You are here

What to do if you don’t get into your first choice university


blogmainimagetemplate clearing

Awaiting responses from universities can be a terrifying, anxiety-inducing experience. To think that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ could dictate the direction of the rest of your life is overwhelming, and it is easy to feel paralysed by the outcome. But what do you do when you don’t get into your first choice university?

How to react

First of all, remember to breathe. Take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Ground yourself by counting five things you can see, and five things you can feel. Remind yourself that the world is not, in fact, closing in and falling apart around you, even if it feels like it is. Tell a trusted friend or family member — someone who can give you a hug, or offer supportive words of wisdom. Scribble it out in a journal. Scream into a pillow. Throw open the door and head out for a walk or run. Go to the shop, buy your favourite comfort food, and cry to a beloved film. Take a shower or hot bath. Do whatever you need to do to mourn what could have been, while acknowledging that you did everything that you could have done. Most of all, remember that you are not alone. Not receiving an offer from a first choice is a common occurrence, and it does not mean that you did something wrong, or that there is something wrong with you.

What to do next

Remind yourself of the offers you may have received from other universities. How do you feel about them? If your second, third, fourth or even fifth choices are universities you liked, then you still have plenty of opportunities ahead of you. Alternatively, if you either didn’t receive offers from elsewhere, or are no longer keen on your other offers, then Clearing (usually beginning in July) provides a chance to apply to other courses that still have spaces. Be gentle with yourself during this process: while not receiving an offer from your first choice might have knocked your confidence, there is no shame in going through Clearing. Many to-be students go through Clearing every year, score a place at a university that wasn’t on their radar previously, and have an amazing time. It might not feel like it, but you could be turning the page to the best chapter of your life so far.

Accepting and embracing change

Applying to university is a whirlwind experience. Everyone tells you that it was the best years of their life, and the social media highlight reels conjure montages of endless partying, first class grades, and an overall seemingly flawless experience. You might have felt that your first choice university would have provided this all for you, however: it might not have been all it was chalked it up to be. As you process your new situation, your brain might be telling you that you’re missing out, but try flipping this thought on its head: what if you dodged a bullet? What if it would have been an absolute nightmare for you?! Who knows. Furthermore, this new experience provides a blank slate; time to investigate different universities, and what they could offer for you. Additionally, if your other choices are similar courses, the likelihood is that you will receive a similar education to your first choice, so don’t worry about course content.

Though it can feel scary and uncertain, this situation offers you the chance to dive bravely into the unknown. Change is the only constant in life, and to be bold in the face of change is to be bold in life. And at the end of the day, life is the best teacher. You are not doomed — in fact, you have been given a unique opportunity to realign yourself with what you really want.

To apply to the University of Suffolk through Clearing visit Or call the Clearing hotline on 01473 338352.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Shortcodes usage

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Please note that comments will not be editable once submitted and comments will display the name entered.

Please click here to view our Blog Comments Terms and Conditions.