gained the required A-Level results is disappearing - with teenagers getting in touch for a variety of reasons.

"Clearing no longer has a negative perception - often students ring us during clearing because they haven't thought about university or didn't think they would get the grades but have, and now they want to start that process," she said.

"Sometimes a student has done some work experience or thought further and decide to go somewhere else or study a different course.

"At Hallam we make sure clearing is a celebratory event. It's a big day when you have completed your A-Levels.

"For a lot of students it can be an unsettling day. Our trained operators are members of staff and students who make sure they get a great reception.

"Quite often it is students who have been through clearing themselves."

Open days are also being held at the university from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, August 19 and Tuesday, August 22.

Students wanting to contact Sheffield Hallam University via clearing should call 0330 024 6390.

Case study

Ellie Wright, aged 20, will be going into her third year studying English language in September after coming to Sheffield Hallam through clearing in 2015.

Ellie, from Lincoln, found out via an email from UCAS on A-Level results day that she hadn't been accepted to any of the universities she applied to.

She spoke to an advisor at her school who told her to look for a place through clearing.

She found places available on the course at Sheffield Hallam and also found out the added bonus of an extra qualification offered as part of the course, TESOL, which would enable her to teach English.

Ellie said: "I hadn't thought about Sheffield Hallam before but when I looked online at the course it looked really interesting. I spoke to one of the tutors from the English department and she was really nice and she really sold the course to me.

"The whole clearing process was really easy from there once I'd decided Hallam was the place for me. I didn’t even look anywhere else.

"I came to a clearing open day and really liked it."

Ellie says she has no regrets about her choice.

"I am really enjoying the course. I do think I'm much happier here than I would have been at any of the universities I originally applied for," she said.

"Hallam is very supportive and is helping me to do well.

"I have also joined student societies which have made my university experience even better. I love the city too - there is always loads to do and lots of lovely places to go including the Peak District which is on your doorstep.

Ellie's advice to those going through clearing this year is not to panic.

She said: "My advice to anyone in the same position this year would be - don't be scared. I felt like I'd failed but everything has worked out really well.

"There will be places you haven't looked at before that are perfect for you. There are so many options so just have a good look around and have an open mind."